- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shelley Lubben experienced years of horrors of the adult-film industry. As a porn star, she contracted two sexually transmitted diseases - herpes and the human papillomavirus - and later had to have half of her cervix removed because of cervical cancer. She also suffered from severe anemia, drug addiction and alcoholism.

Then, after many years, “God woke me up and told me to put my story on a website,” Mrs. Lubben recently told The Washington Times.

Mrs. Lubben, now a wife, a mother of three and an ordained chaplain, wants to help others escape what she calls “modern-day slavery,” and she’s using her ministry - the Pink Cross Foundation - to reach out to those who need emotional and financial help getting out of the sex industry.

“I have suffered much at the hands of the porn industry,” she said. “But after eight long, hard years of recovery, and by the grace of God Almighty, I escaped that hell and am here, a mom of three beautiful daughters and married to a loving, warm and godly man, who stood by me in my horrible recovery.”

Mrs. Lubben, 42, of Bakersfield, Calif., has been working with adult-entertainment industry workers since 2002, when she began volunteering as a teacher and counselor at local rescue missions and prisons in California.

In 2008, Mrs. Lubben and her husband, Garrett, founded the nonprofit Pink Cross Foundation. She and her team have worked with thousands of people struggling with porn addiction in her foundation’s help forums and reached out to porn stars and sex workers through outreach.

“I built up a reputation as someone who loved and accepted them and they made demands on me, saying they needed me,” Mrs. Lubben told The Times. “There was a lot more demand than supply - even my husband was giving out of his own pockets.”

Members of the Pink Cross Foundation attend porn conventions and nightclubs, where every so often Mrs. Lubben will sing karaoke.

She said she was so overwhelmed by what was going on behind the scenes in the porn industry that she went back to help people who were being harmed.

In doing so, Mrs. Lubben said, she learned something: “They have the same stories that I do. Some of them far worse; some of the acts of violence and abuse in the porn industry include verbal and physical abuse on the set.”

Jan Meza Merritt, a divorced mother of three, was one of those people who needed help getting out of the business. She said she was suicidal and had lost track of who she was. At the “end of the rope,” she searched the Internet for “porn help.” Mrs. Lubben’s name appeared.

Ms. Meza Merritt said she was on the phone with Mrs. Lubben every day and often received care packages, as well as financial aid, for her and her children.

“I was scared because I felt [the porn industry was] trying to kill me internally,” Ms. Meza Merritt told The Times.

Today, Mrs. Meza Merritt works for the Pink Cross Foundation and said she can proudly tell those attending porn conventions, “My name is Jan, and I’m out of the industry and into the ministry.”

Mrs. Lubben spoke about porn addiction at a June 15 briefing in Washington, D.C., where she urged lawmakers to enforce obscenity laws so that children are not exposed to pornography on the Internet.

She said she wants people to realize that porn is not glamorous.

“Porn destroys human lives and is destroying our nation, but we can change; there’s hope,” she said at the briefing.

In her research, Mrs. Lubben found that 66 percent of porn actors have herpes. The rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases among performers is 10 times higher than among the 20- to 24-year-olds in Los Angeles County. Twenty-five cases of HIV have been reported among porn performers since 2004, she said.

Since 2000, 23 suicides and 30 drug-related deaths have been reported in the porn industry. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently reported that 70 percent of STD cases in the porn industry are among women.

Mrs. Lubben said porn actresses endure violence during the taping sessions.

“Guys punching you in the face. You have semen from many guys all over your face, in your eyes. You get ripped. Your insides can come out of you. It’s never-ending,” former porn star Jersey Jaxin said on the Pink Cross Foundation’s website (www.thepinkcross.org).

“I did over 100 XXX hard-core movies where I was slapped, hit, choked and forced [do] to sex scenes I never agreed to,” said former porn star Michelle Avanti.

Women also are forced into prostitution. In some cases, a woman can earn $2,500 an hour, Mrs. Lubben said. “They hate making porn,” she said. “At least with prostitution we get a dinner sometimes.”

Mrs. Lubben’s foundation also reaches out to pornographers. She said she has heard pornographers brag about abuse toward women in the industry.

Pornographers offer performers drugs and alcohol and often conspire with some doctors, Mrs. Lubben said. The doctors, she said, prescribe antidepressants, painkillers and anti-anxiety medication to young men and women, who soon become addicted.

In a book Mrs. Lubben is writing, she said, she exposes the abuses in the industry.

“What a fine line to walk to expose the truth and love these people,” she said.

For Mrs. Lubben, the road to recovery was long.

Her parents, who she says were “at their wits’ end” with her dating life and drug problems, kicked her out of the house when she was 18. She worked as a stripper and a prostitute for several years until she became a porn star. She also became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

In 1994, when she was 26, she met and married her husband. After years of counseling and with God’s help, Mrs. Lubben said, she has been sober since April 9, 2000.

“God restored me from drugs, alcohol addiction, painful memories, mental illness, sexual addiction, sexual trauma, and the guilt and shame from my past,” she said.

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