Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hannah Graham et al

As sympathetic as I am with the family and friends of UVA student Hannah Graham, I can’t help but think she was unbelievably foolish. Being a young (under-aged) woman drinking far too much was her first mistake. Walking away from her friends was the next.

At the same age, in 1967, I could have been in the same position IF my roommate and still dear friend hadn’t come looking for me. We were both innocents but decided it would be cool to crash an off-campus party.

When I think back on it, what I’m able to remember terrifies me. Not only was I nearly sexually assaulted at the party, but we had to walk across a multi-lane, highway to get back to our dormitory. Being smashed we could have been flattened under a 16-wheeler!

The desire to experiment with adult behavior is far from new. The rest of us have unintentionally encouraged it by rescinding constraints like age limits and curfews, giving young people more freedoms than they are ready to handle. I can’t tell you how many times I used the excuse of a curfew to end an awkward or scary date.

If we don’t want to go back to curfews, parents need to constantly drill into their kids’ heads the dangers out in the world. They need to know that the sweet taste of freedom they enjoy when they first leave home can turn bitter and even deadly. They need the words to avoid being talked into doing something they’re not sure they want to do and to not worry about losing cred when they do. It could be as basic as encouraging them to use you (strict parents) as an excuse.

When my parents first dropped me off at college, my Dad’s advice was to “stay pure.” He and Mom loved me, but that kind of advice just left me wondering!

I hope and pray that Hannah shows up tired, but whole. I also hope that being embarrassed won’t inhibit her from going home.