JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) -- Only a few male faces dotted the crowd in the college gymnasium, as the event was not for them: A 27-year-old woman's personal story of redemption from an addiction to pornography and what she called other "lust sins."
Women often are too ashamed to admit to the sin, Jessica Harris said, because most Christians perceive pornography to be a "man only" sin.
Harris was the featured speaker for Union University's annual "Finding You at the U" event hosted by the counseling services office and several other groups at the Jackson, Tenn., campus.
Harris, who is single, blogs at www.beggarsdaughter.com and travels, telling her story to offer hope to other Christian women.
Twenty percent of churchgoing women are addicted to pornography, according to a poll of more than 1,000 people by christianet.com, Harris stated. Sixty percent of the women who participated in the poll said they struggled with lust.
Harris said she was exposed to pornography when she was 13. Though not originally drawn to it, by the time she was a college student, she had discovered cybersex and pursued pornography to know how to please her online partners.
Harris shared the John 4 account of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well, pointing out similarities between the woman's state and that of 21st-century Christian women who deal with the guilt of sexual sin.
They need to be reminded, Harris said, of who Jesus shows Himself to be in the John 4 passage.
In the passage, the woman living with a man who was not her husband walked half a mile out of her way in the heat of the day to draw water to avoid the ridicule of the other women of the town, who would have drawn water together in the cool of the day, Harris said.
Harris said the woman at the well likely felt as she had in her pornography addiction.
"There's this lie we tell ourselves: 'If you really knew who I was, you wouldn't love me,'" she said.
When Jesus meets the woman at the well, He speaks to her and lets her know afterward that His kindness is in spite of knowing her sin.
"Jesus had every right to knock her over, but instead, He meets her with grace," Harris said. "It satisfied His heart to minister to her. That is the love and grace of Christ."
A desire to be loved is at the root of most sexual sin women struggle with, Harris said.
Tamarin Huelin, a counselor at Union, will begin a follow-up support group when Union students return from their spring break.
"The Sermon on the Mount tells us to mourn with those who mourn," Huelin said of Harris' address on March 12. "Much healing can come for the individual struggling with this issue when they break the isolation and reach out to someone to talk about the struggle. So, friends can help by listening, understanding the issue and knowing that shame and isolation feed the issue and keep it going."
Huelin added, "Our surveys indicate that Jessica's message was well-received."
Harris spent four days at Union, meeting individually with women students and answering questions that faculty, staff, residence assistants and Life Group leaders asked about coming alongside their friends fighting an addiction.
Samantha Adams is a student at Union University. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net