Sexual Assault Nurse Links Porn to Child-on-Child Abuse: Interview with National Expert Heidi Olson

by and Apr 21, 2020Prepare Kids to Reject Pornography

Heidi Olson is a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who shines the light on the links between pornography and child-on-child sexual abuse and online sextortion. 

Her job at a Kansas City hospital involves examining children who are the victims of sexual abuse. As a result, she hears a constant stream of tragic stories that sound an alarm for parents.

Recently I was able to chat with her about the connections she’s witnessed first hand between sexual assault and pornography. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview. Following, look for 3 risk factors and links to helpful resources!

Trigger alert: Heidi shares some stories of children harming others and themselves which might be disturbing to some in our community.

Sexual Assault Linked to Pornography

Kristen: It’s great to chat with you again, Heidi! Do you think most medical people are acknowledging the links between child-on-child sexual assault and pornography?

Heidi: Not yet, but I’m working on it! Recently I went to a conference specifically for SANE nurses. And not one presenter talked about pornography! Which was so disappointing to me because we had thousands of forensic nurses from all over the world and we didn’t address this really critical component of sexual violence.

Kristen: All forms of sexual exploitation are linked–people need to understand that! Are there others in your community speaking up?

Heidi: We have a speaker from our community, Russ Tuttle from Stop Trafficking Project, and he talks about online safety with elementary, middle school and high schoolers. And of course he’s seen the same things that we have–this connection between pornography and online exploitation and sextortion and predators. 

It’s been horrifying to hear that what he’s seeing in downtown Kansas City are the same trends he’s seeing in rural Kansas in terms of kids sending nude pictures or meeting strangers that they first met online. His stories confirm what I’m seeing. These risk factors are happening everywhere. 

And suicide is even tied in, with a lot of these girls who are self-harming and coming in for mental health issues.There’s usually evidence of exploitation and some type of sending nudes. 

Kristen: So sad, but not surprising! 

Heidi: And he’s seeing a lot of kids who are becoming addicted to pornography at really, really young ages. A lot of them have been exposed to it on social media apps. 

Kristen: What ages are we talking about?

Heidi: I recently heard a story about a girl at a middle school who came forward and said that she had been coerced into creating this horrifically violent, deviant pornography by three seventh grade boys. They filmed and distributed the videos. It was so degrading, nobody wanted to disclose the details to me. The boys were actually arrested so you know it was awful. These boys had been addicted to pornography for several years, so I’m guessing they’d started looking at around nine or ten. 

Kristen: It’s hard to imagine 7th grade boys making violent pornography like that! In your hospital, are you still taking data about these types of sexual assaults?

Heidi: Yes, we’re still collecting our perpetrators’ ages. And sad to say, the largest demographic group are boys ages 11-15. We’re seeing a lot of young perpetrators who are doing sex acts that are common in pornography. I was just reviewing a chart of a four year old boy who was sexually assaulted by his 11 year old brother and had a rectal injury.

Kristen: You once talked about how it’s rare to see evidence of vaginal injury from a sexual assault because it heals up so quickly. Is it the same with rectal injuries?

Heidi: Yes. Rectal injuries are really, really rare. They’re actually more rare than a vaginal injury. It has to be really violent or stretching an extreme amount to create some type of visual injury.

Human Trafficking Linked to Pornography

Kristen: Besides child-on-child sexual assault, are you seeing evidence of pornography’s ties with human trafficking? 

Heidi: Yes, pornography and human trafficking are inexplicably linked on so many levels! Not long ago we saw an 11 year old girl. She had stumbled upon pornography two years before, when she was nine. She found it on YouTube,and she started looking at it all of the time. She had her own phone, which didn’t help. Next she started sending naked pictures to adult men. She hadn’t even gone through puberty! Clearly this was a young, vulnerable girl creating child pornography. Her parents found out and took her phone away. But then she got her phone back a few months later, kept on looking at porn, kept sending pictures. She even disclosed that she had met up with some of these men and exchanged sex acts for money. And she’s 10 years old at this point! When a child exchanges sex for something of value–this is clearly exploitation and human trafficking.

Kristen: It’s amazing how pornography can re-program a young mind–so destructive!

Heidi: Yes, and it gets even worse! The reason we saw her is she had attempted suicide. She had ingested pills. She told our nurse that a few 13 year old boys had told her to meet them outside at the park. They sexually assaulted her and filmed it and she doesn’t know what they did with the video. And that was the catalyst for her suicide attempt. 

Kristen: Poor girl! Was she from a difficult family situation?

Heidi: No, she was from an intact family from a middle class neighborhood. I think that starts to dispel some false thinking. Some people might think this happened to a child living in a poor part of Kansas City; but no, that is not at all who I was describing. 

Kristen: Pornography is an equal opportunity offender! 

Heidi: Exactly. First this girl had so much trauma of being exposed to violent porn, then she was sexually assaulted, and then had pornography made of that sexual assault and distributed on the internet. And then she tried to commit suicide. All by the age of 11! 

Kristen: That’s what pornography does–it prematurely sexualizes kids.

Heidi: Kids that aren’t even hormonally ready for that.

Kristen: And it teaches them a toxic form of sex. It’s a heartbreaking trend that more and more kids are creating child pornography. Which sadly has a large market out there.  

Heidi: Yeah. It’s a disgusting cycle. Pornography viewing leads to sexual exploitation which leads to making more pornography. By children! 

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

Kristen: Heidi, we’ve heard some difficult stories. You’ve seen first hand the wreckage that pornography causes in the minds and bodies of young children. Thank you for doing such a heart-wrenching job and increasing our awareness. 

Heidi: You’re welcome. Kids definitely need our help, maybe more than most realize.  

Protecting children begins with awareness of the risks. Heidi’s stories and experience shines light on three risk factors:

  • Easy and early access to a smartphone or tablet and social media apps. (What you CAN DO.)
  • Pornography viewing which teaches kids to sexually objectify themselves. (How to help.)
  • Unmonitored time on apps and the internet which can lead to sextortion. (Get this checklist!)

Teach your kids from a young age what pornography is, why it’s dangerous and what to do when they see it. Help them develop an internal filter so they will choose to reject pornography’s lies and harms no matter where they are online.

You CAN DO it! 

Kristen A. Jenson, MA
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
Heidi Olson, RN, BSN, CPN, SANE-P
Heidi Olson is a Certified Pediatric Nurse, Certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and the SANE Program Coordinator at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO. She has a wide range of experience in pediatric and forensic nursing and has also taught as an adjunct clinical instructor for the University of Missouri at Kansas City and the University of St. Mary’s. Heidi received the Excellent Nursing Student Educator’s Award in 2017.

Heidi’s current role includes performing forensic exams on children who have been victims of sexual assault, training new SANE nurses, running the day-to-day logistics of the forensics program, following up with victims and their families after discharge, communicating with law enforcement, child protective services, prosecutors, the FBI and educating the healthcare staff on relevant topics regarding children and sexual exploitation. Heidi also serves an expert witness for the prosecution during trials for victims of sexual assault. In last year and a half, Heidi has performed and reviewed over 600 pediatric sexual assault cases.

Heidi has a huge heart for victims of sexual assault and sexual exploitation. Heidi has presented over 100 times in the last year about recognizing human trafficking, the harms of pornography, sexual assault and sexual exploitation in various settings from nursing schools to national conferences. Heidi started a human trafficking committee at Children’s Mercy Hospital to help bring together a multi-disciplinary group that will focus on better care for this vulnerable population. Heidi also collaborates with many local nonprofits to help build bridges and provide better resources for victims of human trafficking.

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