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Rated Risky: Teen Attitudes Toward Dating and Sexual Abuse

Teen Attitudes Toward Dating and Sexual Abuse

© 2002 The Patriot Ledger
See Survey Results

Rated Risky Teen-on-teen rape. Dating violence. Casual sex. These are issues South Shore high school students deal with every day. To find out how teens cope, a team of Patriot Ledger reporters surveyed 500 high school students and interviewed teens, counselors, educators and domestic violence experts. See what they had to say in this special three-part report about sex and the risks teens take.

View PDF files of actual pages from the original series

Series Contents

Day 1 (May 18-19, 2002)

Flirting with danger
Teens confused by issues of date rape, violence and casual sex

The news trucks descended, first in Braintree, then in Canton. In a one-week period in early February, six high school students were charged with raping four 15-year-old classmates in separate, unrelated cases. Residents in the communities reeled at the news, shocked that the suspects, five of whom are popular athletes, faced such serious charges. But shock quickly turned to divisiveness. Lines were drawn between those who believed the girls, and those who blamed them. READ MORE ....

Sexually transmitted diseases on the rise

At first glance, the statistics are heartening: The number of Massachusetts teenagers giving birth fell to a 30-year-low in 2000. But the positive picture the number paints may belie the truth about teenagers and safe sex. READ MORE ...

Some teens think ‘No’ means ‘Maybe’

In the minds of many high school boys, rape isn’t always wrong. A Patriot Ledger survey of 527 high school students conducted for this series found that 7 percent of boys said it was OK to force a girl to have sex on a date. The lines got blurrier - and the numbers got higher - when the boys were given various what-if scenarios. READ MORE ...

Profile of Patriot Ledger teen focus group

They were nervous about coming, but showed up anyway. Ten teenagers - most of whom had never met - sat quietly around a conference table. The Patriot Ledger invited the students - six girls and four boys - for a four-hour conversation about sex, rape, dating violence and the teen social scene. All had their parents’ permission to attend. Their intial shyness didn’t last long. READ MORE ...

Mutual respect makes it work

When 18-year-old Michelle Sonia started taking yoga classes this year as a way to relieve stress, her boyfriend decided to join her. Now, Michelle and Andy Whelan, 17, spend part of each Sunday at the Hanson Holistic Center practicing breathing and stretching. Michelle, who lives in Hanson, and Andy, of Abington, say that balance of supporting each other while maintaining their own identities is what makes their relationship work. READ MORE ...

Victim profile: Against her will

He was her best friend. Then one May night during their senior year in high school, Grace awoke to find her red flannel pajama pants pulled down and her friend astride her. Even as she lay there, held down in bed, she couldn’t admit that a friend she trusted and cared for could do this. She couldn’t call it rape, not even in her mind. She didn’t think to, didn’t know to. READ MORE ...

Day 2 (May 20, 2002)

Behind closed doors
Teen victims often unwilling to report

Two days after she was raped in the home of a new boyfriend, the 17-year-old girl willingly detailed the incident for Rockland police. Sgt. John Llewellyn was sure he had a solid case after only one interview with the teenager: Her clothes would provide useful physical evidence, and her story was convincing. A few days after that first interview, however, the girl was back in police headquarters. Embarrassed and scared, she no longer wanted to cooperate, and police were left with few options. READ MORE ...

Teens accused of rape lose it all

A high school student accused of rape faces consequences even before a court decides the issue of guilt or innocence. There is almost always an immediate suspension or expulsion from school, sports teams and other extracurricular activities. The stigma of being a sex offender attaches itself to accused teens well before their cases reach trial. READ MORE ...

Parents, police among last to know

Teenage girls aren’t telling their parents or police when they are sexually assaulted or raped, often because they feel less like victims than accessories to the crime. And they are worried that others will blame them as much as they blame themselves because of the clothes they wore, the beer they drank or the boys they hung around with. READ MORE ...

Silence and secrets: Victim never reported her offender

When Anna was 14, she was afraid to tell her parents she was sexually assaulted after a high school dance, afraid she might get in trouble for drinking beer or being alone with a boy in his car. So she kept the horrible secret hidden - and she suffered the consequences. READ MORE ...

Day 3 (May 21, 2002)

Drawing the line
Media, parents, send teens mixed messages on sex

TA 16-year-old girl is at a party where 20 teenagers are drinking and socializing. She sees a girlfriend being led to a bedroom by an older boy, pulling on her arm. The girlfriend is drunk, and the boy is no one she knows well. What should the friend do? There is seldom a clear consensus. READ MORE ...

Teen sexual behavior influenced by friends, movies, TV

Teenagers say friends are the biggest influence on their sexual behavior, then movies and television. Parents run a distant third. READ MORE ...

What schools are doing to address the problem and programs that work

In the 1950s, Wally Cleaver worried about prom dates and skin blemishes on the TV sitcom “Leave It To Beaver.” Today’s teen characters confront drug use and date rape. The dramatic differences are part of class discussion for 10th graders at Cohasset High School. The purpose: making young people “media literate” in a highly sexualized culture. READ MORE ...

Setting Limits: Parents struggle to keep teens safe; Tips for parents

Cathy Torrey realized her two daughters were growing up in a different sexual culture than she did when they were as young as 5 or 6. As co-chair of the Weymouth town-wide parent council, Torrey has spoken with many parents about their concerns on how to keep their kids safe from drugs, alcohol and sexual situations. It often comes down to mundane daily decisions. READ MORE ...

Series follow-up reports:

Student drinking and sex skyrocket in Duxbury,

Teens still making bad sex decisions,

Eager to wait: Local youths pledge to abstain from sex until marriage, 4-14-03

Just what do teens call sex?, 1/15/03

Virginity is being embraced by a growing number of youths, 10/29/02

Talking about sex, 7/29/02

Teens risking their health and more, 5/25/02








Credits for series:

Dina Gerdeman
Christopher Walker
Jim Daly
Sue Scheible
Karen Eschbacher, 23, is a graduate of Boston University. She has been a Patriot Ledger reporter for two years and covers Braintree. Dina Gerdeman, 34, has been a general assignment reporter at The Patriot Ledger since 1998. She primarily covers education. Christopher Walker, 25, was hired as an intern for The Patriot Ledger in 1998 while a student at Boston University. He was hired full-time in 1999 and covers Rockland and Abington. Jim Daly, 36, has been a Patriot Ledger reporter for two years. He formerly taught English at Boston College High School, the Pierce Middle School in Milton, and Massasoit Community College in Brockton. Sue Scheible, 58, is a general assignment reporter who also writes a weekly column on aging, covers health care and social services, and has been at the newspaper since 1968.
Other series staff:

Photographers: Debee Tlumacki, Amelia Kunhardt, Lisa Bül, Greg Derr

Graphics: Michael Bertrand

Project editor: Linda Shepherd

Visuals editor and page design: Anestis Diakopoulos

Technical/online edition editor: Stephen Ide

Copy editors: Buddy Boynton, Paul Grimaldi, Richard Cameron

Teen survey team: Dina Gerdeman, Karen Eschbacher, Jim Daly, Ellen Galambos, Casey Ross, Sarah Coffey, Jeff White, Joy Davis, Carrie Levine and Chris Walker.