COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Pornography has been a serious problem for decades and it's only become worse on the Internet. Addiction has skyrocketed, especially among Christian men.
But though it's fairly well known that millions of Americans regularly visit porn sites on the web, what is surprising is that about a third of them are women.
Many are often too ashamed to get help. Author and lecturer Shelley Hitz, who lives near Pike's Peak, Colo., said these days it's definitely a problem for the females as well.
It's a problem that turned personal for Hitz. For years, she secretly battled her own addiction, too ashamed and afraid to confess it.
"We were in ministry. My husband was in full-time ministry. We were active in our church. I knew better," Hitz said. "So every time, I would get so beat up and hammered by the enemy and by myself."
It started off soft-core, but Hitz likened the allure to the parable of a frog put in a cool pot of water that slowly boils to death as the heat slowly increases.
"If Satan would've come to me and said, 'Hey, Shelley, look at this hard core porn!' I would have been like that frog in that pot of boiling water: I would've jumped out. I would've said, 'No way!'" she explained.
After years of feeling trapped and disgusted, she found the courage to confess to husband C.J. Hitz.
"And I said, 'I need help. I can't stop. I don't know what to do. But I know this is going to destroy me. It could destroy our marriage,'" she said. "And I asked him if I could go to counseling."
Then came another surprise: C.J. was battling his own years-long porn addiction.
"I was able to easily show her grace because I felt so dirty myself and realizing the shame and the ugliness of the addiction," he explained.
But he never planned to tell his wife.
"There's no way I can let Shelley know this because she'll just feel hurt," he said of his fear in confessing.
He finally opened up and they began a steady battle to heal their marriage. They repented, asked forgiveness, and leaned more on God than ever before.
Their next steps included adding filters on computers, carefully guarding their senses, and most importantly, enlisting accountability partners.
"Somebody that I knew I could trust, that I knew would show me grace but would ask me the hard questions," Shelley said of finding such a person.
"There is healing that comes when you're able to share it with a brother who can pray with you, someone who can even relate to your struggle," her husband said.
After counseling, came deliverance. Then Hitz sensed God wanted her to take the most difficult step of all: going public.
"That was 10 years ago. And then this year I finally obeyed," she said.
That led to the book, A Christian Woman's Guide to Breaking Free from Pornography. Hitz also began to confess during lectures to Christian women and young ladies.
"Every time I would share it, it never failed: a woman, a teen girl, someone would come up to me and many times confess for the first time that they struggle," she explained.
One young lady in particular shocked Hitz with what she had to say:
"'I am on a Christian college campus. I am the chaplain.' And she said, 'Almost every girl on our floor struggles with pornography,'" Hitz said.
The growth of this societal addiction led the Christian-based Witherspoon Institute to seek a solution with some of the world's foremost authorities. Among them is leading marriage and family therapist Jill Manning.
"Females, consistently, we find represent almost 30 percent of Internet pornography consumers -- a third, essentially," Manning said.
For their book, Shelley and her co-author surveyed Christian women and came up with stunning numbers.
"Nineteen percent of Christian and teen girls who say they're not just exposed to it, but they're addicted," Hitz said."And then of those who say they were exposed to pornography, 44 percent said they felt hopeless in overcoming it."
Hitz and her husband are a living testimony that people willing to fight their way out can overcome.
"I have been there. Christ has set me free. It has not been an easy path. It's been difficult. I still at times struggle. But there is freedom," Hitz said.
They say that freedom has added a new intimacy to their marriage.
"There's an ecstasy and a peace and a joy and an elation that pornography never will bring," C.J. said.
The Hitzes agree that their testimony demonstrates no matter how deep you're in, no matter how addicted, there's hope and deliverance.