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The damage pornography did to a six-year-old child

Liz Walker was only six years old when an older girl from up the street squashed in next to her on the school bus and excitedly whispered "Hey do you want to see something?" It was a magazine she found under her brother's bed and full of graphic pornography.

"I felt this sense of disgust, but also arousal," Ms Walker remembers. "I was catapulted into an awareness of my sexuality I wasn't ready for. In my six-year-old brain I though that's what you had to do to get noticed."

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She started looking at porn every afternoon after school, and trying out the scenarios she saw on other children. Her early sexualisation saw her lose her virginity at 12 and have multiple sexual partners during her teens.

"I was seeking out those sexual interactions wherever I could because I had been conditioned to think that's what women did," Ms Walker recalls. "I had a reputation as a slut from a very young age."

She ended up binge drinking and taking drugs to cover up her "emotional deficit", and spent her late teens and early 20s in and out of psychiatric wards.

And she attributes it to that fateful morning on the school bus. "It was all because of seeing that porn once. Before that I'd had no sexual awareness, I had a healthy home environment, there were no other contributing factors."

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Ms Walker, who is now a respected director of sex education programs for young people, warns that there are children whose brains are being rewired by their exposure to porn, whose whole understanding of sex is porn, and who think it is OK to be abusive to women.

To facilitate an open conversation between parents and primary school children about explicit images they may have seen, Ms Walker has written a book called Not For Kids! which will be launched at the UNSW Pornography and Harms To Children and Young People seminar on Tuesday.

"I know what it's like as a six-year-old to see stuff and think I'm going to get in trouble if I talk about it," Ms Walker said.

"We already have a generation of kids who view degrading violent sex as the norm – devoid of connection, intimacy and love. If somebody doesn't speak out soon we are staring down the barrel of tomorrow's sex offenders and a barrage of intimate partner violence."

The Senate is currently holding an inquiry into the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet.

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci​ said the easy accessibility of graphic pornography is "creating a generation of children that has a range of problems with sexual behaviour".

Dr Tucci, who will also speak at the UNSW seminar, said children as young as six are being exposed to online porn, either by accident, as part of a grooming process, or by friends or older siblings. "They are too young to understand what it means," he said.

"It shows an untrue dimension of sex and the messages that go along with it are all wrong. They are messages about power and submissiveness and the nature of masculinity. It creates a distorted view of what relationships are and should be like."

Dr Tucci said there had been a corresponding increase in the severity of problem sexual behaviour among children, such as using implements to penetrate other children, planning sexual assaults, using adult-like grooming techniques, and coercing their peers into acting out things they had seen on the screen.

Children from vulnerable backgrounds are more susceptible to being affected by porn. "Something in them is not right or not being attended to, and porn fulfils something. They're not going out to seek [porn] but then they see it and it starts to activate things in them," he said.

Dr Tucci said he was not trying to be alarmist about online pornography, but wanted adults to realise the danger it posed to children. "We have dropped them in an adult world," he said. "We have created technology that has made this accessible to children and we're not interested in the impact it's having."

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