[This piece was written by Ryan Melone and Victoria Baum, from the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program with St. Peter’s Health Partners.]
Popular culture often portrays prom as a magical night where high school students make memories that last a lifetime. While prom is definitely supposed to be fun, this portrayal can create high expectations and social pressures that can lead to unsafe behavior, often related to alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity.
Many teens feel pressured to use substances on prom night. Even though it’s against the law for people under 21 years old to use alcohol, data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving shows that nearly 75 percent of teens feel peer pressure to drink at prom, and nearly half of teens feel pressured to try drugs.
Students may also believe they are expected to have sex after prom, which can lead students to pressure themselves or others into sexual activity. According to research from the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 1 in 5 young women in high school are physically or sexually abused by a date, and young men may also be victims of dating violence or feel pressured into sex. Considering that alcohol lowers inhibitions and takes away the ability to give consent, these pressures may intertwine on prom night, leading to unsafe situations.
Talking to teens about drugs, alcohol, and sex is essential, but it’s important to keep the conversation open and non-judgmental, acknowledging peer pressure and expectations around prom. It’s important that students know nobody is allowed to pressure someone into doing things that person doesn’t want to do, and they are always allowed to say no.
If you have been assaulted or have an emergency and need to speak with someone outside of business hours, you can contact our 24-hour hotline at 518-271-3257.
It’s also vital for parents to talk to teens about what to do if they witness an unsafe situation, or if they themselves ever feel unsafe during the night. Talking with teens about ways to intervene, such as calling a chaperone or other adult for help, is key to making prom a safe, fun, and memorable night. At the end of the day, having fun at prom is the whole point!
The Sexual Assault and Crime Victim Assistance Program (SACVAP) offers a variety of safety and prevention education programs designed for high school students and parents, as well as for college students, senior groups, professional agencies, and other groups. Videos, lectures, discussions, and other activities are combined to educate and empower participants in an age-appropriate, flexible, and non-threatening way.
SACVAP also offers free and confidential short-term counseling, therapy, support groups, medical and legal advocacy/accompaniments, and specialized programs for crime victims, including high school students.
For more information about SACVAP services, please call 518-271-3410 or visit our website at www.sphp.com/sexual-assault. If you have been assaulted or have an emergency and need to speak with someone outside of business hours, you can contact our 24-hour hotline at 518-271-3257.