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Have Teen Parties Changed Much Since 1982?


FILE - A student does a "keg-stand" over a keg of beer in Columbia, Mo., Nov. 12, 2005.

Drinking and partying in high school have not changed much since 1982, the year Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were both teenagers.

Kavanaugh, who has denied the accusation, is now a Supreme Court nominee.

But the allegation has raised questions about the prevalence, the morality and the legality of risky behaviors by young people. Has the dynamic of drinking and sexual assault among high schoolers changed much over the years?

"[The parties are] usually at one of the kid's houses, and the parents aren't there," said Alayah McIntosh, who graduated in May 2018 from Norfolk Academy in Virginia.

"Usually, there will be kids hanging out inside the house, all throughout the house. Sometimes, there are hookups going on in different rooms in the house," McIntosh said.

Experts say numbers show those behaviors have declined, but only slightly. Underage drinking by 12- to 20-year-olds gradually declined between 1993 and 2013, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.

Statistics about sexual violence are less clear. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) says sexual violence has fallen by half in the past 20 years. However, a study by the National Institute of Justice suggests that reporting rape to police when it occurs has become more common in recent decades.

Another risk for girls and young women is being drugged into sexual submission. Drinks can be "spiked," usually with hard alcohol, or can be laced with a sedative called Rohypnol, also known as "roofies."

McIntosh described a friend being drugged, or roofied, against her will at a house party.

"She thought she was watching her drink the whole night, but she ended up getting roofied. We never found out who did it. She wasn't drinking heavily at all. It was like, her second drink. She thought she was OK, but then she started stumbling around, and she ended up passing out," McIntosh said.

"High school party culture is sort of like college party culture — still a ton of drinking," said Nate Tinbite, who attends John F. Kennedy High School in Glenmont, Maryland, and is the president of the Montgomery County Student Government.

Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that she feared Kavanaugh was "going to accidentally kill" her during the alleged incident in 1982. Her testimony has led more girls and women to come forward with their own stories.

Ananya Tadikonda, a student representative on the Montgomery County Board of Education in Maryland, said the party culture and male behavior described by Ford is not more prevalent in private schools than it is in public.

"Assault culture is so pervasive," Tadikonda told VOA. It would surprise her, she said, if more girls came forward to report their assault.

"Especially if it's a young girl that's my age. Because honestly, it took this many years for Dr. Ford to come forward, and that's because there's such a societal condemnation and victim-blaming culture that exists," she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underage drinkers (aged 12 to 20) account for 11 percent of all alcohol consumption in the United States.

"I know that a lot of kids in my year drank," said Isabel Cabezas, an alumna of Holton Arms (Ford's alma mater). Cabezas chose not to drink alcohol until college, but she said many of her friends drank, and she was often left out for refusing to participate.

"I can recall one incident where I was not invited to a party after a dance because I did not want to drink," she said.

The memory of the drinking culture at her school contributed to her believing Ford's testimony, which moved her so much that she spent a day at the U.S. Capitol with other protesters. Counterdemonstrators were also there, supporting Kavanaugh.

"All of her claims are so credible," Cabezas said of Ford. "So, I wanted to go support her because I think that it definitely is seen as a last-minute political move. But when you take a step back and consider that she started writing this letter to her congressperson before it was announced that Brett Kavanaugh was the nominee, I don't think that it's a political last-moment movement at all."