May 9, 2016

Chatting with the CEO of Verizon about Pornography

Last year I landed my dream job—a position with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation! I had known Patrick Trueman and Dawn Hawkins for several years, deeply admired their work, and longed to join them in it. Finally my dream came true last July, and as it turns out, working side-by-side with them has been even better than I imagined. It’s a joy to work in an environment where the organization and its leadership is passionately committed to the vision of a world free from sexual exploitation.

Since then I’ve been privileged to be a part of a lot of exciting initiatives and meetings. When I came on board last July, I never dreamed that one day I’d be sitting face-to-face with the CEO and Chairman of Verizon talking with him about the harms of pornography, but that is exactly what happened last week!

Now some backstory: as many of you know, Verizon has been on NCOSE’s annual Dirty Dozen List for the past three consecutive years due to its steadfast refusal to stop selling pornography via its Fios television network. While the company did tone down some of its pornographic options and no longer offers explicitly child-themed porn, on a daily basis it still serves up a nauseating menu of pornography that features themes of incest, racism, sexism, exploitation, and abuse. This is intolerable!

Pornography is a social toxin that destroys relationships, steals innocence, erodes compassion, breeds violence, and kills love. At its core pornography is a form of prostitution—prostitution for mass consumption (filmed depictions of people being paid to perform sexual acts that allow many individuals to get in on the action). Thus, Verizon is a distributor by which many people receive this packaged form of prostitution.

So, NCOSE adopted a new strategy. We bought Verizon stock so that we would be eligible to Lisa at Verizonattend the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting and could raise our concerns there. Even so, there were bumps in the road in us getting to the shareholder’s meeting, which was held on May 5, 2016, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The good news is we made it there!

Thus, this country-girl from Kentucky, found herself sitting in a room with non-other than the CEO and Chairman of Verizon, Lowell McAdams, as well as Verizon board member and former CEO of Darden Restaurants, Clarence Otis, and Verizon’s Chief Counsel, Craig Silliman! Is that incredible or what?

I won’t get into all the nitty-gritty of what we discussed, but I will note that this was NCOSE’s first opportunity to directly raise our concerns with the individuals at Verizon in the best position make change happen. What happens after this remains to be seen, but we know for certain that now Verizon knows there is a movement of people across this country who will no longer tolerate their sickening distribution of, and profiting, from sexploitation.

Let’s hope that Verizon takes us up on our invitation to join all of us in the movement to end sexual exploitation, and does so by taking swift action to stop their participation in the sex trade. NCOSE presented them with the golden opportunity to take a stand against pornography and by so doing to take its place at the lead of the technology, media, and telecommunications sector in the fight for human dignity.

As was said at the recent, historic meeting on the sexual exploitation of boys, ours’ is a movement whose time has come. So, we wait expectantly to see if Verizon will choose to take progressive action, and join us on the right side of history. We are ready and eager to welcome them into the fold, but stand at the ready to continue the fight if they dig in their heels. In the meanwhile, if you’ve not done so already, please join us in sending a message to Verizon that sexploitation is not an acceptable business model for any company by signing our CitizenGo petition to Verizon.

Stay tuned for future updates.

Abolition!

Lisa L. Thompson

Lisa L. Thompson, Vice President of Research and Education, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Vice President & Director, Research Institute

As Vice President of Research and Education for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Lisa conducts policy analysis and advocacy, advances understanding of pornography’s public health harms, and liaises with public officials, advocates, and academics to advance strategies combating the web of sexual exploitation, including pornography, stripping, prostitution, sexual trafficking, sexual assault, and more.

Lisa joined NCOSE following two years with World Hope International where as Director of Anti-Trafficking, Lisa oversaw sex trafficking recovery programs in Cambodia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Lisa is a contributing author to Hands that Heal: International Curriculum for Caregivers of Trafficking Survivors, as well as the book Global Perspectives on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:  Europe Latin America, North America, and Global. Lisa also routinely speaks and trains on sexual exploitation topics for a diverse range of audiences. Lisa served for more than 12 years as the Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking for The Salvation Army USA National Headquarters.

Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Western Kentucky University, and Master’s degree in Leadership, Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute and University.

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