April 22, 2008
For many schools, this is prom season. With the fun and the
preparation, can also come the pressures of prom.
"Lots of people feel pressure from their friends to drink,
do drugs, or lose their virginity on prom night. As with
your other prom plans, take a minute to think in advance
about how you'll avoid getting into an unwanted situation.
(No one wants to spend prom night in jail or at the
hospital after being pressured into drinking or doing
drugs.) You'll feel more confident and in control if you're
prepared. Drugs and alcohol impair judgment in ways that
can hurt you -- even if you're not the one using them. Be
sure you have a safe ride home, whether it's a designated
driver, parent, or that chauffeur-driven limo. It's also a
good idea to have cab fare or to bring a cell phone and the
number of an older sibling or parent just in case your ride
gets wild or doesn't show up. Substances like alcohol and
drugs can also play a role in people losing their virginity
or having unwanted sex on prom night. Be aware of what's
going on around you and try to stay in control. Also, be
aware of your date's ability to consent to sexual activity.
If your date is not in a condition to respond or react, it
could be rape."
For some, prom night comes with additional pressures to
drink. Many think that alcohol is safe because it is
available legally for those over 21. Others think that it
can cause long term health problems, but that one night of
drinking isn't going to hurt (or kill). Unfortunately, even
one night with too much alcohol can not only impair
judgement and lead to unhealthy choices, it can also be
deadly in its own right.
"Alcohol poisoning is a serious -- sometimes deadly --
result of consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol. When your
body absorbs too much alcohol, it can directly impact your
central nervous system, slowing your breathing, heart rate
and gag reflex. This can lead to choking, coma and even
death. Alcohol poisoning most often occurs as a result of
drinking too many alcoholic beverages over a short period
of time. Binge drinking is a common cause of alcohol
poisoning. ... A person with alcohol poisoning needs
immediate medical attention and should not be left alone.
If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call your
local poison control center or emergency number, usually
Alcohol can directly cause health problems, but it can also
indirectly contribute to an unsafe environment. Even
someone who is "buzzed" can have their driving impaired,
and this can lead to an accident. Not all alcohol related
driving accidents are fatal for all involved. Some lead to
permanent paralysis, while others leave drivers unhurt to
live with the knowledge of those they hurt.
"* During 2005, 16,885 people in the U.S. died in
alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, representing 39% of
all traffic-related deaths (NHTSA 2006).
* In 2005, nearly 1.4 million drivers were arrested for
driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics
(Department of Justice 2005). That's less than one percent
of the 159 million self-reported episodes of
alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year
(Quinlan et al. 2005).
* Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine)
are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths.
These other drugs are generally used in combination with
alcohol (Jones et al. 2003)."
Whether or not people drink on prom night (or any night),
it is important to have a plan. It is important for
everyone to have a cell phone, money for a cab, and the
number of someone you can call in case the person they were
depending on for a ride becomes an unsafe option.
When going out in a group, people depend on each other to
maintain a safe environment for everyone. Even those who
are not drinking alcohol need to keep an eye on their
drinks and stick with a friend that they trust. Having a
plan for the evening, and sharing that plan with friends,
can help everyone involved. Friends can keep each other
accountable to safe decisions, and they can call for help
if things are not going according to plan.
Having a plan for a safe driver is only part of the
equation. Having a plan for a safe date extends beyond a
"[Date rape drugs] are drugs that are sometimes used to
assist a sexual assault. Sexual assault is any type of
sexual activity that a person does not agree to. ...
Because of the effects of these drugs, victims may be
physically helpless, unable to refuse sex, and can't
remember what happened. The drugs often have no color,
smell, or taste and are easily added to flavored drinks
without the victim's knowledge. ... Although we use the
term "date rape," most experts prefer the term
"drug-facilitated sexual assault." These drugs have been
used to help people commit other crimes, like robbery and
physical assault, and have been used on both men and
The goal is to avoid unsafe situations, but that may not
always be possible. Whether or not alcohol or drugs are
used to lower the defenses of a victim, whether or not a
person has chosen to spend time (go on a date with) the
person who pressures or forces them to do something they
don't want to do, rape is never the fault of the victim.
Additionally, the victim has the right to regain some of
the power that the attacker tried to strip from them by
pressing charges and placing that attacker behind bars
where they are less likely to hurt anyone else.
"Date rape also occurs when one person forces another
person to have sex. This crime is also a felony offense.
The difference between rape and date rape is that in cases
of date rape, the victim agreed to spend time with the
attacker. Perhaps the victim even went out with the
attacker more than once. Date rape is still rape."
Questions of the Week:
What plans can you make before prom (or any night out) that
can help you stay safe? What circumstances might come up
that you should plan for ahead of time? What should you
have with you in case of there is a problem, and who should
you contact? Where is the line between careful planning (so
that your night out is more likely to stay safe and not
turn tragic) and being so paranoid that you can't have fun
with your friends?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.