by LIZA MITCHELL
It could happen to you. A group of girlfriends goes out dancing only to find one of their friends slurring and unsteady after only a couple of drinks. A student has too much to drink at a campus party and slips into a nightmarish blur, waking up in a strange place, unable to piece together the events from the night before. It could happen to anybody, but it doesn’t have to.
Eric Clayman was a high school student in Orange Park when a classmate and close friend fell victim to “acquaintance rape”. She got pregnant and was forced to make a painful decision. Clayman stood by her as she endured this traumatic series of events, but there was nothing he could do to change the past. He could, however, prevent others from falling victim to similar circumstances.
“I was aware of how she was feeling and how frightened she was,” he says. “It really empowered me to pursue this type of outreach.” Eric Clayman, a Scholar-Athlete who graduated from St. John’s Country Day School in Orange Park and Harvard University, has developed a website to provide women with the knowledge and tools to not only protect their drinks but to protect themselves in any social situation (www.daterapedsafety.com). He also offers helpful information on the dangers of alcoholic energy drinks, binge drinking and what to do if you feel like your drinking has escalated out of control.
“It’s interesting. It’s a pretty widely-accessed website,” Clayman says. “It get emails pretty frequently from people around the country that either believe they have an issue with binge drinking, or they are trying to be more aware of the whole issue with date rape.”
Date rape is a “huge issue” on college campuses, and that trend is largely due to students’ binge drinking. Consuming large quantities of alcohol lowers inhibitions and awareness and creates the potential for a dangerous situation, particularly for women. “When girls get incredibly intoxicated, they become more of a target,” Clayman says. “There are people out there who are looking for girls who are extremely inebriated to take advantage of. It’s something people need to be aware of.”
There is no specific profile to describe the type of person that takes advantage of a someone who is incapacitated. The offender, like the victim, could be anyone. He could be a classmate, an athlete, a guy you met at a bar, a complete stranger. According to Clayman’s site, one of the most important ways a woman can remain safe is to be aware of their surroundings and to go out with a group that will watch out for each other.
There are also test strips available that can detect the presence of an unwelcome chemical substance when dipped in a drink. This is critical because the most common forms of date rape drugs are known to be colorless and tasteless.
Another tip Clayman offers is to skip the caffeine-based drinks, like Sparks or other malt beverages that have high alcohol content and are equivalent to drinking a six-pack of beer. On his college campus, Clayman says those drinks were called ‘a black-out in a can’. “When you add energy to alcohol, it allows you to keep drinking,” he says. “One of the main reasons that people stop drinking is the fatigue. These give you the energy to think you can keep going.”
Clayman puts his words into action by launching a community-wide awareness campaign and partnering with student organizations on college campuses to continue to raise awareness to the dangers of binge drinking and date rape. He says, “It’s been very uplifting to help people realize the consequences that binge drinking can have. It can really be an eye-opening experience, and it puts a face to the situation. You realize ‘that could happen to me’.”
Improving Jacksonville Eric Clayman
by LIZA MITCHELL