2007-07-13 / Family
Party brings home the realities of teen drinking
Stevie Rascon, a 16-year-old Camarillo resident, sits at his family's living room table and downs his fifth consecutive shot of vodka in as many minutes while fellow teenage partygoers egg him on to continue the high-octane drinking game.
In a neighboring room, teens lie passed out across couches as a fight between a young teenage girl and her boyfriend comes to blows, bringing another drinking game to a halt.
Upstairs in the posh Camarillo home, a young man carries an unconscious girl into the master bedroom, where a candlelit group of teens talk about the realities of drinking and sex.
Moments later, Katherine Boring, a mother of six and the party's host, steps into the bedroom and begins to give stage directions. The lights come, on and the group of teens quickly snaps out of character.
No, the party wasn't real. It was a dress rehearsal for a performance later that evening to be played out in front of some 50 parents and local law enforcement officials last Saturday.
The vodka was water; the fight was faked, and all of the teens involved were sober.
The staged party is part of Straight Up Reality Ventura County, a program intended to help parents and teens recognize and address the problems created by teenage drinking and other social issues.
Funded by a grant from the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department, the program is the brainchild of Boring and her fiance, Jim Kasmir.
For the past two years, Boring and Kasmir have hosted workshops with high school students and teens involved with area youth church groups to discuss issues they face on a daily basis.
The idea was to give teens a chance to stage short scenes to dramatize teenage social problems in an effort to open up dialogue about how teens can better deal with peer pressure.
"Instead of lecturing kids, we wanted to get them involved into having a meaningful dialogue about what's going on," Boring said. "It's about the social aspects of alcohol and the cultural aspects of it."
Struck by the harsh reality of the dramatic scenes, Boring wanted to give parents a chance to see what really goes on during an unsupervised teenage party.
"One of the things we heard a lot was parents just don't have a clue," Boring said of her conversations with the some 1,000 teens who participated in the workshops. "A lot more kids are drinking a lot more than what their parents think they do."
The mock party was the first in the program's history. It attracted a sell-out crowd.
Dep. Chief Geoff Dean with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, who took the tour with a group of parents, said the reenactment offered a realistic look at what happens during parties.
A father of two teens, Dean said the program shows how drinking can often lead to sexual assault.
"I think it's tragically under reported, but I think alcohol-based sexual assault is a very, very regu
ar occurrence," Dean said. "In fact, we hear about 70 percent of all our sexual assaults are alcoholre
A number of the teens involved in the staged party were members of a youth group from Camarillo Church of Christ. Youth minister Heather Higginbotham-Halbrook said the event has helped her connect better with the teens at the church.
"This has caused them to open up and talk about some other things that have been going on that I haven't known in the two years I've known the kids," Higginbotham-Halbrook said.
Aziza Cano, an Oxnard High School student and one of the actors, said she hears about what goes on at parties at school. But the 15year-old said she was surprised by a scene in which teens randomly selected prescription pills from a bowl and then took them.
Rascon, an Adolfo Camarillo High School student, said the staged party was a "realistic portrayal" what happens at local homes.
"I think a lot of parents in this area, if they came, they'd be surprised," Rascon said. "I don't know if they'd actually do anything because a lot of parents in this area have open bars so what we're hoping is that some parents will just understand that their teens are doing this stuff and that they shouldn't make it so easy for them to access alcohol."
Dean admits it's impossible to entirely stop teenage drinking, but he hopes that by making parents more aware of the situation it will help curtail the dangerous behavior.