By Jeannette Scott, Lancaster Online

Editor's note: "Wendy's" name has been changed for this report at her request.

Parents are also advised to use discretion in determining whether children should read this feature that deals with the subject of pornography.

Women have seized more opportunities than ever before. They can be CEOs, astronauts, scientists and soldiers - even run for president of the United States.

Their ranks are also growing in what might be considered the ultimate boys' club: pornography use.

About 28 percent of visitors to adult Web sites are female, according to TopTenREVIEWS, a company that sells Internet software.

According to a press agent, the company's review on porn was completed by founder and CEO Jerry Ropelato who has "researched more than 10,000 sources including: Web sites and statistics, and reports from international media, from the pornography industry and from anti-pornography organizations."

Based on that research, among women who view pornography, 17 percent admit to struggling with a porn addiction.

Like men, female users find the fantasy world porn creates is emotionally safer that the real world, said John Lehman, co-founder and therapist at CrossRoads Counseling Services in Leola.

Many of the center's clients seek help overcoming sexual addictions, including pornography.

Women deal with the same kinds of pressures men face in today's society and, with them, the same fear of failure, said Kathleen A. Neff, a licensed social worker and addictions counselor, and co-founder and director of CrossRoads.

Pornography allows men and women alike to create fantasy worlds where they never fail, Neff said..000

"When people think of pornography, they automatically think of a man," said Wendy, a 43-year-old recovering pornography addict who lives in Lancaster County. "But a woman is susceptible, too. Women have voids to fill, too.".000

Wendy has stayed away from porn for nine years. But it wasn't easy to break free.

It started with magazines: "Playgirl," "Playboy," then on to more hard-core material. She frequented adult stores for movies, magazines and sex toys.

At the height of her addiction, Wendy said, "I had severed all ties with my friends and was basically getting up and going to work and doing this stuff."

One study reports that women are even more likely than men to act out fantasies created by porn use in their real lives.

Wendy did. As her use of erotica continued, her personal boundaries dissipated. She became increasingly promiscuous and unsafe. And, she eventually engaged in homosexual activity, which, she said, she formerly would never have considered.

Like many addicts, Wendy was exposed to erotica at a young age. She grew up in a home where XXX movies and magazines were abundant, and not always hidden from children.

When Wendy was 9 years old, two men in her home began raping her often. By the time she was 18, she couldn't wait to escape the environment, and the pornography that pervaded it.

It is not surprising, however, that Wendy willingly returned to it at age 31, said Neff.

"The child that's been abused already," she said, "often goes into pornography."

Lehman said, "When you are in a lot of pain, you use something to medicate that pain. Then you begin to use it when you're not in pain."

Wendy said she was drawn back to what she remembered seeing as a child to do just that.

She reached for adult material, she said, "when I started to feel like I needed to numb."

Eventually, it caused more heartache than it promised to anesthetize.

As Wendy sat alone in her apartment Christmas Eve 1995, she said, "My heart was full of pain and I wanted to feel the pain on the outside of my body. I was crying and crying, and cutting myself."

She prepared to take an overdose of pills.

In one sobering moment, she stopped in her tracks.

"I don't want to die being a statistic," she thought. "I want to die knowing I made a difference in someone's life."

She called the leader of a sexual assault victim support group she had attended. Then, she turned to a sexual addictions counselor for help.

"My first two hours with a counselor, I just sat there and cried," she said.

Then, the counselor told Wendy to bring in all of the porn materials from home to dispose of them.

"I gut-wrench sobbed," Wendy said, as she turned over two paper grocery bags full of adult materials and devices. "I felt like I was giving part of myself away."

Her next homework assignment was to obtain accountability partners. She found three.

Said Wendy, "That was hard because it was me sharing a piece of me that I wasn't ready to share and, yet, I had to."

Continued counseling taught Wendy to set boundaries for herself.

To this day, she avoids a certain town because she might impulsively turn the corner to her most-frequented adult store.

The magazines she started with are still on newsstand racks, but she's learned to avoid those, too.

Wendy recalled an incident when she and a friend were browsing a magazine rack in a bookstore. The title of an off-limits magazine caught her eye.

"I gotta get out of here," she said, and walked out of the store, only later explaining why to her friend.

"I can't entertain that," Wendy said about her temptation to view porn.

"It's not something you just wake up one day and say, 'I'm gonna stop.' It was a lot of decisions," she said.

There were a few slips early on, but she continued to hone her strategy for recovery and rely on her support network. She's been clean for almost a decade.

Wendy's persistence in pressing through the pain toward emotional healing and maintaining her recovery have led her to her heart's desire.

She's no longer a potential statistic; now, as a counselor, she's making a difference by helping others on their own journeys to healing and freedom.

By the numbers

.About 28 percent of all visitors to adult Web sites are women.

.Among women who view porn, 17 percent say they struggle with pornography addiction.

.Among those who view pornography, 13 percent of women and 20 percent of men admit to accessing it at work.

.Women favor Internet chat rooms twice as much as men.

Source: Lancaster Online Jul 06, 2008