85,000 women are raped every year, 54% of teenage boys find hard-core internet porn ‘inspiring’ and 35% of all sex crimes against under 16s… so how DO we keep our daughters safe?

Frightening stats no? And these are figures taken in countries that actually bother to keep track of such crimes. In places like Nigeria where most victims would rather die two deaths than report a rape one can only wonder how high rape rates are.

What are we doing wrong? How can it be remedied? In a society like our that encourages the double standard of expecting chastity from girls while fully expecting and even encouraging young man to sow their wild oats, is it not obvious that the chickens are coming home to roost?

Perhaps parents and society as a whole needs to nip this in the bud by making young men understand that such behaviour is wrong and frowned on. Is there any hard research out there indicating that porn actually warps people’s perception of what a healthy relationship shpuld be? If so, what can be done to make the porn industry use less degrading depictions of the sexual act? Is there any hope? Too many questions and too few answers.

_______________________________________

By  Judith Woods

In an increasingly  sexualised society, Judith Woods meets  two women on a mission to teach our teenage daughters how to stay safe and say  ‘no’

85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year and 90% of rapes are carried out by someone known to the victim85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year  and 90% of rapes are carried out by someone known to the victim

Sassy and glamorous in killer heels and an  expensively tailored peplum dress, a petite blonde woman is addressing a hall  full of teenage girls at an elite independent school. They are captivated by her  streetwise New York accent, her eye-widening anecdotes, her challenging  questions. And when she dispenses words of hard-won wisdom, they strain to  listen.

Deana Puccio could be a City lawyer, a female  entrepreneur, a top-flight careers adviser brought in to talk about investment  banking, the secret of successful networking or how to smash through the glass  ceiling. But Deana, 46, is a former sex crimes prosecutor from Brooklyn. And she  is here with a much more urgent message to impart to these girls as they stand  on the brink of womanhood, a message about sexual violence and personal safety  that could save their lives, or at least their lives as they know them.

‘I’m not here to lecture you or tell you not  to text boys or not to go on Facebook,’ says Deana. ‘But I wouldn’t want to be  your age at this time in history: the pressure to get all those A-stars and look  like Kate Moss and be perfect, and yet you still find yourself being bombarded  by vile images and messages on social media.

Traap founders Allison Havey (left), a journalist and television producer, and Deana Puccio, who worked as a sex crimes prosecutor in New YorkTraap founders Allison Havey (left), a journalist and  television producer, and Deana Puccio, who worked as a sex crimes prosecutor in  New York

‘You’ve got a lot of stuff going on already,  but here’s the thing: I want to make things a little bit easier by telling you  that it’s always OK to say “no”, whether it’s to a date who’s being too pushy,  or a boyfriend who wants you to do things you’re not comfortable with, or a  creepy guy at a party.’

Deana is a co-founder of Teenage Rape  Awareness and Prevention (Traap), an inspirational new workshop programme being  rolled out in schools across London and beyond. The other founder is fellow  American and equally dynamic brunette Allison Havey, 47, a television news  producer and journalist, who joins in the presentation to explain the  significance of the name Traap. ‘Every grown woman has been in a situation where  she’s felt trapped and either she got out and walked away or she didn’t and she  got raped or sexually assaulted,’ says Allison.

35% of all sexual crimes are against under 16-year-olds35% of all sexual crimes are against under  16-year-olds

‘And we don’t want our daughters – or you –  to make the mistakes that we did and our friends did. So first up, let’s get one  thing clear; rape isn’t a crime of passion. It isn’t what happens when a boy is  so in love he gets carried away; it’s about violence, control and power.’

The term ‘moral panic’ has always had a  pejorative ring to it, but if ever there was an appropriate time to panic about  morality, it is now, when a tide of hard-core pornography is sweeping through  the smartphones and laptops of a generation. As government and internet giants  struggle to find both the will and the way to bar access for minors, these two  women aim to tackle the crisis at grass-roots level with their hard-hitting  presentations.

Deana takes the lead in the workshop,  radiating energy and good-natured assertiveness, her sometimes unnerving  directness shot through with a droll humour that defuses the tension. ‘Here’s  something that’ll impress you,’ she quips. ‘A survey has shown that 54 per cent  of teenage boys find hard-core porn “very inspiring”. Romantic, huh?’ The room  erupts into loud laughter.

It’s a well-judged moment of levity. But  Deana and Allison are under no illusions as to the unique way in which violent,  coercive pornography is being normalised in 21st-century Britain. Before the  advent of new media, teenage boys would consider themselves lucky to be lent an  ancient copy of a top-shelf magazine. These days the average parent would be  horrified by the distressingly aggressive images of sexual degradation available  for free and passed around playgrounds on children’s mobiles. ‘Teenagers’ access  to hard-core porn is having a corrosive effect on the way boys, and increasingly  girls, view sex,’ says Allison to me later. ‘A child’s innocence can be gone for  ever in the split second it takes for them to look at a screen.’

‘Innocence can be gone in the split second it  takes to look at a screen’

Both women came to Britain for very different  reasons but, as fate would have it, their paths crossed at the school gates in  North London. Allison had come to London with her family to work freelance for  US TV companies. Deana, who back then had two daughters, and subsequently had a  third, was taking a career break while accompanying her husband, who had been  posted to the UK for his work.

‘Deana and I met on 12 September 2001, the  day after 9/11, when the world changed for ever,’ says Allison, who has two  children, a girl and a boy. ‘We heard each other’s New York accents and  immediately gravitated towards one another in a state of numb shock. We’ve been  close friends ever since.’

In the intervening years, both women threw  themselves into motherhood and savoured the experience of living in another  country. Then, the way Deana tells it, she woke up one morning to discover her  eldest daughter was 16 and about to enter the world of dating, music gigs and  parties.

54% of teenage boys find hard-core internet porn 'inspiring'54% of teenage boys find hard-core internet porn  ‘inspiring’

‘I realised, practically overnight, that I  had to do something to protect her,’ she says with a rueful smile. ‘I looked  around and although there was sex education, which covered the basic mechanics,  and self-defence, which covered those rare instances of stranger danger, there  was absolutely nothing in between. From my work in Brooklyn, I know that 80 to  90 per cent of assaults and rapes are carried out by someone known to the  victim. Girls need to be armed with common sense and self-confidence so they can  stay safe on nights out and at parties and music festivals.’

Deana’s professional experience as a  prosecution lawyer with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn  is ideally suited to her new role. Her bureau, where she worked with adolescent  victims, was so successful that it became the inspiration for the gripping  procedural TV crime drama Law & Order:  Special Victims Unit. No wonder her sometimes graphic stories, told with  fluency and speed, resonate with truth: the vulnerable teenager who succumbed to  horrible exploitation by her predatory PE teacher, believing he loved her; the  girl who got drunk at a party, fell in with a bunch of boys, got into their car  and was raped by them all; the 15-year-old who sneaked out to meet her friend’s  bad-boy cousin and crawled home, traumatised by a violent sexual assault but too  scared and ashamed to tell her parents what had happened.

Here at Channing Girls’ School, the year 11s,  aged 15, are hooked on her every word. Her almost matter-of-fact delivery serves  to convey the fact that such tales of appalling sexual violence are, if not  commonplace, then only one poorly judged decision away. ‘If you go to meet a  boy, make sure you know his name, his address and his telephone number; you’re  bright girls, so do your research. And always tell someone where you are going,’  says Deana. ‘If you go to a party with friends, make it absolutely  non-negotiable that you arrive and leave together. If you’re at a music  festival, tie a bell to your tent zip – awareness is power, ladies.’

‘Girls need to be armed with common sense and  self-confidence’

Until now, Traap’s workshops have been  confined to the private sector, in which head teachers typically have more  freedom over budgets and the curriculum. But it’s an important area that the  state system can’t afford to overlook – nor can boys’ schools. ‘A lot of the  feedback we get from girls is that we really need to talk to boys,’ says  Allison. ‘If their only blueprint for sex is hard-core porn, then they expect  extreme things from girls that just aren’t acceptable.’

Figures jointly compiled by the Ministry of  Justice, Home Office and the Office for National Statistics earlier this year  revealed that around 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year, and  more than 400,000 are the victims of sexual assault. According to NSPCC figures,  35 per cent of all sexual crimes recorded in 2012/13 were against children and  young people aged under 16. Keeping our young people safe must surely, then, be  a priority. But first, adults must persuade them to take the risks seriously.  And Deana is someone teenagers instinctively take advice from.

Observing her in action is like watching a  masterclass in teenage psychology as she skilfully addresses her audience. ‘So,  ladies, you’re doing GCSEs this year; that’s fun, I bet. Well, it’s a hell of a  lot worse living with you, I can tell you.’ More riotous laughter.

Deana and Allison speaking to pupils at Channing School in North LondonDeana and Allison speaking to pupils at Channing School  in North London

‘But you know, we are your parents and we  love you. So if it’s 2am and you are at some party and your friends have  disappeared and you have that little voice in your head saying something is  wrong, 99 per cent of the time, that voice will be right. So call us [your  parents]; we’re not that bad. We might take away your laptop for a week, and  that’s terrible, but if you don’t ring us and you stay at that party with those  drunk friends of friends, something genuinely terrible could happen.’

There’s no lecturing, no scolding and the  hushed silence from the schoolgirls speaks volumes about their engagement with  the themes. ‘We girls are brought up to be liked and to please – I should know.  I once had this awful guy pressing himself up against me in a subway carriage  and I just stood there because I didn’t want to move away in case it offended  him! Who cares if you offend some random guy who you don’t even know? You don’t  owe anybody anything. Your only responsibility is to yourself and if you make a  mistake, so what? It’s no big deal. You are the one who has to look at yourself  in the mirror every morning and live with your choices.’

HOW TO STAY SAFE ON A NIGHT  OUT

  • First do your homework: make sure you  know his surname, address, school.
  • Make sure someone you trust knows who you  are going out with and where you are going, and stick to public  places.
  • Always keep some money tucked away so that you can get yourself home  if necessary.
  • Make sure your mobile is charged so that you  can call home if you need to.
  • Stick to the plan – if you arrive at a party  together, leave together.
  • Don’t get isolated or leave friends behind.
  • If your friend has gone missing for a while  at a bar or party, look for her – she might be in trouble.
  • Don’t get drunk – the more vulnerable you  are, the more likely it is that someone can target you.
  • Keep extra-alert. And remember the danger  posed by the ‘date-rape’ drug Rohypnol.  It is out there!

Deana and Allison are in the process of  writing a book aimed at teens; if they write the way they speak, it should be in  every family home in the country, and mandatory for school libraries. ‘We hope  it will be read and bought by parents and carers not only for the teen in their  life but so that they can have an insight into what young women are facing in  today’s world where there are so many freedoms and so many dangers,’ says  Allison.

According to Pete Gittins, the assistant head  of Channing’s Middle School, the year 12s were given a presentation earlier in  the year and were so impressed they urged the school to organise the same talk  for the year 11s.

‘We’ve asked Deana and Allison to design  lesson plans around certain issues,’ says Mr Gittins. ‘We also hope to get them  to talk to our year 13s about gap-year safety and moving away to university. The  impact on our girls has been tremendous, and the fact that these women are North  London mothers with children the same age means that our students can really  relate to them.’

It is a view echoed by the school’s head girl  Millie Barber, 17. ‘After I sat through a Traap presentation, I left feeling  really empowered and aware of my own personal safety, but not in a frightened  way, more of an alert, strong way.’ Alert, strong, empowered, aware: all the  qualities any mother would want to impart to her daughter, or indeed son.

As Traap seeks to roll out its programme  nationwide, there can’t be a parent in the land who doesn’t want their teenager  to benefit from the sort of hard-hitting advice that our children need to hear,  and more crucially, to heed.

traap.co.uk

Culled from dailymail.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s