CLEVELAND – The public should not be surprised by Ariel Castro’s claim that an addiction to pornography fueled his kidnap, rape, torture and imprisonment of three Cleveland women, a leading child safety advocate and Internet pornography opponent said.
Pornography can cause deviant behavior among those addicted to it, Enough Is Enough President Donna Rice Hughes told Baptist Press, stressing that the evil of pornography neither excuses nor mitigates Castro’s behavior, nor clears his responsibility.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all. We oftentimes do see those who commit sex crimes against others are in large part fueled by their addiction to pornography, and their crimes are simply an acting out of those fantasies and those things that they’ve gotten, you know, addicted to,” Hughes said.
While pornography is very addicting, those suffering addiction don’t necessarily resort to complete depraved, acting out behavior, Hughes told Baptist Press.
“But in any addiction, when people do get addicted, they often want more violent, more degrading, more explicit material. And at some point the material’s not enough and they want to act out what they’ve gotten addicted to in the material, whatever their bent has been,” Hughes said. “It’s sort of a progression that can happen; it doesn’t always happen. … Most people who have used pornography or have gotten hooked on pornography, they have not become sexual predators.”
Castro was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to 937 counts of crimes including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault against three women who disappeared 10 to 12 years ago. Until their May 6 escape, he imprisoned Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, fathering through rape a child, now 6, with Berry. Castro said during his sentencing hearing that he had an addiction to pornography and could not control his impulses.
The prosecution’s claim that Castro made one of his prisoners wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the home’s basement supports the notion of Castro acting out a porn addiction, Hughes said.
Such addictions can never be used to justify crime, said Hughes, who offers on her website InternetSafety101.org educational materials she says are suitable for church-based small group studies.
“[Castro] nor anyone can use exposure to pornography or their own sexual abuse as a child or as an adult as an excuse for why they have committed their own crimes, because we all have that choice,” Hughes said. “And a lot of people have had a lot of really bad things happen to them and they’re pillars of society. They did not go down these paths that this man did.”
Crimes such as Castro’s could happen in many major cities, Hughes said on an Aug. 1 Culture Shock Radio broadcast.
“I think it can be repeated in most major cities and … certainly we know that when kids go missing … typically they will be killed within the first 24 hours. We know this through the Amber Alerts, but we’re seeing just horrible cases, even with dating violence, and deviant kinds of things that are going on with our young people,” Hughes said on the broadcast. “You can bet … that we’re seeing, fueling that, pornography and how it’s fueling really deviant behavior.”
Castro is not only sick but evil, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Castro’s evil should cause Christians to thank God for His restraints against the pervasiveness of evil in society, Mohler wrote on his blog, AlbertMohler.com, Aug. 2.
“Christians must thank God for the restraint against evil that He has given humanity. These restraints include the moral law, the human conscience, government, social structures and the providence of God in human affairs,” Mohler wrote. “Without the moral law and the restraining power of the human conscience, we would all become sociopaths – in a hurry.”
Castro’s crimes have renewed a focus on safety, said North American Mission Board church planter Dan Ghramm, who organized in 2009 Gateway Church West in western Cleveland, less than five miles from Castro’s kidnapping scenes.
“That issue [of safety] has been brought up quite often,” Ghramm told Baptist Press. “Some of the kidnappings were literally only three, four or five miles from our house.
“There’s a constant kind of depressing feel to Cleveland, and so this has added to that,” Ghramm said. “We kind of use the phrase often that … Cleveland could use some good news, so we’re trying to bring the best news of all” with the gospel, Ghramm said.
While Knight described her ordeal as hell and said hell awaits Castro in prison, Mohler reminded Christians of the hell of eternal damnation.
“Prison is where sociopaths often belong, and surely Castro fits in that category. But hell is where all sinners are justly headed, but for the salvation that is found only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Mohler wrote. “We should not be surprised that the secular world confuses sinners and sociopaths, prison and hell. Christians, however, must understand the differences.
“One need not be a monster, by human definition, to go to hell. The sinfulness of ‘normal’ humanity is quite enough for that. But there are monsters among us, and Ariel Castro’s crimes and his lack of moral understanding put him in that category as well.”
Knight, the only one of the victims to testify at Castro’s sentencing hearing, accused Castro of hypocrisy.
“What does God think of you hypocritically going to church each Sunday and then coming home to torture us?” she said. “The death penalty would be the easy way out. You don’t deserve that. We want you to spend the rest of your life in prison.”
Enough Is Enough is a nonprofit outreach incorporating technology and the law in efforts to make the Internet safer for children and their families. Internet Safety 101 is the group’s educational arm. Hughes directed readers to enough.org and InternetSafety101.org for information on pornography’s consequences.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)