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The Dangers of Sexting; Nicolas Cage Arrested for Domestic Abuse
Aired April 18, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.
Tonight, sexting. If you don`t know about this, you should.
A teenager killed herself after her nude photo was passed around and made public. Why are kids doing this?
And a follow-up from my show last week in which we asked, can you pray the gay away? Thousands of you had something to say. Some of you liked it. Some of you did not. Some of you are still talking about it.
Our conversation will continue tonight.
So let`s get started.
The dangers of sexting -- could your teen be doing it? In all probability, they are.
Tonight, the parents of a 13-year-old girl, they are suing their daughter`s school. She committed suicide after a naked photo she sexted went viral and was seen by most of her classmates. It`s unbelievable.
Listen to this from NBC`s "Today Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONNA WITSELL, HOPE WITSELL`S MOTHER: It was as if she was standing right there in front of me and her head was hanging down. And I said, "Hope, what are you doing?" And then I realized there was a scarf around her neck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Oh my God. That`s just awful.
I mean, listen, I`ve ranted about this before, but the Internet is becoming an unsafe place. Teens don`t realize the consequences when they hit "send."
Forty-four percent of them say it`s common for private -- let`s call them "sexts" -- I can barely get them out of my mouth -- to be made public. Why are they doing this? How can you stop it? And interestingly, should it be a crime, should it -- really, guys, do we have to create laws to create reasonable behavior and make us be reasonable people out there on the Internet?
Joining us is radio talk show host Cooper Lawrence. Also, Nina, a college freshman who works for an organization called Teen Angels. There she is at the library.
And attorney Mark Haushalter, he is also here. He handled criminal cases involving sexting. And Vanessa Van Petten, creator of the site RadicalParenting.com.
Vanessa, I`m going to start with you.
Why do you think so many young people are engaged in this behavior given that it seems to me -- I mean, I`ve been doing radio for almost 30 years, talking to young people. I`ve seen this thing come on. And most all of them agree it`s not such a good thing, and most all of them agree they`re all doing it.
VANESSA VAN PETTEN, RADICALPARENTING.COM: You know, when you ask teenagers who have been caught sexting or have had problems with it, what were you thinking when you hit that "send" button? They all say that their phone is intensely private. It`s almost like an extension of them.
They`re with it so much that, when they use their laptop or their phone, it almost feels like they`re in a private discussion. It`s very hard to project forward into, you know what? This might permanently damage my reputation. You know, digital reputations is becoming more precious than our offline reputations.
PINSKY: All right. Well, let me be super clear here, because what you`re describing, Vanessa, is something I call stinking thinking.
And the fact is that teenagers -- this is for every parent out there - - no, it`s God`s truth, and you need to know this. Parents need to understand this, that from about the age of 12 to around 20, 21, and for many males, well into the mid 20s, the frontal cortex of your child`s brain shuts off for remodeling. It turns off.
So the prefrontal cortex, this part of your brain, is the part of the brain where you project consequences into the future, where you have judgment, where you can contain impulsive behaviors. Instead, they rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala, which responds to excitement and arousal, and so exciting pictures would be something that they would respond to very well.
It`s our brain, the adult brain, with the prefrontal cortex still functioning that we as parents have to superimpose on this in order to contain these behaviors. Twenty percent of teens have electronically sent or posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves. Thirty-nine percent of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages via text, e-mail and instant message.
This is a huge, huge issue. And they find out what the consequences are when it`s too late.
Isn`t that right, Mark? By the time they come to you, it`s much too late.
MARK HAUSHALTER, ATTORNEY: Much too late. A lot of times what people don`t realize is, when you have a minor sending out sexually-explicit pictures to another one, that`s distribution of child pornography. That`s both not only state offense, that`s a federal offense. And so I`ve had it in my personal experience where --
PINSKY: But let me -- I`ve got to stop you. You mean, if I talked to some of these young ladies who are out with us on Skype and satellite and whatnot, do you think any of them know that this is a federal offense?
HAUSHALTER: They probably don`t. That`s the scary part.
PINSKY: I`ve got to stop you.
Vanessa, you said that they`re doing it, they don`t know what the consequences are. Do you think any of them know it`s a federal offense?
VAN PETTEN: Many of them don`t, and a lot of them don`t even know their school or home policy on what would happen if they were to sext, because parents go, oh, it won`t happen to my kid. Schools go, oh, no, we`re not going to touch it. Too dangerous. So, a lot them have no idea of anyone`s policy on it.
PINSKY: The scariest thing a parent can say is, "Not my kid." That`s the scariest words I ever hear a parent utter.
VAN PETTEN: Right. Absolutely right.
Nina, you`re at the table with us. You`re at college. You`re in the midst of all of this. You`re at an ivory tower. You`re at an institute of higher education.
Is it going on even there?
NINA, TEENAGER: I would imagine so. From the research that we`ve done with Wired Safety, we see that sexting starts as young as ages 10 and 11.
PINSKY: Oh my gosh.
NINA: And usually it`s because they want to get the attention of an older guy or an older girl, or they just don`t want to disappoint the person they`re dating. And so I`d imagine the dating aspect plays more into college now.
PINSKY: Oh, your lights are out there, huh? Get up and fix your light there, Nina.
PINSKY: But just having you -- hearing you say "dating," and then refer back to a 10-or-11-year-old makes me shudder. And I wonder if some of the ones that are doing the texting are high-risk youth.
Mark, I`m going to take that back to you.. Are these already kids who are in other kinds of trouble?
HAUSHALTER: Oh, yes. A lot of times a child involved with pornography at a young age, that`s a telltale sign. I mean, that`s something we need to watch and definitely address.
And also, when I hear different members of your panel start talking about this stuff, they don`t understand the consequences, and they say the study. Well, who created the pool? A bunch of college students getting their friends together to create a pool?
It`s ridiculous. OK?
Let`s talk to the experts. Let`s talk to criminal defense attorneys, the judges, the prosecutors. Let them frame a go-plan. Let them be the point of the sphere, not a psychologist that`s sitting here coming up with some ideas based on a --
PINSKY: I might beg to argue with you on that, but let me ask you this, because this is more of a First Amendment issue for you. Really, because people can`t behave civilly on the Internet, do we have to create laws? Do we?
HAUSHALTER: No, I don`t think we need to create laws, sitting here and saying -- trying to put a Band-Aid over it. But when you talk about these children -- and sometimes when we talk about children, that`s a 17- year-old. And now we`re getting somewhere where we expect more maturity.
And you know what? Sometimes kids do dumb things. I call it stuck on stupid. OK? And you have to deal with it as it comes. As a defense attorney, I have.
But to sit here and try having regulations come in, and have a knee- jerk reaction, shows like this and other media, because we had a sad case here, a sad case there, that is completely ridiculous.
PINSKY: Be careful. OK.
Cooper, are you there? There you are, Cooper.
You talk to a lot of young people. How do we get people to stop doing this?
COOPER LAWRENCE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, you know, you made a good point about parents understanding the whole idea of the frontal lobe, because it`s more than just not understanding consequences. Impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, that`s where it all happens.
So, if that`s not developed yet, you can`t -- even though your child can express a choice and express something, parents make the mistake of thinking the child understands the full consequences of the things that they`re saying. So, it`s really important for an older sibling, a parent, somebody to come in and have a conversation, because you`re talking about kids that are an age where part of development is your sexual identity.
So, if you`re trying to figure, out who am I, am I straight, am I gay, do I believe in abstinence, and part of that is technology is available to you, and you`re starting to sext and do things, and you`re feeling good about it, you have got to be able to talk to your kids about this and say, look, I know this is a weird conversation, but we need to have this conversation because you`re not going to really understand. You`re going to send something to a boy, it`s going to be a problem, and I`m not going to be able to do anything about it at that point.
PINSKY: Well, and also, I would say, not just talking, because as we both agreed, the frontal cortex isn`t working so well, so you have to create consequences as well.
When we come back, more on sexting.
PINSKY: And later, we`re going to be addressing what we talked about before. "Praying the gay away," we called it. We had an incredible response from you about this last week. So watch this as we go to break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY JANSSON, MET PARTNER AT "EX-GAY" MINISTRY: And for you to sit here and say that you can overcome it, but we don`t promise change, well, your billboards do, your conferences do. And when that doesn`t happen, where do you leave people? Shame and guilt-ridden. And kids nowadays are killing themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: We are talking sexting. Why are teens doing it? Should it be a crime?
Research shows us that 39 percent of teens, they have sent images or sexy messages.
Ally Pereira was 16 when she sent her boyfriend a topless photo, and she says the mistake turned her life into a living hell.
So, Ally, I`ve got a ton of questions for you, my dear.
So, first up, I guess people out there are wondering, what were you thinking when you did this and what was your motivation?
ALLY PEREIRA, SENT TOPLESS PHOTO TO EX-BOYFRIEND: Well, it was entirely impulsive. He had just texted me. We had broken up for two months, and he said, I`ll get back together with you if you send me a naked picture.
So acting, I guess, like I teenager, I thought that I was going to marry him. We were 16. I thought we were going to be together forever. So, me and my two best friends, we just said, oh, let`s just do it. And we took it and we sent it, and didn`t think anything about it at all.
PINSKY: And what happened?
PEREIRA: By the next day, he had sent it to every single person in his contact list. And it went throughout the entire school. Teachers got it. Parents got it. My brother got it.
PINSKY: And what happened to you as a result of all this?
PEREIRA: Well, I was called "ho" or "slut" on a daily basis in the hallways. A girl stood on a table in the cafeteria and screamed, (INAUDIBLE) and "Slut!" People would come to my house, and they vandalized it by throwing (ph) a tire into the glass door and by putting paint cans in my pool.
PINSKY: Ally, I understand that you said at one point that the parents were as bad as the kids. What did you mean by that?
PEREIRA: Yes. There were parents of -- like, my best friend`s dad would text me and say, "I saw your picture. If you want to come over for chocolates and wine" --
PINSKY: Oh my God. Hang on a second.
Isn`t that a crime, Mark?
HAUSHALTER: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. You can`t start enticing minors to come over.
PINSKY: Well, but doesn`t that -- that`s another layer to this whole thing, that kids then expose themselves to predators as a result of this.
HAUSHALTER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, Doctor.
Here is a major thing that most people don`t know about. There are sites out there where you can put your photos into and then share them, and all of a sudden, you can have a sexual online predator come in, go into those files. And all of a sudden, if there`s some nudity or sexually explicit photos, now it`s in the predator`s community and now they`re saying it.
PINSKY: Wow. That`s unbelievable.
Ally, what was the bottom for this experience for you? What was it like for you to go through that? And what was the absolute rock bottom?
PEREIRA: The worst part of it was probably right before I told my parents, just trying to keep it quiet, because it`s like a state of fear. Like, I would sleep with my mom`s cell phone, and I would wake up at numerous times during the night to go and look at her e-mail and her cell phone, and my dad`s cell phone, to make sure nobody had told them about the picture yet.
And so that was like rock bottom for me, because I was so scared of what they were going to think of me and how it was going to be. But then after they found out, it really kind of helped me heal because they helped me get better.
PINSKY: That`s nice. Did you have to get professional help to get through this?
PEREIRA: Yes. We went to family therapy for two years.
PINSKY: Good. But Ally, I`ve got to tell you, I mean, you seem like such a lovely young lady, and to hear this is kind of heartbreaking.
Vanessa, out to you. This -- one of the most striking things about this -- and dealing with young people myself all the time, this piece sort of stood out for me. And I`m going to give you some data, and I want you to respond to it. And Ally is an example of this.
Fifty-one percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is the reasons they send these text messages. What the heck is going on with our young men and our young women?
VAN PETTEN: There is intense -- and this was echoed by Ally`s story and what Nina was saying earlier -- there`s intense social pressure. As much as we -- we`ve already had the talks of oh, you know, he wants me to go farther. Now, you know, sending a sext or sending an image of yourself, there`s a lot about reciprocal relationship.
Do you love me enough? You know, are we close enough? Do you trust me?
And so it`s almost become a gauge in young relationships. And the problem is, you know, we feel the social pressure, but we don`t necessarily look at the social repercussions.
I think that when Ally was sending the text, she said, I didn`t even, you know, think about what would happen, I just did it. Because we don`t realize all the social repercussions of the sexual predators, and having that photo out there, and how all your friends can really turn on you very quickly.
PINSKY: Well, right. And that`s back to what we were saying earlier.
Cooper, you and I were talking about the fact that that part of their brain where they can predict consequences is shut down. It`s actually closed for remodeling for about 10 years.
LAWRENCE: Right. A good way to put it.
PINSKY: And how do you react when you hear about these young girls -- yes. How do you respond to hearing about these young women? I mean, Ally is this lovely young girl being effectively coerced by a young male.
LAWRENCE: Sadly, I`m not surprised, because the studies that we did, what we found is that at that age, it`s the boys that have the power socially. So the boys choose who the popular boys are going to be. If the boys like you, you`re the popular girl.
So, the pressure from boys to send a sext or do something that you might not want to do is greater than I think we adults realize. It`s the boys that set that tone. The boys decide who`s popular, who`s not popular, and girls react as a result.
PINSKY: But I think, Cooper, there`s a corollary to what you`re saying there, which his it`s the boys that set the agenda, but it`s the competition amongst the females that raise the bar. Right?
LAWRENCE: Exactly. Right. And that`s the rest of that sentence that you said so eloquently, of course. But that is the rest of it.
It`s the idea that the girls understand this competition. And I don`t think that the boys are engaged in it as the girls are, the social aggression that happens amongst girls.
You know, actually there`s a good deal of research that shows as boys get older, they become less physically aggressive. And as girls get older, they become more socially aggressive. And this is the new type of social aggression.
If I sent a text to somebody else`s boyfriend, it`s a way of saying I`m prettier than you, I`m hotter than you, your boyfriend likes me. And it`s out of social aggression that I`m doing it, not out of sexuality --
PINSKY: Wow. That is a very, very interesting thing. And it seems to me that behind that, then, is parenting. Right? Isn`t this ultimately -- I mean these are --
PINSKY: -- young adolescents we`re talking about. So this is a parenting challenge.
I go back out to both of you. Do you have a response? Do you have a recommendation for parents?
And then, Mark, we`ll come back to you.
VAN PETTEN: I always tell parents there`s three primers that you can specifically talk to your kids about, because every teenager is a different level. Some think sexting is scary, some think it`s normal and totally OK. So there`s three things I always tell parents to ask.
Number one, if you`re sitting at dinner with your kids later tonight, what is your sexting rules at school? What are the sexting rules in this home? Do you know them? And number two, do you think there are any social consequences for sexting?
With those three questions, you`ll be able to see, where does my child stand on this issue, and then be able to have the right conversation.
PINSKY: Cooper, do you have a response?
LAWRENCE: You know, I think that`s brilliant. And I wish I would have said it.
But no, the research that I`ve done, I found that parents have more power than they realize. So do older siblings.
So, if you don`t feel comfortable speaking to a parent, you might feel more comfortable speaking to an older sibling, somebody who`s kind of been through it. But the idea is that you need somebody who doesn`t have your frontal lobe still under construction, as you were saying earlier, Drew, to actually give the guidance that you need.
PINSKY: There you go.
LAWRENCE: Because the long-term consequences of this, you`re 30 years old and you`re going for a job, and this picture of you is on the Internet. I don`t think you want a prospective employer seeing that.
PINSKY: We haven`t even talked about the long-term effects yet.
Ally, I want to thank you for joining us.
Does this make any sense to you, what these ladies are saying?
PEREIRA: Yes. I just don`t think that you should always blame the parents, because I was brought up entirely perfectly and, I mean, I still made a mistake. I think teenagers should --
PINSKY: You know what, Ally? It`s not about blaming the parents. It`s about raising awareness.
Mark, do you agree with me on this? We have 10 seconds.
HAUSHALTER: Yes, absolutely. I think kids should think before they act. And again, a lot of parents don`t think before they act, but if we put more responsibility on each other, I think we`re going to be OK.
When we come back, Nicolas Cage`s arrest over the weekend. And then your response to our show about praying the gay away.
PINSKY: Nicolas Cage once raked in $40 million a year, and he now faces serious money and personal problems.
Over the weekend, he was charged with domestic abuse and disturbing the peace, apparently after a fight with his wife.
Here to talk about this are Dylan Howard, "Star" magazine senior executive editor, and Mark Haushalter. He is back with us. He is a criminal defense attorney.
I want to ask Dylan first about what seems to been be an escalating series of problems for our Mr. Cage. What`s going on there?
DYLAN HOWARD, SR. EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "STAR" MAGAZINE: Yes. Dr. Drew, he returned to the set of his current project in New Orleans today, but he`s facing three very serious criminal charges.
PINSKY: What did he do?
HOWARD: Well, he was involved in an altercation with his wife, his third wife, around about midnight, the early hours of Saturday morning.
PINSKY: This is in New Orleans, right?
HOWARD: In New Orleans, at the French Quarter. He was noticed by some eyewitnesses as being involved in a confrontation with his wife which actually escalated to the point where he tried to, according to eyewitness, dragged her into a property he believed that they were renting. Of course, they weren`t. It was somebody else`s property.
PINSKY: I see.
HOWARD: They were involved in an incident then with a taxi driver. Nicolas Cage then was confronted by police. He goaded them and suggested that if they wanted to arrest him, then they should. And, of course --
PINSKY: They did. They obliged him.
HOWARD: -- the New Orleans police, they obliged, and they did. And now he`s facing public drunkenness, disturbing the peace, and also domestic violence charges.
PINSKY: There`s some TMZ video right now. I guess he showed up partway along the way in a tattoo parlor. That was part of the escapades of that evening.
But we sort of get the big picture here. My question is, he`s now had very, very serious financial problems. We see something going on behaviorally here, where he`s now starting to have legal consequences.
Does anybody know what`s going on with poor Nicolas Cage?
HOWARD: Well, you know, just a month ago, at a New Orleans restaurant, he was escorted home by police after something happened and a window ended up getting broken. So I think we`re seeing the signs here of a career imploding.
He was once a bankable star, as you mentioned at the top of the program, who was earning $40 million a year. And now he has mounting tax debts and he`s had homes foreclosed, some six or seven homes foreclosed.
PINSKY: But what is that we`re watching? For the average viewer at home, and for myself included, you look at that and you go, he made $40 million a year, he had all these assets, and he couldn`t manage that? Or did he squander it? I mean, what was that?
HOWARD: Well, he says it was a former business adviser who he`s currently embroiled in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit with. But, on the other hand, the former adviser says that he squandered the money and was frivolous with the money. But it`s very interesting that, clearly, those incidents are being fueled by alcohol use.
PINSKY: Do you think? Do you people -- I don`t know Nicolas Cage. You don`t know Nicolas Cage. But are people worried about his alcohol use?
HOWARD: In Hollywood, absolutely. People are very concerned.
But he`s gone from being a bankable star to no longer being a bankable star. His current films have been flops, and he`s really gone away from the likes that won him an Academy Award. So there is genuine concern for him.
PINSKY: Mark, is he in big legal trouble? And what does he need to do -- what would you do to defend him?
HAUSHALTER: Well, I`ll tell you, a few things pop out at me right away, is, one, if the police didn`t want to arrest him initially, it sounds like he just failed the attitude test and the police decided to arrest him.
PINSKY: That`s exactly right.
HAUSHALTER: And now --
HOWARD: He had a bad attitude.
HAUSHALTER: And now we have got the media --
PINSKY: Is that a problem from a --
HAUSHALTER: It seems like the problem for him right now. But he failed the attitude test. If he was doing something, such illegal conduct, and he was battering his wife, why didn`t the police act sooner? Why didn`t the police immediately arrest him? And right now we`re saying, oh, he kept pushing the police, he kept taunting them.
PINSKY: So he`s got to -- and God knows, in New Orleans, people sometimes -- so he has a defensible position.
We have 10 seconds.
HAUSHALTER: He absolutely has a defensible position. One, I don`t think there`s any marks.
PINSKY: OK. Last word, Dylan.
HOWARD: She doesn`t want charges laid, but the cops will push at this.
PINSKY: All right.
When we come back, you asked for it, you get it. More on our debate, can you pray the gay away? Your comments, your questions for our guests, coming up next.
PINSKY: It`s 72 hours later and your Facebook and Twitter comments just keep coming. Thousands of them. Here`s J. J., he or she writes, "Homosexually is naturally incorrect," so she says or he says. Jill R. says "Don`t use the bible to judge others. Judge not." Can prayer be used to turn a gay person straight? That`s the question we posed on Friday. Here`s a look at what you`re still talking about tonight.
PINSKY (voice-over): First, we heard from Exodus president, Alan Chambers, about his group`s approach.
ALAN CHAMBERS, EXODUS PRESIDENT: As a Christian, what we believe is that sexual expression is reserved for a married relationship between a man and woman. The point isn`t about going from gay to straight.
PINSKY: I spoke also with an ex-lesbian whose ministry does try to change people from gay to straight.
JANET BOYNES, FOUNDER, JANET BOYNES MINISTRIES: Change is possible. God can change anybody.
PINSKY: Then a gay couple who tried it said it doesn`t work and may even be dangerous.
LARRY JANSSON, MET PARTNER AT "EX-GAY" MINISTRY: It drives me crazy. The shame that`s built behind it and kids, nowadays, are kill themselves.
PINSKY: Finally, a psychiatrist who herself is in a same-sex relationship, she says it`s all about the brain and cannot be changed.
DR. ALICIA SALZER, PSYCHIATRIST: Homosexuality is not an illness, and it`s not something that`s in need of a cure.
PINSKY (on-camera): All right. Now, we want to keep the conversation going tonight. OK? Now, remember, the goal here is not to hurt anybody. That is my foremost goal in all things I do. So, I asked Friday, and I`m asking again tonight, what is reparative therapy? OK. I don`t think we quite got that question nailed down. I`m going to answer that. Clinical psychologist, Joseph Nicolosi, is here. He`s the author of "Shame and Attachment -- Attachment Loss" I beg your pardon, the practical work of reparative therapy.
He says he`s used it to transform hundreds of his patients from gay to straight. Now, among the many who watched Friday`s show is gay singer and actress, Sam Harris. Sam e-mailed our producer after the show. I`d like to know what his reaction is to this conversation. Sam, thank you for joining me.
SAM HARRIS, SINGER: Good to be here. Mostly, I was confused because --
PINSKY: Go ahead.
HARRIS: No, because Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, said that he believed he was born this way. That there was no choice in the matter.
PINSKY: Which everyone agrees?
JOSEPH NICOLOSI, PH.D., SAYS HOMOSEXUALS CAN BECOME STRAIGHT: I don`t think Alan said he was born that way.
HARRIS: He said he had no choice.
NICOLOSI: That`s different.
HARRIS: He said this is the way he was. So, if this is the way he was, and he believes that God created him, from a religious perspective, then God created him the way he was, then why -- he said he need to change because it wasn`t part of God`s plan, because it was a creative design.
PINSKY: God`s best for him.
HARRIS: And yet, God created him and that`s the way he was. He didn`t have a choice. So, it`s contradictory in itself.
PINSKY: You were confused, but stirred by this conversation?
HARRIS: Well, I was stirred because on a bigger level of confusion, I don`t really understand why it exists today. I grew up in a rural small bible thumping southern Baptist Oklahoma town.
HARRIS: Fear-based, God, you know, that whole thing. There were no positive gay role models. There was no one on television. The politics, there was no P. flag. There was no -- none of those things existed. So, I can get how it could exist then. I grew up with people who chose to live heterosexual lives even though they knew they were gay because they were they weren`t going to have basic American values, family, home, marriage.
PINSKY: What I learned from some of the religious organization we talked on Friday is that -- people we talked to on Friday was that there`s a fear that they were going to hell.
PINSKY: They fear some horrible is going to happen to them. You actually got depressed and tried to commit suicide.
HARRIS: I did when I was a teenager, when I was 16.
PINSKY: Was this all part of that confusion?
HARRIS: Growing up in that environment, it was fear of rejection from my family and friends, but it was also the idea that something was wrong with me.
PINSKY: Something broken. You reconciled that now?
HARRIS: Well, I not only have reconciled it, but actually, I`m the one who stuck it out. And now, I`m in a 17-year relationship. I`m married. I have a child. I have a station in my community. I go to parent/teacher conferences. I have this honest, open, happy, stable, wonderful life. So the reason --
PINSKY: I think one of the things --
HARRIS: It`s a different time now.
PINSKY: Well, it`s a different time, but I think one of the things -- here`s sort of, if I can frame the conversation and dig through some of the conversation and Dr. Nicolosi, I`m going to come to you in just a minute, but it is -- we`re really talking about choice that we`re trying to preserve, trying to have a conversation about should choice of various kinds be preserved? And if they are, what are the potential social consequences?
And because that`s where it gets a little confusing because you`re saying, geez, the fact that some of these religious organizations have picked up on, say, some of the techniques, the reparative therapy, which we`re going to define yet, hang on, has maybe worked to harm young people.
NICOLOSI: It`s based on shame and guilt and something broken. And when you are surrounded now, as a teenager, by evidence and positive gay role models and legislation that`s evolving and changing, it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that someone would still have that kind of unsupported shame and guilt.
PINSKY: OK. Well, let`s take -- we have another guest who`s on the phone. Mary Lou Walne, she`s joining us from Florida. This is a very personal story, similar to what you`re talking about here, Sam. Her personal story altered the course of her thinking. Mary Lou, tell us about that, please.
MARY LOU, FLORIDA: I was raised in a conservative Christian home and church environment and taught that homosexuality was a sin, and in 1988, my daughter, Anna, came out as a lesbian to us as she was a freshman in college, and I rejected that. I did not love her unconditionally. I didn`t throw her out or forbid her from coming home, but I made it pretty clear to her that I didn`t approve of her what I thought to be chosen lifestyle, and then, in February of 1997, she hanged herself, and that was the end of it.
And she -- after that, I needed some answers. And so, I really went on a journey of studying the scriptures, praying, talking to people on both sides of the issue, and finally, after about a year of study came to the belief that I had been taught an untruth by the church and that, indeed, homosexuality is not a choice. You might be able to repress the behavior, but you certainly cannot repress who you are made to be.
And that I believe god makes us the way we are, and I believe that homosexual people are created just as they are by God.
PINSKY: Dr. Nicolosi, how do you respond to that? And then, tell us about reparative therapy.
NICOLOSI: Well, certainly, it`s a tragedy, and we don`t attempt to justify it in any way, but people can change. People have a choice. People should be given the choice. And if a person chooses to exercise his potential, his heterosexual potential, if a person is trying to understand the root causes of his homosexuality, and perhaps, diminish the sexual attraction, he should be allowed to do it. We provide that therapy. Therapy works. And it doesn`t work for all people, but it works for some people.
PINSKY: Do you worry that that the fact that that treatment is out there is going to be used by people to have unintended social consequences? You understand what I`m asking?
NICOLOSI: You mean, as a cultural statement? A client, or for --
PINSKY: No, that the consequences on other gay individuals who don`t want to do anything but have -- be what they are --
NICOLOSI: I think we should get to a point where gay is OK and also not to be gay is OK.
PINSKY: Here`s a Facebook question. OK. This is Rico who asked, "Why is it easier for people to say it`s OK to be gay when they have no religious upbringing?
NICOLOSI: Don`t ask me.
HARRIS: Why is it okay --
PINSKY: I think that questioner is suggesting that just what you talked about being in a community that had very rigorous religious beliefs somehow added to the shame and guilt?
HARRIS: Yes, certainly.
PINSKY: But doesn`t have to.
NICOLOSI: It doesn`t have to. I have clients who are not religious at all but want to change.
PINSKY: But I`m sure you also have people who are religious who where happily in a homosexual relationship and --
NICOLOSI: No, those are not my clients. My clients are people who want to change. They`re unhappy with their homosexuality.
HARRIS: The very basis of the idea that a change is necessary is the real issue.
NICOLOSI: Wait a minute, let the individual decide if it`s necessary.
HARRIS: Well, can I say that this is America, and if you`re at a mature adult and you decide that this is something that you`re unhappy, for whatever reason, I believe it`s shame and guilt based. I believe there`s no other reason that a person would want to change, unless, they feel wrong. But let`s say that have that decision. That`s great, terrific.
I am more concerned about parents who put their children in these situations, who are teaching them they`re wrong, who are teaching them they`re broken, and teaching that they can`t be a normal functioning person in society. That kills me.
NICOLOSI: The people who come to my clinic are wanting to change because they`re dissatisfied with it. They`ve tried it. They`ve tried the scene. They tried gay sex. It`s pleasurable, but it leaves them empty. They want the opportunity to be married, heterosexually married, live a life of conventional marriage, and that`s their right, and they should be given that opportunity.
PINSKY: Might not -- given the way the psychological association, psychiatric societies see this, wouldn`t other therapists approach that from a different angle than changing their sexual orientation?
NICOLOSI: Some would affirm it, but I don`t think the -- the standard procedure now is a person comes in and says I`m unhappy with my homosexuality. And the therapist says, we`re not going to try to change you. That`s what you want. You want to change, but really, your problem is homophobia. And that is a terrible assumption because it`s not really respecting --
PINSKY: But that`s a standard practice.
NICOLOSI: It is the standard practice, but it doesn`t really represent the population of people who really do want to change. They say it`s not about my homophobia. I want to change. I`m dissatisfied. Don`t reduce my desire for my dream and my life to homophobia. Homophobia doesn`t answer every individual`s question.
HARRIS: No, but what are we seeking? We`re seeking peace and happiness. And even Mr. Chambers who was on the show said, he doesn`t feel heterosexual. He doesn`t act homosexually.
HARRIS: And so, this is not a person who is clearly, I mean, he speaks well. He`s articulate. He`s intelligent, but this is not a person who`s really at peace in his situation. He`s living one way and still torn in another way. So, shouldn`t our focus be to say, to change the homophobia and say you are OK?
NICOLOSI: These are assumptions. Your assumption is --
HARRIS: As a gay man, my assumption is repair the broken heart. Repair the society, not the individual.
NICOLOSI: As a gay man, you cannot speak for non-gays.
HARRIS: That`s true. The gay people that I know who chose to live heterosexual lives out of fear and embarrassment and shame and rejection.
NICOLOSI: We got it. We got it. But what about the people who want to change? We`re not hearing about those people.
PINSKY: My fear, though, is that good science is going to be co-opted for political agendas and for social agendas and that`s where it really gets into trouble.
So, when we come back, Larry and KC Jansson are back with us. They have an update about their appearance on last Friday`s show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: You`re married, though.
CHAMBERS: I am married.
CHAMBERS: I`m very happily married.
PINSKY: You have kids?
CHAMBERS: I have two children.
PINSKY: Do you still have urges, desires, intent to be with the males?
CHAMBERS: I`ll tell you one thing that has changed for me dramatically that I do not struggle with and have not struggled with in 16 years is to have a relationship with a man. Can I be tempted? Is there someone that I can find attractive? For sure. I don`t know how that can change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That was Alan Chambers, a guest on our Friday`s show. He is the president of Exodus International. This is an organization that says they can transform people from gay to straight. Now, we received this statement from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD. They say there is no such thing as ex-gay. Every respected medical and psychological organization has concluded that being gay is not a disorder and does not have a cure.
Misguided attempts at "gay conversion," this is in quotation, "gay conversion," can cause serious and long lasting psychological damage. Dr. Nicolosi it`s one of my concerns is whether or not the non-responders in your group are adversely affected. Thankfully, a growing number of religious leaders are becoming more accepting, and gay people of faith are finding self-acceptance, love, and happiness by celebrating their lives as exactly who they are.
We`re back in the studio with singer and gay rights advocates, Sam Harris and psychologist Joseph Nicolosi who uses reparative therapy. We`re going to find out finally. I`m going to get to what exactly that is. Joining us also is Christine Sneeringer. She`s a former lesbian who attended an Exodus International Ministry and is now straight. So, first, Dr. Nicolosi, what is -- we haven`t gotten this straight, and I promise you to pay (ph) this out -- what is reparative therapy?
NICOLOSI: Can I say that I don`t think Alan was treated very well in the last show?
PINSKY: We didn`t treat him well?
NICOLOSI: Yes. didn`t give him a chance to talk and really tell his story. He was put on the defensive.
NICOLOSI: Just to say that.
PINSKY: OK. And the reparative therapy?
NICOLOSI: What is reparative therapy?
NICOLOSI: Reparative therapy is basically saying your homosexuality is an attempt to repair something other than your sexuality. You`re using your homosexualities in an attempt to repair certain deficits within yourself, whether it be gender identity or key identity issues within yourself.
PINSKY: And so the treatment?
NICOLOSI: So, the treatment is to understand what those deficits are and to fulfill them in nonsexual ways.
PINSKY: Is it a form or trauma therapy?
NICOLOSI: Absolutely. We believe that trauma creates the homosexual condition. It`s an attachment loss with the parents. And that the therapy is resolving the trauma, resolving the attachment loss, and when they do that, their same-sex attraction diminishes.
PINSKY: OK. Christine, I want to go to you. You say that Exodus was able to help you. How?
CHRISTINE SNEERINGER, MINISTRY LEADER, WORTHY CREATIONS: Well, I mean, actually what Dr. Nicolosi was talking about --
PINSKY: I`m going to interrupt you. You got sad while he was talking. I could see it in your eyes.
SNEERINGER: Well, I was sad thinking about my own life, and there was trauma. I come from a home where there was abuse in my home. My father was physically and verbally abusive to my mother. I was sexually abused as a child. And there`s a lot of gender confusion because I looked on at my family dynamics, and I actually thought I had the all-American family. And so, I didn`t understand until later and meeting other people realizing that this is not really how mom and dads are supposed to, you know get along.
And so, I had very, very negative views of men growing up, began to gravitate towards masculinity out of a desire to protect myself and not be hurt like my mother was. So, for me, looking on, at what Joe was sharing, it`s like I could see that in my own life that I was trying to compensate for being sexually abused.
PINSKY: But shouldn`t you`ve had treatment for sexual abuse trauma? I mean, did you go to traditional mental health professionals?
SNEERINGER: When I went to an Exodus Ministry for help, I did see a counselor, and we talked about sexual abuse and talked about how that affected --
PINSKY: Was it a professional like a licensed person?
SNEERINGER: I`ve had three seasons in my life where I`ve seen therapists. So, the first one was a late (ph) counselor through church, you know, as a young adult. And yes, I`ve seen a licensed professional, as well.
SNEERINGER: So, we`ve dealt with sexual abuse and how that impacted my view of men and my view of myself as a woman because I was very gender confused. I didn`t want to embrace a feminine identity because I believed that to be feminine was to be weak. For me, my homosexuality was an attempt to one, compensate for the breakdown in the relationship with the same-sex parent, and that`s a common theme that I`ve seen among colleagues, friends, peers that have also come out of homosexuality is that there`s that breakdown, and we`re trying to compensate.
PINSKY: I have to interrupt you. I`m going to introduce KC and Larry Jansson. They met each other while attending that`s called an ex-gay ministry program. They struggle to reconcile their Christianity with their homosexuality. They`re now married, and they`re joining us from Dallas. Now, you guys were with us on Friday. What was the reaction to your comments on the show and what do you say to what we`re saying here in the studio today?
KC JANSSON, MET PARTNER AT "EX-GAY" MINISTRY: You know, I think the reaction that we`ve gotten has been overwhelming to us. It`s been very positive. We`ve had a lot of people try and contact us through Facebook or e-mail just thanking us for sharing our story, you know, and giving us a chance to have a platform to be able to share the truth about all this. And I think it`s extremely important to go back to what Dr. Nicolosi said, you know, trying to repair trauma.
The funny thing is that when I went to love and action, they tried to get -- you know, they tried to get me to realize what trauma I had growing up as to -- so that way I could blame that on homosexuality. But the thing is, I had a great relationship with my father, had a great relationship with my mother, had a brother and sister. We all got along. I was never abused. You know, nothing ever happened in my --
PINSKY: Guys, I have to interrupt you. I got to take a quick break. I get that. We`ll be back just a second. First, Joy Behar. Joy, what`s up tonight?
JOY BEHAR, HOST: I have one of my favorites on the show tonight, Shirley MacLaine. You know, she says some interesting stuff. I mean, she talks about all her affairs. And believe me, she`s had plenty. Hello. She`s had, you know, her past lives. Have you ever had a past life regression?
PINSKY: I`m sure I`ve had past lives, but I didn`t have affairs during them.
BEHAR: You didn`t?
PINSKY: No, I don`t think so. Mine were pretty boring.
BEHAR: Why do people who had -- why do people who have those past life regressions always -- they`re always like a queen or they`re an empress. They never sold tokens on the jersey turnpike. Nothing.
PINSKY: Or more importantly, they never died in infancy which is what happened to most humans back then.
BEHAR: That`s true. That`s true. She also, you know what else she talks about? She talks about how Sam Giancana pulled a gun on her. You have to watch it. It`s fascinating stuff. She`s very interesting.
PINSKY: Fabulous. Can`t wait.
PINSKY: We are back with a very challenging conversation. I was talking to KC and Larry Jansson. And Casey, I interrupted you. I apologize, but I have limited time. I want to hear now from Larry what the reaction was from his point of view.
LARRY JANSSON: Yes. Absolutely. Thank you again for having us. You know, we have just been overwhelmed. There are, you know, listening to Sam Harris, there are still individuals out there who aren`t hearing the message that you can be gay and be a Christian in those pockets of conservative areas in the United States. And at the end of the day, we want to offer that hope. We want individuals to know that there is another option.
And with Exodus International, unfortunately, like Dr. Nicolosi, not all of them are licensed therapists providing this reparative therapy and giving people the repair supposedly that they need in that way. So, that`s our biggest concern, and we want to make sure that that message is still shared. That there is hope, and that you can have a healthy, normal relationship and live a totally completely happy gay lifestyle and have a relationship with God and that higher being whatever that may be for you.
PINSKY: Thank you, gentlemen. Dr. Nicolosi, do you have response to that and final word?
NICOLOSI: choice should be allowed for the individual. If a person wants to develop his heterosexual potential, if you want to diminish something distressing in his life, he should be allowed to do so, and it can`t be reduced to homophobia.
PINSKY: Maybe the language needs to be changed so people can co-opt it. Maybe, we should be -- if people want to work on trauma issues and if it happens to change your sexual identity, whatever kind of thing?
NICOLOSI: Exactly --
PINSKY: It unfortunately gets co-opted as somebody needs to change --
PINSKY: So, Sam, what do you say to that?
HARRIS: I didn`t suffer any trauma. I think the word repair means something is broken. And what I stand for is you, too, can have this, have it all. And so, I would encourage people to get rid of the shame rather than try to change the person who is shamed.
PINSKY: I think -- to be explicit, not everybody has trauma and only those people who had trauma who are to work on trauma would be seeing Dr. Nicolosi. OK. Christine, I promised you last words if I had time and I have about a minute.
SNEERINGER: Well, I would agree that not everybody has trauma and shame related to this, but I did, because of my faith and belief in Jesus Christ and what the bible says about homosexuality. And so, I live a happy and fulfilled life as a follower of Him and with my homosexuality resolved.
PINSKY: Sam, I`m giving you the last word.
HARRIS: I just want people to be happy. I don`t want anyone coerced or taken advantage of because of that guilt and shame. And I feel like people are making money off of saying, you feel this badly about yourself, I`m going to take your money and convince you that you can be, otherwise.
PINSKY: And I think we all agree you have to be very, very careful of unintended consequences of any of this conversation. Whatever your point of view is, the goal here is not to hurt anybody. Really. And Larry and KC, you agree with me on this? Any last words from you two?
LARRY JANSSON: Absolutely. I would just say, you know, that`s the concern is that harm is how it harms, you know, following right along with Sam, the guilt and shame is so heavy and that Exodus International having lived it and been through what we`ve been through. So, we would also say we want people to be able to live that happy life and not have that guilt and shame and be able to be resolved with Jesus Christ, as well.
PINSKY: All right. Well, listen, this is a difficult conversation. As I mentioned on Friday, I get angry with my producers who are sending me down this landmine ridden trail. I`m just trying to elevate the conversation, and certainly, our intent here is not to harm anybody in any way whatsoever, and certainly, not to add to people`s guilt and shame or to change people that have a certain point of view. It`s just to elevate the conversation. That`s the idea here.
I want to thank you for watching. I want to thank my panel for joining me today. And we will see you next time.