Pubdate: Wed, 03 May 2006
Source: Almaguin News (CN ON)
Copyright: Almaguin News 2006
Author: Rob Learn
Bookmark: (Youth)

Students' commercial warns of date rape

SOUTH RIVER - Did you know that the number of women in Parry
Sound-Muskoka who are drugged and sexually assaulted every year is in
the hundreds?

A group of Almaguin Highlands Secondary School students is bringing
that reality to television screens this summer with the warning that
the stories of the 'date rape drug' aren't just happening in the big

Through Muskoka-Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services (MPSSAS), peer
support students are making a television commercial warning women be
vigilant about keeping an eye on their drinks.

The television commercials are part of an education program MPSSAS is
conducting this summer that will include canvassing bars and clubs
with educational material and what is called a tagging program.

Education workers will go through bars and leave a business card on
the side of unattended drinks reminding woman of how dangerous that
can be.

Executive coordinator of MPSSAS Helen Debassige says that the number
of woman being attacked by predators is staggering for this rural area.

"I would say on a monthly basis the date rapes reported to us varies
from four to six," said Debassige.

That figure is staggering when coupled with the fact that police and
support workers believe that less than one per cent of all sexual
assaults are reported to them.

Students at Almaguin were excited about the opportunity to raise
awareness of the issue through a television commercial. Students from
the peer support program submitted ideas along with other high school
students from across the region competing for two spots being created
for the summer campaign.

The Almaguin script was selected from a group of 10 by MPSSAS and
students believe their strong creative message was one of the reasons
for the decision.

"Your mother told you not to take candy from strangers. Why would you
take a drink?" will be the voice-over warning on the Almaguin
production shot this week in South River.

Tyler Styven, an Almaguin grade 12 student, is credited with coming up
with the idea during a peer support meeting at the high school.

The Peer Support Program is a key tool for MPSSAS in battling sexual
assault issues at the high school and many of the students taking part
are seeing first-hand how big the problem is.

"It happens," says Styven, on why making the commercial is important
to him. "I know a few people who have been sexually assaulted and I
don't like it."

Styven is one of 70 Almaguin students who have taken peer support
training over the past three years through MPSSAS.

Coordinator of the program Linda Clarke says the students are a
valuable resource in tackling the often hidden problem.

"They (peer support counselors) can talk to another student, because
we find they open up more easily to their own peer group than to an
adult," says Clarke.

Rohypnol is the drug at the centre of the problem and the television
commercial's message. It is a powerful sedative that is ten times more
potent than valium and when mixed with alcohol becomes even more so.
Predators use the drug because it not only incapacitates their
victims, but also affects their memories, often leaving them with
either no recollection of the assault until days after if at all.

The drug is not legal for sale in Canada or the United

MPSSAS workers have seen in the last year a 40 per cent increase in
the number of attacks being reported to them.

Those workers want to make sure that the message gets out this summer
that no area is immune to depravities of sexual predators.

"Summer time is a peak time, because of the increase in population and
we are a popular place for young people to come," says Linda Clarke.

Debassige agrees and says that no where is immune.

"It's definitely moved into all parts of Ontario," says Debassige.
"It's definitely not just big cities. Those drugs are available
anywhere." And it is not just the bars and clubs where woman have to
be aware.

"The most common places (to be assaulted) are in your or a friend's
home or car," says Debassige. She says that people can't let their
guard down just because they are at a house party where they know most
of the people.

And that is the setting for the Almaguin commercial.

Peer support liaison Lisa Rogers, an Almaguin teacher, says the
commercial is a classic boy meets girl at a house party scene when
things get ugly. The commercial shows how easily a low-life can slip
something into a drink and that low-life's can look just like the boy
next door.

The commercials are scheduled to air throughout the summer on local
MCTV and A Channel feeds.
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