One Person Can Make a Difference

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JoAnn Hamilton

Recently I attended the Impact America Conference held in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. While there, I heard depressing statistics regarding early exposure to inappropriate material that most of our children have experienced, many before the age of ten. I learned that when exposure occurs in those impressionable years, there is a higher likelihood for addiction later on. The easy availability of pornography on the Internet-both accidental and intentional-has obviously had a huge impact; but Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, believes that the first exposure often comes in the checkout lanes of grocery stores.

When I returned home from this conference and looked at my three local grocery stores, I was appalled. I had always instinctively looked away from anything that was inappropriate, and now for the first time I looked to see what our children were actually seeing. With a pen and notebook in hand, I listed three pages of images and headlines that were totally inappropriate for children. If you try this experiment for yourself, you'll notice that the majority of these magazines are not on the eye level of your husband or wife, or teenager, but they are on the eye level of your children. This is no accident. Sellers of pornography and magazine suppliers know exactly what they are doing.

I had come to understand at the conference that the sellers of pornography, and many in the movie and magazine industries, were united in their efforts to get our children involved in pornography because they know that if they can hook a child early, they create a greater need for their product, and thus, of course, more money for themselves. And children are not the only targets. These porn distributors have also wisely targeted women. While you're in the grocery store, take a glance at the many women's magazines (even the well-established ones) that have gone from being either family- or beauty-oriented to becoming extremely sexually explicit, both on the covers as well as the contents. When the mothers buy the magazines, they take them into the home, easily within reach of their children.

What can we do?

One woman reported to me that because she understood the damage that may be done to children, particularly from displayed magazines, she no longer let her children go into a particular grocery store. But she took it one step further. By talking to the store manager and his boss, an entire grocery store chain in her area now covers up everything "inappropriate for children." I know this works because I have had the same kind of success myself. In fact, the owner of another chain of grocery stores said to me: "If six to eight people make the same request in a two-week period of time, I make a change in my store." That's the key. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. Get them each to make just one call.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Use the words, "inappropriate for children." Never say the word "pornography" because there are massive debates about what is pornography. But everyone seems to know what is "inappropriate for children."
  • Approach the service desk with your request. It doesn't really matter if the store manager is there or not. Just simply say, "Would you please cover magazines that are inappropriate for children?" That's all you need to say.
  • If you find it hard to do this, write your request on the back of your sales slip: "Please cover magazines and images that are inappropriate for children," and hand it to someone at the service desk.
  • Get your friends and family to do the same. One time I made a request at the service desk. Then I went home and called. (That made me two people.) Then my daughter went in. This is NOT hard to do.
  • Do not leave the request at the checkout stand. It rarely gets to the manager.
  • If there are already covers on inappropriate magazines, be sure to acknowledge the store's efforts by going to the service desk and saying thanks. It is inconvenient for stores to make these adjustments, but when customers notice, it gives the store managers more reason to keep the covers on.
  • If some magazines are covered and others are not, you might say, "I noticed that you have covered some magazines that are inappropriate for children. Thanks. I appreciate this action; but it looks like you missed a few. I wonder if you could cover them also?"
  • Organize a group of friends or neighbors and target one store at a time. Ask your homebound friends to make regular telephone calls. Most stores will respond to consistent pressure. If you get no response, send a letter up the corporate chain and keep at it. Don't give up.
  • Start with stores that are locally owned. As you have success with one store, you can use it as an example of your community standard. You'll have more power and influence with the next store manager when he knows you have succeeded with other stores in the community.
  • Now that your confidence is up, you may try asking a storeowner not to even stock particular magazines.

Remember, you are developing a community standard. These magazines may or may not be against the law, but community standard and what the community demands is what regulates the community. The reason we have pornography within our communities is because we have let it in. More than 73% of Americans do not want our children exposed to inappropriate images, but they say nothing. The silent majority must speak up, and take action where it hurts-in the cash register! If a grocery store loses a family of four, they lose more money than they make on all the magazines all month.

One young mother e-mailed me and said, "You are so right! We telephoned a national chain store that was displaying an inappropriate poster of a teen star. The store manager was very grateful for our call and said that all of the other stores in the chain had taken that poster down, but they had to wait until someone complained.

One person can make a difference.

JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton is president of the Utah Association, American Mothers Inc. and founder of Citizens Against Pornography.