5 Dangers to Discuss With Your Teens Before Spring Break

Your child studies hard and deserves a break from the stresses of high school or college life. You want them to have a memorable spring vacation. But you never imagined the “fun” might include baring it all for a group of drunken frat boys, having sex with strangers or passing out on a hotel balcony from drinking too much. Your teen would never do that, right? Right?

Spring break is a time when even the most trustworthy, well-behaved youth may seize the opportunity to release their inhibitions and overindulge. Here are five of the most significant threats facing young people on spring break – all of which are preventable with your help:

#1 Binge Drinking

Spring break has become synonymous with binge drinking. A survey by the Journal of American College Health found that the average male consumes 18 alcoholic drinks per day and the average woman consumes 10 drinks per day during spring break. About half drink until they pass out or get sick. Not surprisingly, alcohol is a factor in most spring break accidents, arrests, violent crimes and deaths.

Binge drinking is associated with a number of health problems, including liver diseases, injuries, brain damage and alcohol poisoning. Polls by the American Medical Association (AMA) suggest that during spring break alcohol is cheap and easy to access regardless of age. Younger drinkers and those who typically drink lightly or not at all are at greater risk of acute harm if they increase their alcohol consumption on spring break, according to a 2009 study in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Some young people go into spring break planning to get drunk, while others succumb to peer pressure, believing that drinking too much, nursing a hangover and then doing it all again the next day seems like the normal thing to do. In groups, young people tend to act less rationally. According to a 2007 report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, students who vacation with friends dramatically increased their alcohol use (an average of 17.6 drinks per week more than usual).

#2 Drug Overdose

Many young people use spring break as an opportunity to experiment with drugs other than alcohol, especially marijuana and “club drugs” like ecstasy. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy warned that first-time use of marijuana and alcohol by teens increases dramatically during spring break.

In addition to the health risks posed by these drugs, many youth obtain the drugs wherever they’re vacationing, which means they may not come from a trustworthy source, may be cut with other substances or may be more potent than expected. Young people also frequently overlook the potentially fatal consequences of mixing drugs and alcohol.

#3 Driving Under the Influence

Where there’s alcohol, there’s the danger of drunk driving. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that drunk driving claimed the lives of more than 10,000 motorists, nearly one-third of which were alcohol-related.

In popular spring break destinations, additional police officers are often hired during March and April to crack down on drunk driving, potentially resulting in a suspended license, prison time, a fine and a criminal conviction on their permanent record. The combination of alcohol, friends and the beach also puts youth at increased risk of distracted driving (because of cell phones, texting or rowdy passengers) and alcohol-related accidents like drowning.

#4 Risky Sex

With their judgment clouded by drugs or alcohol, some young partygoers engage in risky sexual behaviors they later regret. Others make vacation plans with the goal of getting laid. According to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 18 percent of college students made a pact with their peers to “have sex without a condom” and 5.2 percent made “have sex with someone new” pacts.

According to polls by the AMA, 74 percent of college women said spring break results in increased sexual activity. More than half of college students know friends who were sexually active with more than one partner during spring break, and nearly three out of five women know friends who had unprotected sex during that time.

Aside from the obvious risks of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (many of which perhaps non-coincidentally peak from March to May), AMA polls show that more than half of college women are promiscuous not necessarily because they want to be, but because it allows them to fit in. One in five regretted engaging in sexual activity during spring break, and 12 percent felt forced or pressured into sex.

#5 Crime

Drinking alcohol dramatically increases the risk of rape and sexual violence. During spring break, hospitals around the country report an increase in rapes, injuries, assaults, deaths and arrests. A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that intentional poisonings (including date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, ketamine and GHB) caused almost 15,000 emergency room visits in 2009. In Daytona, Fla., a popular spring break hotspot, officials have reported twice as many rape cases during the month of spring break.

Where your child goes for spring break can be as important as who they go with and what they do. Some locations, such as Orlando and West Palm Beach, have been ranked among the most dangerous spring break getaways. If your child is planning a trip to Las Vegas, Key West, South Padre Island, Daytona Beach or Myrtle Beach, they are headed to what Forbes calls the “trashiest spring break destinations” for 2012.

Young people traveling to foreign countries (most notably in recent years, Mexico) should be aware of additional risks, particularly if they leave popular tourist areas. In the past, crimes against U.S. citizens have included drug violence, theft, rape, sexual assault, abduction and murder. Those who violate the laws of the country they’re visiting may be subjected to harsher penalties and more complex legal troubles than they’d face on home soil.

Never Too Early to Talk

Spring break offers parents an excellent opportunity to discuss the dangers of unprotected sex, binge drinking and drug use. There are a few common sense tips every parent should discuss with their child before spring break:

• Get acquainted with the place they are visiting and make sure they know how to access emergency help
• Know your child’s plans and make sure they check in frequently
• Do not carry large amounts of cash or expensive clothing or jewelry items
• Learn about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and make your expectations clear
• Stay close to friends and never wander off with a stranger
• Be on the lookout for date rape drugs, keep your drink covered and never accept drinks from strangers
• Never drive under the influence or get in a car with someone who drives drunk

Parents remain the number-one influence in their children’s lives all the way up through adolescence and young adulthood. Talking won’t necessarily prevent all risk-taking, but making your expectations clear will allow your child to not only have fun but also return home safely, with no regrets.

Neighborhood Boxing Gyms Help Keep Youth Off the Streets

Teens growing up in troubled neighborhoods often find themselves drawn into seedy situations against their will. Whether it is peer pressure, or a feeling of despair for the future, many of today’s youth fall prey to the allures of gangs, violence, and drugs. One of the most effective ways to circumvent this calamity is by making sure these kids stay active in after-school programs.

One of the best activities for children and teens to participate in are the fitness programs held in their schools or local gyms. There are neighborhood fitness centers like these all across the nation. Their success stories never cease to inspire. Whether it is boxing, basketball, or badminton, studies have shown that after-school activities dramatically lower incidence rates of violence and crime amongst teens.

Programs like ones organized by Horace Bryant at the Fourth Street Youth Boxing Gym in Minnesota are perfect examples of the preventative power of these clubs. Bryant saw the trouble that teens in his neighborhood were getting in to, and wanted to make a difference. That’s why he coordinated his youth outreach program with the owners of his local gym.

Take a look at the case of a young man named Chris Watson. Chris was involved in trouble with the law ever since he was 14 years old. He had been arrested multiple times, dropped out of school in 2007, and was even charged with a felony. Watson stated that he would have likely continued down the bleak path he was on if it weren’t for his local boxing program.

“I just had nothing to do back in the day; I wasn’t working,” Watson said. “I had so many friends I didn’t know what to do with and they were always doing something illegal or something fun. Ever since I met Horace, going to the gym is what I look forward to everyday. I can’t wait to get off work and go boxing.” Bryant not only helped Watson with his training, but also helped him get a job. Chris is now studying to complete his GED, and hopes to someday inspire kids the way that Bryant inspired him and saved him from the streets.

Gyms and stories like this exist all over the nation. It is incredibly important to support programs like these. These organizations improve the lives of the children enrolled in it, while at the same time decreasing rates of crime and violence in their surrounding neighborhoods. Unfortunately, due to the recent recession, much of the funding to these programs via state and federal grants has been slashed. Often times these gyms depend on donations to purchase MMA equipment to help them prepare for matches. That is why it is so vital to recognize how crucial these programs are to our communities around the nation, and the world.

Check out more about Horace Bryant’s program at the Fourth Street Youth Boxing Gym in Minnesota.

Vandalism Attorney For Your Teen

Adolescence can be a trying time of kids acting out and their parents often need to seek the advice of a vandalism attorney. The teenage years, between the ages of thirteen and nineteen, are a hotbed of change and challenges. The average elementary school student is suddenly deluged with hormones, a rapidly changing body, and peer pressure. These years are often plagued with self doubt and shaky confidence as they grow from a child into an adult. Unfortunately this bumpy time can be even more problematic if the teen begins to act out as a vandal.

Vandalism is a crime. It includes any intentional act that destroys or defaces public or private property. Some examples include knocking over mailboxes, spray painting graffiti, trashing school buildings, stealing and damaging cars or mailboxes and lighting fires. While there have been teen pranksters at play for decades, today’s brand of prank has more serious ramifications.

Why would adolescents do such things? Some typical reasons include the following:

– Hostility toward their parents or the property owner: A teen may be feeling out of control and angry toward their parents or whoever owns what they are vandalizing. Parents can be the target of these acts because of discipline vendettas, because they’re always at work and not emotionally available or because of divorce and domestic problems at home. Property owners may be the local high school or a neighbor who has treated them poorly. The kids’ way of getting back some power may unfortunately be to trash property.
– Peer pressure: Sometimes teenagers egg each other on and use extremely poor judgment. The destruction may have occurred when a practical joke or dare got out of hand. There are times when a growing teen fails to think through consequences.
– Drunkenness: If a group of kids has been binge drinking, they may decide to vandalize in response to their altered state. Everyone does stupid things when they are drunk and teens are no exception. They might not even remember what they did the next day.
– Stealing to buy drugs: If an adolescent has become addicted to drugs, he or she may do anything to get money to pay for their next fix. A drugged state may also cause irrational behavior and vandalism.
– Street Artists: Some graffiti is done by talented individuals. It’s unfortunate that their chosen medium is spray paint and their canvas is the side of a fence or building. As beautiful as some of these paintings are, graffiti is a criminal act.

If a teen has gotten themselves into a run-in with the law with one of the above offenses, a vandalism attorney needs to be brought on board as soon as possible.

Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence – A Correlated Generalized Deviance

I believe it is safe to say that a majority of defendants charged in our courts with animal abuse have prior domestic violence convictions as well. It is because of the “generalized deviance” that domestic violence and animal abuse are correlated. Anti-social behavior of different levels can happen in one individual but how that individual came to exercise the deviance is more complicated as there are many pathways that lead to it. An example of one of these exercises is the individuals use of violence or other anti-social manipulations to “solve” problems which is called “modeling” and explains why violence is often intergenerational. Although animal abuse and domestic violence are correlated, it varies as to which occurs first.

But are there any numbers we can connect here; any studies conducted to make this deviance a little more tangible? A study done in New Jersey found that in 88% of households where children were physically abused, there were records of animal abuse as well. In Wisconsin, four out of five battered women cases revealed the partner had been violent toward pets. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a study of abuse victims after arriving at domestic violence shelters and found that 85.4% of women and 63.0% of children reported incidents of pet abuse. The Chicago Police Department’s Domestic Violence Program compiled a history of arrestees for animal fighting/animal abuse for the period of 2000-2001 and found that approximately 30% had a conviction of domestic violence on their record. Animal abuse is often associated with other serious crimes such as drug offenses, gangs, weapons violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence and the individuals committing these acts of violence against animals are viewed as a danger to the public and therefore, must be addressed. The whole premise of an animal abuser is to demonstrate power. The abuser will batter an animal to hold control over his family, to isolate them and enforce submission. He will abuse a pet to perpetuate a fearful environment; to prevent a victim from leaving or coerce them to return. They will batter an animal to punish a victim for showing independence.

First responders and professionals who investigate abuse should be aware and trained to observe the cycle of violence. Some states practice this observance and take it a step further by implementing cross-reporting laws. When an animal control officer is called to investigate animal abuse in a home with children, they are mandated to report child abuse when animal abuse is confirmed. Children are generally more willing to discuss what happened to a pet than they are to their own victimization. In Ohio, any child under the age of 18 years of age who commits cruelty to a pet, is required to undergo psychological evaluation to determine individual or family counseling as necessary. The legislation also permit’s the court to include a protection order for any companion animal in the home of the person seeking a criminal protection order, domestic violence protection order, a civil stalking order, a sexual offense protection order, or the approval of a civil domestic violence consent agreement. Often a partner will abuse a pet that is in the home as a tactic to keep the victim under control. It is understood that many victims will not leave when it puts their pets in harm’s way. When questioning victims and their children, first responders should be alert for signs of child and/or pet victimization. They should ask if the abuser or anyone else threatened to harm their pet and ask if they need help finding a safe place for their pet to go if they leave. Many victims will not prosecute their abuser however, animal cruelty prosecution can result in incarceration or treatment that is equal to results from a domestic violence prosecution.

Domestic Violence Shelters, Animal Shelters, and Humane Organizations can do much to offer protection for animal victims. When working with abuse victims in their safety planning, be sure they include their pets. Question them about any threats or injuries to their pets. Work with legislators to include pets in orders of protection and educate judges on the necessities of these inclusions. Team up with your local animal control and humane organizations and local domestic violence shelters to establish emergency housing of pets coming from homes experiencing violence. If there is no space available, establish a network of homes that provide emergency care for these pets through foster care agencies then incorporate these connections in school programs where they might reach children who are at risk of family violence. Also, many YWCA’s have pet shelter programs that are in partnership with the humane society, local clinics, kennels, stables, and veterinarians.

Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence often choose to stay in abusive relationships to protect their pets. A study shows that 71% of women seeking “safe haven” in domestic violence shelters had companion animals threatened, hurt, or killed by their abuser. Many victims never even go to a shelter because of this fear for their pets. It is in recognition of this fact that many states have passed laws including pets in court-issued orders of protection and to include any animal that is harmed or threatened with harm in the state’s definition of “domestic violence.” Society doesn’t consider animal cruelty as severe as violence against humans but it is increasingly viewed as a serious issue by professionals in law enforcement and mental health. Effective prosecution of animal abuse can provide early and timely response to those who are, or who are at risk of becoming, a threat to the safety of others. It is a tool for protection for victims of family violence, developing new skills and understanding which will help build a truly compassionate society.

California Statutory Rape Crimes and Punishments

What is statutory rape? As defined by the FBI, statutory rape is characterized as nonforcible sexual intercourse with a person who is younger than the statutory age of consent.

In California, the age a person can no longer become a victim of statutory rape is 18. The statutory rape law in California is titled “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse” and can be located within the California Penal Code Title 9 Chapter 1 Section 261.5.

In California, it is a violation of state law to engage in sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 18. It is also a violation of state law for 2 minors under the age of 18 to engage in sexual intercourse.

Adults engaged in sexual intercourse with minors can be charged with “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse” in the state of California. This crime could be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on certain factors including, but no limited to:

  1. Prior criminal history of the perpetrator
  2. The age of the minor involved
  3. The age difference between the minor and the perpetrator.

Prior to 1993 California laws primarily gave “victim” status to females. After 1993 the laws were shifted to a “gender neutral” position and there have been numerous cases of females being charged as perpetrators of this crime.

Sex between two consenting minors is a violation of the state law and charges can be filed against one of the minors involved. Even though the laws are now gender neutral, it is still the male who is most commonly prosecuted as the perpetrator in cases involving consenting heterosexual minors.

Juvenile court judges have authority to recommend transfer of juvenile cases to the adult court under varying circumstances.

Will it be a Felony or Misdemeanor?
Section 261.5

  • (b) If the perpetrator is less than 3 years older than the victim = Misdemeanor
  • (c) If the perpetrator is more than 3 years older than the victim= Misdemeanor or Felony
  • (d) If the perpetrator is 21 and victim is under the age of 16 = Misdemeanor or Felony

What are the potential Jail times and fines for these crimes if convicted?

If convicted under (b) above:

  • (b) Misdemeanor = possible jail up to 1 year
  • (b) Misdemeanor = Civil penalty up to $2000 if minor is less than 2 years younger
  • (b) Misdemeanor = Civil penalty up to $5000 if minor is at least 2 years younger

If convicted under (c) above:

  • (c) Misdemeanor = possible jail up to 1 year
  • (c) Felony = possible jail up to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years prison
  • (c) Felony or Misdemeanor = Civil penalty up to $5000 if minor is at least 2 years younger
  • (c) Felony or Misdemeanor = Civil penalty up to $1000 if minor is at least 3 years younger

If convicted under (d) above:

  • (d) Misdemeanor = possible jail up to 1 year
  • (d) Felony = possible prison time 2, 3, or 4 years
  • (d) Misdemeanor or Felony = Civil penalty up to $25,000

Within the statute, the law is categorized and punishment is defined by age difference. A California prosecutor has latitude to determine whether charges will be misdemeanor or felony in many cases.