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She Is Not Your Rehab

By February 14, 2024No Comments

Episode 107

She Is Not Your Rehab

Trigger Warning: The following podcast episode contains discussions of child sexual abuse, violence, and sex trafficking. Listener discretion is advised.

Matt and Sarah founded She Is Not Your Rehab and launched the concept in Matt’s 2019 TEDx talk.

In this Consider Before Consuming episode, Matt shares how his vulnerability around his personal history of abuse and porn consumption helped other men in his barbershop to open up about their experiences. And Sara shares how her work in the anti-trafficking space led her to establish strict boundaries around pornography consumption and fight to create homes free from violence.

Their work to combat domestic violence, through an invitation for men to acknowledge their own childhood trauma and take responsibility for their healing, has reached millions.


Introduction (00:05):
In today’s episode, we were able to sit down with Matt and Sarah from She Is Not Your Rehab, which started as a community initiative out of their barbershop to address the domestic violence and sexual abuse in their community in New Zealand. Matt shares how his vulnerability around his personal history of abuse and porn consumption helped other men to open up about their experiences. And Sarah shares how her work in the anti-trafficking space led her to establish strict boundaries around pornography consumption. Through both of their experiences, Matt and Sarah have grown their organization. She’s not your rehab into a viral movement with campaigns and a book with their platform. Matt and Sarah, encouragement that their childhood to trauma isn’t their fault, but their healing is their responsibility. With that, let’s jump into the conversation. We hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.

Fight The New Drug (01:02):
Well, Matt and Sarah, thank you so much for being here with us today. We love the work that you guys are doing. We’re so grateful for the work that you’re doing, and we’re really excited to kind of share this with our audience. So for anyone who’s maybe unfamiliar, can you help our audience understand what She Is Not Your Rehab is ?

Sarah (01:22):
She Is Not Your Rehab really started out as just a community initiative from our barbershop. So we never set out to create a big movement or even a campaign. It was just simply, I guess a heartfelt response to what we witnessed in our community around domestic violence and sexual abuse. Also, given that that was also Matt’s experience, so what started out as just a humble community, I guess outreach turned into this crazy viral movement and now a book and different campaigns and projects that we’ve kind of undertaken. And simply, it is just an invitation for men to acknowledge that their childhood trauma wasn’t their fault, but their healing now is their responsibility. And so I guess that sort of sums it up.

Matt (02:11):
Yeah, well put. Yes,

Fight The New Drug (02:14):
So amazing. And then some of the inspiration, as you just mentioned, kind of came from Matt’s own experience. Can you speak a little bit about what life was like for you growing up, Matt?

Matt (02:25):
Yeah. Life growing up for me was very unsafe. If I was to use one word, my father was a heavy alcoholic. Violence was a normal part of our lives, and when I say normal, we would wake up at three o’clock in the morning to my mother screaming, being choked, being beaten, and we would just go back to sleep thinking that mom would survive it. And so this cycle of abuse just really was so entrenched in our household that anything that we witnessed outside of our household we just thought was nothing. It was funny. We would watch violent films, we would find them funny or they were comedy because we would always compare it to our lived experience at home. And so having these conversations with men in the barbershop, when I started cutting hair and sharing my story in that vulnerability, when I was vulnerable with the men who trusted me with the here men started to open up to me.

And I soon learned that I wasn’t alone, that my story was not unique. It was the story of many men who suffered in silence. And I thought, if men are violent or the perpetrators or the monsters that society paint us to be, how come the men that are sitting in here are not these men? They were just getting on with life, wanting to be good men, but they just had no outlet or somewhere to express a lot of the shame that they carried. And so really that’s where the barbershop in the barbershop is where this movement really gave birth.

Fight The New Drug (03:54):
What kind of inspired you to start that barbershop?

Matt (03:58):
I’ve always loved hip hop culture, so being a Polynesian, growing up down under New Zealand, we didn’t have many superheroes. Our national sport here in New Zealand is rugby, so Rugby’s our national sport. So most of the most famous rugby players ever were Polynesian men. And so if you weren’t athletic like myself, my superheroes were the hip hop artists. And so I grew up watching and just looked up to rappers like Tupac and Biggie Smalls. Those were my superheroes. And so it wasn’t so much the misogyny or the violence or the stories of, how do I put this? It wasn’t so much I’ve gone blank.

Sarah (04:46):
It wasn’t just the culture, it was their stories

Matt (04:50):
That it was their story. It was the stories of pain and trauma that I really resonated with. And so watching videos of black artists, rappers, MCs, and just seeing the barber culture through film, through videos, it really resonated with me. And so when I fell into barbering, picked up my first clippers and started cutting my own boys in my neighborhood, they started talking. And that part of the culture, I loved the conversation that men gifted me.

Fight The New Drug (05:18):
And why do you think that the men in your barbershop responded in the way that they did to the vulnerability that you expressed in sharing your story with them?

Matt (05:29):
I think we are all wide for connection. I think all of us want to be seen a longing for belonging, just want people to be real with and connect with. And I think just me being vulnerable with my story, it really gave way for these men to open up. And the more I opened up, the more they opened up and the more we realized that we weren’t alone, that we are more alike than we are different.

Fight The New Drug (05:56):
That vulnerability is contagious, I think in that way. So you’re opening up, you’re having these conversations with these men, you’re helping these men to be seen and known. How does that help break the cycle of violence or cycles of violence?

Matt (06:11):
Just speaking up, being a man, being a male, growing up in a culture where rarely you are forced from a very young age to not talk, especially in my culture, talking about domestic violence, sexual abuse, all these topics that are very uncomfortable is very taboo. I’ve been talking about my story of family violence since the age of 15 and the pushback I’ve received from my own community, being a young teenage boy talking about this stuff was real. The pushback from my own boy saying, bro, we don’t talk about this stuff. You’re bringing shame to our culture. You’re dishonoring your mother and father talking about this stuff, shut up. But the more I talked about it, the more I connected with other people who I thought would never resonate with a brown boy story, who also experienced family violence at home. And so I think it’s a universal thing that we all share. Shame is something that a lot of us will experience humiliation a lot of men have experienced, and it’s part of our humanity. I think when you deny those hard feelings that we try and ignore and sidestep and run away from, you deny your humanity.

Fight The New Drug (07:21):
So going back a little bit, you started, She Is Not Your Rehab. Can you two talk about how that name came about?

Sarah (07:27):
Well, we were talking about actually the topic of Matt’s Ted talk on the couch at home where all of the ideas for everything, her birth, usually late night creative sessions. So Matt had been asked to give a TED Talk, and at the time, he was actually quite hesitant. He didn’t really want to do it because he kind of felt like, oh, who might I give a TED Talk? All the ones I’ve seen online are academics, brilliant minds scientists. I’m just this brown brother from the hood. I’m a barber. What have I got to offer? And I was like, you’ve got so much to offer because it’s not just your story, it’s the stories of so many men that have shared with you over this season in your barbershop. And I think let’s just think about or brainstorm topics that you would want to address. Who are you speaking to?

Who would you like your Ted talk to resonate with the most? And he was like, well, I want to speak to my brothers. I want to speak to the men because that’s who I talk to every day. That’s my lane. And I was just like, okay, so what are the themes you would like them to know, I guess around our work and what you’ve been talking about? And then we started talking about his mom, who was obviously a victim of domestic violence, her entire marriage. And then we just got discussing it and I was like, yeah, she is just not your rehab. And when I said it to the Matt, we were like, that is such a cool, I’d never heard that. It was just something that just popped out just through conversation. It’s how we birth anything really through conversation. And so I just went online and I quickly googled it because I just thought, maybe I’ve heard it. What? There was such a good catchphrase, I thought, anyway, so I googled it and I was like, oh no, it is nothing. It’s nowhere. And so I looked at the website domains and it was available, so I registered it right in that moment. She’s not your rehab com. And I just sort of knew my heart. That statement kind of represented what we’d been doing for so long in the barbershop. So it wasn’t like anything new, but I think the slogan was a fresh way of articulating it.

Matt (09:43):
And as a man, hearing that it was very provocative, very punch in the guts, but it really stemmed from our relationship. She had been a woman who had not been my rehab center. She was very clear of her boundaries when we were friends and then became romantic. And I knew that I didn’t want it to be another movement where we would demonize men or shame men. I really wanted to invite men because I was working with men every day. I’m talking to men every day. We didn’t need another movement that was going to shame them and make them not come into the conversation. So it was really trying to navigate how do we bring men in by using the slogan that is very, almost like a punch is provocative, but then also inviting. And so to invite me into the conversation really had to come from us telling stories of the men in our communities and starting first with us myself. And then, yeah, it’s grown into what it’s,

Sarah (10:43):
Yeah. And I think to be honest, even then we hadn’t decided this was going to be a big movement. We just thought it was a good way of framing some of the conversation. And then from there, we decided to, everyone was going to do a haka after our TED talk on stage, and I was just thinking, oh, what’s everyone going to wear? And initially we were like, should we put our barbershop logo on? I wasn’t really quite sure.

Matt (11:09):
I was like, they can just wear your own clothes.

Sarah (11:11):
And we were like, no. I was like, no, no, it has to look a group collective thing. So I was like, oh, well, should I just make sure it’s not your rehab T-shirt? And he was just like, nobody’s going to want to wear those. And I was like, well, let’s just do that. So anyway, we did this year’s Not your rehab logo, whipped it up. We got the T-shirts made printed just for our community. And again, we just thought it was just for our community. We weren’t planning to sell ’em or anything like that. But then it went viral all over. We didn an article with a news outlet in New Zealand, and that went viral, and it had pictures of the T-shirts and the hka and everything and what he’d been discussing. And then that got picked up overseas, and then it became one of the biggest stories from New Zealand for the year. And so it got huge traction, went viral, and suddenly everyone was requesting these T-shirts. And I was like, what? Amazon ended up ripping off our brand and selling them on Amazon, and nothing went to our work or anything like that. So we had to file a trademark and protect what we created. So that’s sort of how it got birthed. Again, it was never really intentionally set up to be a big movement. It was just a community response,

Fight The New Drug (12:28):
Which is incredible. And I think speaks to how well that slogan summarizes what it resonates so well with so many people. Right. Because you brought this up, Matt. I’m curious to ask you, Sarah, you mentioned she was very clear with her boundaries initially and kind of in this healing process together. Do you feel comfortable sharing at all what your experience was like in the healing kind of process, Sarah?

Sarah (12:54):
Yeah. So I mean, I had already been single prior to meeting Matt for seven years, just over seven years. And I had undergone my own healing transformation. I had come from a very abusive and a different way home. I’d been adopted into another family and not treated well. I’d ended up leaving home at 15 years of age, and I ended up pregnant and had my oldest daughter when I was 19. And so I’d kind of known I wanted more or better for life. I just didn’t really know where to begin. And when I gave birth to my daughter, I just looked at her and just thought, I want to be able to give you everything that I never had. I want to be the kind of mother for you that you deserve. And so I started working on myself, and what that looked like was a lot of ugly crying, journaling, therapy, learning to affirm myself, learning how to have boundaries set them.

And I just decided in that healing process that I would intentionally be single. I initially thought for a year, and I thought that would be quite difficult because I really thought about my life and I had gone from, I’d had a boyfriend continuously since the age of 13. I constantly had these interactions and I seemingly attracted the same kind of person, someone who wasn’t very evolved emotionally and who ended up hurting me because they didn’t realize their own work needed. So I kept attracting the same old thing, and I thought, I’ve been attracting the same old thing since I was 13 years of age. How do I change it? I’m the common denominator. So I really took responsibility for my own healing. And in that process, the one year actually turned into seven years. Who knew? I knew that needed that much work, but I discovered in that process that actually didn’t need to settle for just anybody.

Actually, I was worth having standards. I was worth just having a life that I actually wanted. And I think in that process, because I had struggled with feelings of rejection and abandonment my whole life from being adopted, I’d always gone to relationships almost a little bit out of desperation. You just needed to have someone, just anyone would be better than no one. And when I really embraced the fact of just being single and working on myself, I recognized the fact that I actually didn’t need anybody anymore. I could actually be okay by myself. And so when I finally met Matt, we were actually just friends for four years. And so we were just genuinely friends, and I knew all about him because we were just friends. No one was trying to impress anyone. I met him through work. I’ve been working for a humanitarian organization.

We fought human trafficking and different projects around the world. And I guess I just had come to this place in my life where I really was happy with myself and happy with my life. I was a single parent, but I had a great group of friends and awesome job that I loved. So I think I, I came to our relationship completely different from how I’d come previously in other relationships. And so after being friends for four years, he finally admitted to himself that he was deeply in love with me. And he asked me because when he actually asked me out, he said to me, look, I’ve actually loved, I’ve realized that I’ve loved you more than a friend for the last year, but I really wanted to know that this was definite for sure, because I wouldn’t want to muck you around or play with your heart because you’ve got a daughter, and I wouldn’t really just want to date you just to see if it was okay because we’re friends and I don’t want to lose our friendship.

So he said, I’ve really counted the cost and thought about this for a whole year, and so I guess I’m asking you about knowing that I don’t want to just ask you out. I want to marry you. And I was like, wow, hold up. You’re asking me to marry you. This is crazy. So I really thought about it, and because I knew his story, I knew his history of trauma, abuse, physical and sexual. I knew what he struggled with including pornography, and I knew what I would and would not settle for being with someone. And so I was just really clear with him. I said, I really deeply love you just even as a friend. I have so much love in my heart for you because you’re just an amazing human being. The way that you are so gracious and forgiving and kind and loving all of this.

You’re an amazing person. But in a relationship sense, I knew that there would be things that he would’ve to navigate. And I said, I can be a supportive person for you. I can be in your corner. I can be on your team. I can cheer you along, but I’ll never be able to do that work for you. Essentially. I didn’t at the time, but basically I said, I’m not going to be your rehab. And I was his first relationship after a long time too. I was just like, so you are going to have to go to therapy and be committed to the process. I’ve been committed to my process for seven years, and I know how hard it is, and no one can do that process for you. You can have supporters, but you are ultimately going to have to do the work. And so he agreed.

So he said, well, do you want to come along with me in my first therapy session? I was like, yep, right up my alley. So we went along and he was so vulnerable, so honest, and he just laid it all out and said to the therapist, it pretty much the promises of the therapist. Yeah. He said, this is what I struggle with. I want help in this area. And he just took it so serious. It was like he’d made this list of these are the things and areas I know I need to work on in my life. And addiction to pornography was actually one of them. Now, I totally come from understanding addiction to pornography. Like any addiction, there’s a reason, there’s a heart to it, it’s a symptom. It’s not the heart of why you do something. But I had worked for a long time in the humanitarian space fighting against human trafficking, and I guess I knew more than probably the average person did about the correlation between human trafficking and mainstream pornography.

When I say mainstream pornography, I’m talking about places like PornHub. I’m talking about women who are literally trafficked into the trade and actually forced to basically appear in these pornographic films and they don’t get compensated for it fairly, if at all. And often they’re owned or trafficked into this. And so because I had worked in this space, I had met women who had been trafficked and rescued, and we’d done work with them. I just thought, I’m not really willing to be with somebody who could essentially, for their own gratification, watch somebody be raped on their screen and be okay with that. And just having a daughter, I just thought, I’m not having that kind of life around me. And so I was just really super clear about that. I just knew that I couldn’t, I would never be okay with that. And I know there are relationships where people say that they’re fine with their partner watching porn and sometimes people do it together or whatever.

That just wouldn’t be something I was comfortable with because ultimately I said to him, I remember having this big conversation with you, but I said, you actually don’t know the difference between a lot of these channels, like porn channels that men are consuming all the time. You don’t know the difference between people that are consenting and not consenting. And while there are women that do consent, and I’m not speaking to that, I’m saying that there are many people that are literally being raped, and you are just watching it, and you are getting gratified by watching somebody get raped. And I said, if that was in real life and someone was just sitting in your bedroom getting raped on your floor while you sat there and watched it, how was it any different? And so I was just super strict about that and went on and on about it.

Matt (21:00):
She pretty much painted it out for me, and that was a shock to me. I was like, she really humanized everything that I had consumed from a young age. I was just like, oh my gosh, these people are real people behind the screen. Really, I’d never fat in. That was just, it just never ever came to my mind until I met her.

Sarah (21:22):
Well, I think that there’s this whole thing, and even now I’m quite aware of it, as we consume the footage from Palestine, if you were there in the physical sense, watching children be tortured and murdered, how much difference would your response be to watching it on your screen? I think it’s like, oh yeah, just scrolling. People are just scrolling through social media, seeing horrific videos right now coming from a war zone, which I guess in past wars, people haven’t really had access to that. And so I think that there is something around, it’s on a screen. It’s like watching a movie. It’s not real life. People sort of, I guess du themselves. Yeah, they disconnect from the reality that it is. And for me, having done the work for a while in that space of human trafficking, I was just like, no, unless it is near impossible to tell who’s consenting and who’s not on most of these mainstream porn outlets. So that’s where it was for me. So

Matt (22:17):
As we can hear, someone is very, very passionate about this topic.

Sarah (22:21):
Well also just especially because we did a lot of work in the place I worked at, it was called Tier Fund here in New Zealand. They were an international partner to different projects in developing countries around the world. And we did a lot of work around human trafficking in Southeast Asia. And I met a beautiful young woman who had actually been, I would say, use the word uplifted, and basically bought off her parents from a very poor village. And because of lack of education and poverty, her parents didn’t really understand what she was going to do. So they willingly took the money, which was more money than they’d ever probably been given or earned. And she was basically trafficked into Bangkok and forced to not only become a sex worker there, but then they would also film her and make films and it would all go online as a young woman.

And so I’d met her, she had traveled around through our work, and she’d come to New Zealand and done some work and talked about it. And to be honest, just meeting women like that and just two men that have consumed the videos that she’s been in, she’s just a number, she’s nothing to them. Whereas when you heard her whole story and you met her in person, and now the work that she’s doing, amazing. It just really brought to life the fact that we, especially in the western world, are so disconnected from these women behind the screens. And so after that, just meeting her and hearing her story and hearing the stories that she shared of other women like her, I just always vowed that I would do what I could in the western world, that I lived in New Zealand to educate people around that particular trade because I just felt like it’s not that men were innately evil who wanted to watch women being harmed.

It was actually that they really just had no education around it. And actually when, so I wouldn’t even just tell him, I would tell all his friends, he was like, wow, I realized we were going to be having a poor education talk at dinner. But I just really felt like, well, if you knew that, how different would your experience or interaction with it be? Because once you’re actually responsible, it’s not like you can just claim, oh, no one ever told me. I didn’t really realize. I’m like, this is not just anything. So that’s kind of I guess how passionate I was.

Fight The New Drug (24:49):
Well, and I just want to say, I think that’s probably so validating for so many people to hear, but especially women who maybe are sometimes afraid to express their boundaries around pornography and their relationship because it is so normalized in society, especially for men to consume, but also for men, if they are holding those same boundaries and they want to express that to their partner, I think it’s important for us to be okay saying, Hey, you can be with me or not, but this is not something that I’m willing to tolerate and these are the reasons why. And I think helping to bring that education as opposed to just, you could have just shamed him and said, oh, this is something you struggle with. I’m not interested. But you didn’t, you educated him. And I’m curious to know for you, Matt, after you kind of knew this boundary from her, and knowing, if you don’t mind sharing with us a little bit of your past with pornography, and you’d mentioned in your book from the time of your childhood how that was introduced to you. I’m curious to know then what that experience was like for you being confronted by this as well from Sarah?

Matt (25:54):
Yeah. So mean, I’m a victim of sexual abuse. And so my first memory of sexual abuse being sexually abused was at the age of three from my older brother’s friend, best friend. So he was a kid too, not much older than I’m. And so sexual abuse just ran rampant in my household. I was abused from men and women, babysitters, family members. And so when I found pornography, I can’t even remember the age that I consumed it. I remember my dad having it around and videotapes magazines throughout the house. Older siblings would watch it. It was so normalized. My parents would have sex in front of us. My dad would rape my mom in front of us. Sex was just a normal thing in my household. And so my addiction was the feeling of the gratification of pornography was almost like my safe place. It was almost like it was whenever I would go through having a session of pornography, I would always feel it was the time when I would feel just safe. Because again, like I said earlier in this interview, unsafe was the word that I would describe my childhood. But yet in that moment when I would feel that ecstatic feeling after watching pornography, I would feel safe for myself.

Sarah (27:29):
Do you mean because it was like you had control over it? It wasn’t someone,

Matt (27:36):
No one was taking it from me or abusing me for it. So it was my to myself, if that makes sense. And so it was an addiction. The height of my addiction was probably seven times in one day that I was watching it in the school computer. And my teachers, I remember my art teacher so graciously pulled me to the side and said, Matt, it’s coming through to the school office, the stuff that you’re watching. I’m like, well snap. But he had so much kindness when he addressed it with me. But that was the height of my addiction. And so when I met this one here who really educated me, it was confronting as because I had no education on it. Then talking about the intergenerational trauma of my story, how it then led to my addiction to porn. It was just confronting as I loved this woman as a friend and then wanting to create this future life with her, and I wanted to be a dad, and I didn’t want to take that toxicity, that trauma, that pain, and just carry on that cycle.

I knew I had to do the work, and it was hard early stages of our friendship relationship, but I knew it was possible. And I knew that so many of my boys, we struggled with pornography. I would have friends who would come to school selling. I mean, we didn’t have phone smartphones back then. We were all my boys were selling pages of magazines at lunchtime, they, they’ll sell a page for a dollar. So I knew that I wasn’t the only one that struggled with it, but I was one of the first who started talking about it amongst my friends. And even then talking about this stuff back then was in the early two thousands was very taboo, especially being a Samoan boy who grew up in church. Christianity was our faith. No one ever talked about this stuff, even from the pulpit in church. No one ever talked about pornography in my community. If anything, there was a lot of shame around it. And so when I met this one and Sarah really brought real woman’s stories to the forefront and humanized them, it just really challenged everything. And I think it really connected with the humanity within me as a kid who was a victim of sexual abuse. And now knowing that my best friend is working with women who have been sexually abused, I’m like, I’m part of the problem. I’m adding to this toxic culture of women being exploited.

Sarah (30:13):
I knew when I did this spiel to him or the education, I just knew that I couldn’t be with someone who would so selfishly want to gratify themselves at the expense of somebody else. And so I just knew that I understood his story and I understood the history, and that his first interaction with pornography was actually non-consensual. And so that’s actually a way that many young people are actually groomed before they sexually abuse themselves as an older person shows them images or videos or whatever. So I had a lot of compassion and understanding for the fact that he had actually, he’d been groomed from a young age to find this kind of stuff appealing. And I understood that it probably would be what he termed as safe or it would feel better than being raped or abused because you had control over it yourself. But I just knew that there was a lot to unpack there. A lot of trauma, a lot of sadness, a huge history. So I knew when I said, you need to go to therapy, that he absolutely did. And he would need to commit to doing the work needed to really heal that part of himself.

Matt (31:31):
And that was part of the attraction to her was really, this was the first person in my life who I could share this very sacred stuff with and not feel taking advantage of exploited all the stuff that she just said. She was the first person that I felt safe with, and I could just lay all my dirty laundry out. And when I laid that dirty laundry out, she still wanted to help me wash it, help me clean it, and still love me. I felt safe enough to go there and have these hard conversations with her, knowing that she would accompany me, not do the work for me, but accompany me and cheer me on. Yeah. And it’s been the best thing, best decision I’ve ever made in my life.

Sarah (32:15):
Well, I think also, I said at the time, I remember when you said, yeah, I want to go do the work. I said, I can handle anything as long as you’re honest. That was the one, my one big thing. I knew that there would be potentially times where he would slip up or I’d worked in that space myself. So I kind of knew it’s not going to be an overnight quick fix. There’s very few times it’s ever going to happen. So I just said, as long as you’re honest with me, I can do this journey with you. But if there starts to be dishonesty, which is obviously linked to shame and hiding and secrecy, I knocked down for that. So also that was another boundary. And so he agreed. And so when he started doing the work, he went to a guy who really specialized in their work of unpacking the root cause of addictions and really looking at rewiring the way that you think about things and telling yourself the truth.

Basically, it’s a commitment to tell yourself the truth, which I love because I’m a very loyal believer in the truth. And I remember he just gave you this list of things, which I think we shared in the book, didn’t we? But a list of truth coaches or insights for him to really repeat in his own mind just the truth of what it was. And I think as he went through the list, it was confronting. I remember one of them was like, the girls will never really get much older, but I am going to get older, and I do not want to become a dirty old man. And I remember you thinking when you were reading them through, you were like, oh my

Matt (33:55):
God, it was me. I would read it every day. They were positive affirmations to myself. The more you feed this dog one day, this dog will eventually get big enough and it’s going to eat you up. And I was like, I do not want to be this dirty old man.

Sarah (34:08):
Well, he talks about the therapist at the time, and he was an older, very wise, older man who’d done a lot of therapy with a lot of men that struggled with this. He said, there comes a point in this journey where you feed this so much, you’re going down a slippery pre slope. It will be near impossible for you to climb back up. You are young enough now. You can rewire that part of your brain. You can deny yourself these certain things which have just come naturally to you from such a young age, but the older you get, the harder it will be near impossible. And I remember he was just like, I don’t want to be that man. I don’t want to be that. And so he just started doing the work. And I remember after the session with the therapist, there was one time where you watched porn again.

And he told me, and he told me the same day, oh, I just want to, and it was like he felt so embarrassed and ashamed, and I just remember thinking, because I had done the work in myself, I wasn’t a woman who associated that with me. I didn’t believe it was because I’m not worthy or I’m lacking or it’s because you don’t find me attractive. I didn’t link any of that to myself so I could literally sit with him on the journey. And I appreciate his honesty. And I was like, well, I appreciate your honesty. And then he saw the therapist again and kept going. And now I don’t know. How long has it been since you’ve viewed porn

Matt (35:37):
Before? We were married.

Sarah (35:39):
We’ve been

Matt (35:40):
Married eight years. It

Sarah (35:41):
Was before I had our son. So our son’s almost nine now, so that’s a long time. And I remember just feeling at the time, I just knew that he could do it because he’s someone who, well, for one, he’s very respectful of women. And so I knew that especially of his mother. I knew that once he really understood the enormity behind what you’re just consuming, that he wouldn’t be someone that would just be okay with that. He had a conscience. He couldn’t be okay with that, and it would just be breaking the habits that had set him up to have this addiction. And he was willing, so willing to do the work and so willing to be honest. And that’s what me and the therapist were like, your honesty is what will keep you going and what will do this.

Matt (36:26):
And transparency is massive. I think especially with the line of work that we work in now around intergenerational trauma. A lot of my work for myself doing the work myself was really to trace the trauma, face the trauma, and then replace it replacing of new things. I had never been in a relationship where I could just be completely my authentic honest self until Sarah. And so Sarah had really replaced a lot of these toxic beliefs I had about myself, the unworthiness, I’m not good enough, who could really love me knowing all this dirty stuff that I had hidden for so long

Sarah (37:08):
And because I was so adamant that it just wasn’t something I could live with in my relationship. So I was like, well, I’m not going to force you to do anything. This is your decision, but if this is something that you’re not willing to give up for whatever reason, then you’re a consenting adult. You can do what you want with adults. You can go and live that life, but I won’t be able to be in it. That’s just not the life I would want. And because the kind of

Matt (37:32):
Stuff you want around your

Sarah (37:33):
Daughter, no, it wasn’t anything I’d want around my daughter in my home. And because I was really adamant like that, he just always knew that it just wasn’t really a fitness discussion. But also, we’d done the therapy session together and the therapist had asked me from my perspective and what I thought and different things, and I’d shared what I’d said and stuff. And then the therapist said, the thing is you’ve got a choice to make. You can either this woman’s saying she does want to be with you, but this is a non-negotiable for her. So either you go down the path of fully leading into this and doing the work or you keep up your addiction and then you’re going to have to lie and hide to cover it up saying she won’t be with it. So that’s your options. And I will tell you now that your dishonesty is what is the first killer of intimacy.

And so I just remember thinking and not willing to negotiate that. So you either be all untruthful, you live this life or you don’t. You make the decision. And because that was the decision, he had a clear decision. It wasn’t like, oh, but maybe or I will put up with this. I won’t. I will not put up with this. It is a non-negotiable for me, just as it should be for anyone who would want the person that they choose to be with to be gratified by somebody being raped, just not something I’m down with. And so just having everything spelled out clear and having the accountability and having a therapist who was very skilled in that area, that’s how we, I guess walked through that. And so by the time we got married, it’s never been a part of our marriage in any way in our relationship.

And I feel like anything can be addressed and talked about. And sometimes I’ll say, has there ever been time where you’re still tempted to look at it or whatever? And he is like, well, no. And also because we live such a busy full life now of so much experiences, when would I even have the time to be sneakily running around? We’re so busy, we literally fall asleep talking about the work we do doesn’t even sound very good. But we live this whole life now with our children, with our family, with our community, with the purpose that we have around eradicating domestic violence. I feel like he said before, I would feel like I didn’t have much going actually. And so I had a lot of spare time on my hands to be doing things that I don’t think I would’ve done had I had other things to do. So I think that’s partly it, isn’t it?

Matt (40:14):
I think it’s so Go ahead, sorry. Well, she’s just filled that hole in my heart. If trauma, if the root word of trauma is wound, my wife has filled that wound’s been. Yeah.

Fight The New Drug (40:31):
And I think it’s really beautiful that she did that without being your rehab, she was still able to take care of herself and kind of acknowledge that just because there was an explanation for the history that you had and why you had it, it wasn’t an excuse to continue kind of down a path of something that was going to be destructive in your relationship. So I think that’s so beautiful and speaks really to the core of what you guys do. And I wanted to mention, so you have a lot of different phrases. She’s not your rehab, she’s not your mother, she’s not your punching bag, but there’s one in particular, she’s not your porn star that obviously we’ve spoken about this a bit, but you mentioned this in your book, and this is how it sounds like you’re speaking to men about understanding. Can you tell us a little bit about what you mean by that and also how you’re sharing that message with men beyond what we’ve already spoken about with the connections between trafficking and personally in your relationships?

Matt (41:29):
Yeah. The heart of writing their chapter was to really humanize, because I know a lot of young boys, they consume porn and then when they go into relationships, they expect the woman that they’re in a relationship with will be, will act like a certain way, act like the porn that they’re consuming, but it’s so far from reality. And so it was really just we wanted to write a chapter on something that a lot of men struggle with or consume to invite them to see that women, they’re not performative creatures who you consume when you’re by yourself. They have real people who have real hearts, real feelings, real emotions, real

Sarah (42:04):
Experiences, real vaginas. And also I feel like mainstream porn has so much to answer for in relation to domestic violence. And I know this because for a few years I worked on the phone lines in New Zealand, the national lines where people ring about domestic abuse, and there was a huge big surge. And during my time there of young women ringing up basically saying, I’m in a relationship. I wouldn’t consider it to be abusive, but when we have sex, he wants to choke me. And choking and strangulation became something that even our health professionals in the hospital, er, all of that kind of thing, they would see a lot more of it come in because a mainstream pornography had, I guess glamorized and normalized strangulation as being something that you could consensually do in this healthy sexual relationship. And also books like 50 Shades of Gray, in other words just normalized it.

But the reality is around strangulation is that actually most young men don’t know the power or their own strength, and they wouldn’t know when to stop. And even if she had said, oh yeah, no, I consent to doing it because I don’t want to really say no, I want to be explorative and I want to be open to trying new things, then she would ring and be saying, well, actually now I feel really deeply uncomfortable. I did consent to doing it, but actually I blacked out actually, I’ve now had really bad headaches after actually I’m afraid wos if he killed me when I blacked out, all these things. And so when we wrote that chapter, we wanted to just really, I guess, draw that line between something that you are consuming that isn’t actually reality on a porn film that is not a real experience of someone that’s in a respectful relationship having consensual sex mostly.

We wanted to really highlight the fact that actually what you’ve seen and consume is not going to be able to be done in a real relationship where you actually care for and respect the person you are with. And for so many young women that rung me, they almost felt embarrassed now that they had consented to it. And now they didn’t know how to say, actually, I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t want to do it. And so we on the lines actually had to tell them every single time, part of our duty of care was to explain that actually he could kill you, and it’s not because he would want to kill you. This isn’t like a guy who wants to be violently hurting you. He’s thinking this is normal because he’s watched it so much in porn that he wants to try it out with you, and he doesn’t realize his own strength and now he’s killed you.

This is the reality. And he won’t know. He’s not trained in this area, and there is no real time where that’s actually a safe practice. And so you’d have to try and explain that and educate people. But because porn has done a terrible job around showing people what is safe for people, I really believe that there is a huge work needing to be done for our young men because it’s actually not their fault per se. They’ve been shown things sometimes non consensually like Matt was as a young person, but older kids, family members, whatever. And they’ve started watching it and consuming it. I mean, the statistics that I know through professionals I know that work predominantly in that space are that our young people are learning more about sex through porn than any other form of education. So I just feel like we, in that book, in that chapter, we wanted to highlight that because it’s hugely harmful and unsafe for women, and it directly correlates to our work in family violence.

Fight The New Drug (45:54):
This wasn’t on our prepared question list, but I do know that in the Haley sent it mentioned that you have your created a successful book club in prisons and you’ve gotten your book into. Can you speak at all about what that has been like or the impact that you’ve seen that have?

Matt (46:12):
Yeah. Well, the idea, the dream of getting our book into prisons first was because my father had been inside in and out of prison my entire childhood, and I was the kid at home who always prayed and hoped and dreamed that every time my dad did a long leg in prison that something would’ve sparked change in his mind or the light bulb would’ve turned on. He would come out and stop abusing mom, stop abusing us. But unfortunately, that never came. And so I said to wife, my dream when we write this book is I would really love it if every person incarcerated in New Zealand in Alor could receive a copy for free. And so she took this dream to our publisher, penguin and Penguin looked at her like, we want to sell books, make money.

Sarah (46:59):
We ended up getting the books at a wholesale rate, so we didn’t make money off it or anything like that. And we just raised the funds ourselves and bought the copies and ended up getting them to every person incarcerated in New Zealand. And we’re about to roll that out through Australia as well. So hopefully other prisons around the world can do it because the effect and the response, it was hugely worth the investment. I think it worked out to be just over $10 a book wholesale or a price that we got for buying so many, I think we bought like 10,000. But the letters back from those books from incarcerated men, the private messages from their partners on the outside from their children whose the men have read it inside and they’ve said, dad rung and apologized for the first time ever because now he understands what he’s done and he understands the correlation between his childhood trauma that was similar to Matt’s and to how he now perpetrates violence onto them.

And so we just really believe in the innate redemption potential in every single person. And I just refuse to believe in a world where people are not redeemable. And so our hope in getting the books to prisons were that the way that we talk in a compassionate, empathetic way to understanding trauma, but also to take responsibility of your healing and the way you hurt others that would be freely and available and accessible for all people. Not everybody has the opportunity to go to therapy for a huge amount of reasons. Obviously, affordability and access is something that we really need to think about when we create solutions of healing. So our book was really, the desire of our book was really that it could go to many places that traditional ways of healing perhaps are not accessible.

Fight The New Drug (48:53):
That’s really beautiful. Some people listening might think these issues are so massive and widespread and dark in some ways and wonder, you just spoke to the redemptive potential of people being hopeful for you. But if you could kind of share a hopeful message with anyone who’s maybe perpetuating a cycle of violence due to their own childhood trauma or struggling with a pornography consumption habit or addiction or anyone who’s affected by these issues, what would you two have to say to them?

Matt (49:26):
I would say to all my brothers, if you are listening, like my wife said, your child or trauma is not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility. Because what we do, not transform, but we do not transform, we will transmit and we will transmit that onto our most vulnerable, which is our children and our partners. And so I’m living proof. We are both living proof that you can grow up in dysfunction, abuse, toxicity. We grew up in that the first 15 years of our life, and you can then dream of being something else and then actually be something else. It is possible to change the narrative. I’m living proof that what is possible, it can be done. It requires work. And I think it’s hard work, but it’s also hard work. We can all change that narrative.

Sarah (50:15):
My encouragement would be just to really consider in your heart of hearts, just really take a moment to sit with yourself and picture the life that you really, truly and the kind of person that you really truly want to be. And then imagine that person in that life and what would the steps be to get to being there and experiencing that kind of life? Because innately, I’ve not met one person who could tell me that they long to wake up and terrorize and torment and harm other people. No one really sets out to be that monsters are not born in this world. They’re created with years of inability to access mental health care, systemic failings, trauma abuse. But actually, I truly believe that it’s possible for us to come from that and then be something else. And it starts with us imagining something else. It starts with us picturing who it is we want to be and the kind of life that we really want to have, and we deserve to have that life.

And I think my encouragement to those that come from homes like ours is that we aren’t someone super special. We’re not super talented, we’re not super anything. We’re just average everyday people. We started in a barbershop sharing with what we had to our community. And so what I’m saying by that is not to minimize us and our work, but to really say that anybody could do this. It’s not like we had to have PhDs in this. We started with the healing that we had to do inside of ourselves. Anybody can start with that and it can just be small, attainable little steps. If we just get into the habit of thinking of the next right thing that we could do, instead of creating this huge, big, overwhelming list of things to become this person, everyone can just do the next right thing and take the next step. And so that’s probably my encouragement.

Fight The New Drug (52:09):
That’s so beautiful and so encouraging. Thank you both. How can our followers support the work you’re doing or learn more about you or access your resources?

Sarah (52:18):
Well, just check us out on She is not your or on socials at She Is Not Your Rehab at the moment. We’re actually trying our best to raise funds to continue our work. Most of our work is actually self-funded, which used to be funded by the barbershop, which Matt ran, but we’ve actually had to close our barbershop because this work has taken over. So now we tour and we speak and we do a lot of education around this, but we are at the moment selling limited edition art prints, which are all available on our website. The art prints came from our exhibition that we curated last year called Who Is She, which came about after we submitted a global call out to men everywhere, asking them, if she is not your rehab, then who is she? Over 3000 men submitted words and we picked 101 of those words, and we made them into artwork and had a gallery in New Zealand and showed that work.

And now we’ve made a limited edition print run of all the artwork. And so each one of those prints is available for purchase, and the money actually just goes to further all of our work, including getting our books into more prisons or working on the continued development and promotion of our free Men’s mental health app. Because everything we try to do and offer, we want it to be freely available for those that perhaps can’t financially afford it. So we have to try and find other ways to fund it. So if anybody wants to make a generous donation and purchase an art print, we would really appreciate it.

Fight The New Drug (53:51):
I just want to say I feel so encouraged and so grateful knowing that both of you exist in this world and are doing the work that you’re doing and from such a grounded and rooted place, it’s very apparent that you deeply care about those in your community and want to help affect change. So please don’t stop, and to our followers, please support the work of She’s Not Your Rehab, so that Matt and Sarah can continue doing the amazing work that you’re doing. So thank you both so much.

Sarah (54:22):
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for having us.

Advertisement (54:29):
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Outro (55:12):
Thanks for joining us on this episode of Consider Before Consuming. Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug. Fight The new Drug is a non-religious and a non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on this harmful effects using only science, facts and personal accounts. Check out the episode notes for resources mentioned in this episode. If you find this podcast helpful, please consider subscribing and leaving a review. Consider Before Consuming is made possible by listeners like you. If you like to support consider Before Consuming, you can make a one-time or recurring donation of any amount at That’s F-T-N-D.O-R-G/support. Thanks again for listening. We invite you to increase your self-awareness, look both ways, check your blind spots and consider before consuming.

Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.


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