Pinellas County organization spreads awareness to keep teens safe on prom night
Pinellas, Fla. (April 14, 2015) – Prom season is underway and with the excitement of finding the perfect dress or suit, the coolest place for dinner or the best place to take group pictures, an organization located in Pinellas County called the LiveFree! Coalition is set to remind parents that prom falls in the same month as Alcohol Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month; both important topics when it comes to prom.
Prom pre-parties, the big event itself, and after-parties are all instances where teens may be exposed to peer pressure surrounding drugs, underage drinking and unsafe behaviors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking is responsible for over 4,500 deaths among young people each year and is associated with other problems like sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Prom night is often perceived as a time to let loose and one of the many “pinnacle nights” in which teens are susceptible to partaking in drugs, sex, and alcohol for possibly the first time.
“Alcohol and drugs can drastically lower someone’s inhibitions and ability to make rational decisions,” says Elizabeth Menchen, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Senior Clinical Manager at Suncoast Center, Inc. “Being intoxicated is not a reason in itself that someone decides to commit a sexual assault, since we know of course there are many people who drink and do not rape, but it’s unfortunately often used as an excuse for someone committing sexual assault when in reality the person’s drinking and then their choice to commit an assault are the problem.”
“Prom can put a lot of pressure on teens to experiment with alcohol, drugs, or engage in unsafe behaviors,” says Daphne Lampley of LiveFree! Coalition. “Adults play a crucial role in supporting positive choices by teens. It begins by sitting down and talking with your teen at home.”
Below are tips from LiveFree! and their partners that you can use to talk with teenagers to help keep them from partaking in drinking, taking drugs, and unsafe behaviors on prom night.
1. Teens just want to have fun. Whether your teen goes with a date, their friends, or on their own, the point of prom is to have a good time and remember the night. Teens need to be reminded that staying sober is the best way to have fun and be safe.
2. Cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Sit down and set an after-prom plan with your teen. Whether it be a teen-friendly party at your house or if they plan to spend the night at a friend’s house, make sure there will adult-supervision and that they have their cellphone on them at all times.
3. Don’t drive. According to the CDC, teen drivers are four times more likely than older drivers to crash a car. Suggest your teen and their friends get a limo, make sure they always wear their seatbelts, and/or offer to drive your teen to and from prom.
4. Sex is not a must. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), approximately 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking. There can be a lot of pressure on prom night. Remind your teen that you expect them to respect their bodies and know their date’s expectations.
5. Leave if you’re uncomfortable. According to the Suncoast Center, Inc. sexual assault often happens with someone that you do know and think you can trust. A setting where people are drinking or using drugs means there can be a greater chance of someone being sexually assaulted. Before going anywhere ask yourself if you can truly say that you will be safe in this situation.
“Being too intoxicated to know your surroundings, remember things, and have control of your own body is dangerous in many ways, including potentially being a victim of sexual or physical assault,” says Menchen. “Pay attention to signs that someone might not respect your rights and remember that every county in Florida has a designated rape crisis hotline (727-530-7273) that operates 24/7 with trained staff that can listen, provide support, give information about options, and connect callers to more services.”
“Teach your teen how to know what’s healthy and pose questions that get them thinking about what can happen when teens are in situations where alcohol is being used and safety is at risk,” says Menchen. “Even though teens are impulsive, they can make good decisions with the right modeling and discussions with a trusted adult.”
About LiveFree! Coalition
LiveFree! Coalition raises awareness about the harmful effects of substance abuse among youth, young adults and adults in Pinellas County. By offering trainings, advocacy, town hall meetings, a Speaker’s Bureau, environmental strategies and awareness events, LiveFree! encourages Pinellas County families to live safe, healthy and drug-free. For more information, visit our website at www.pinellascoalition.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Suncoast Center, Inc.
Suncoast Center has 11 office and 32 service locations within collaborative partnership sites. We strive to provide the right services at the right time, at a location as convenient as possible for our clients. In addition to our outpatient service offices, we provide a broad array of family services within clients’ homes. Suncoast Center provides services to over 22,000 unduplicated primary and secondary clients, and to more than 45,000 individuals through events, awareness, outreach and advocacy.
Behavioral Health Services at Suncoast Center are designed to be inclusive, addressing both mental health and substance abuse issues. Services that are available to individuals of all ages include outpatient and case management services, which often include assessment, treatment planning, medication management, counseling, and service coordination. Suncoast Center provides specialized services for individuals impacted by trauma, adults with both forensic involvement and a mental health diagnosis. Suncoast Center programs that are specific to families with children include Early Childhood Services, Total Family Strategy, Intensive in-home services, and TANF mental health counseling.
Services that are linked to our Children’s Advocacy Center include: forensic exams and support by our Child Protection Team; family therapy and support services provided through Total Family Strategy program; Early Childhood Services; Intensive Family Services; therapy and advocacy services through our Trauma Services program; as well as the support of our outpatient programming.
Suncoast Center is a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization. We operate Pinellas County’s only Certified Rape Crisis Center, and Children’s Advocacy Center. We are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).