June 3, 2014

Mark Millican: Some things just don’t mix

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson can be nifty with a phrase, but when asked on a couple of recent occasions about any morality tale that can be linked to the alleged after-prom sexual assault on the Coosawattee River last month he has succinctly replied, “Teenagers and alcohol just do not mix.”

Yes, there’s a good reason the drinking age was raised to 21 in Georgia almost three decades ago. Physiologists and those who study brain development can cite the studies about substances like drugs and alcohol and the effect they can have on youth in their growth stages. And it doesn’t take a genius to interpret the obvious — mix alcohol into a celebratory atmosphere with over-the-top testosterone in young men, subtract adult supervision and you get what allegedly happened in that cabin. Accusations of gang rape, and subsequent charges of aggravated sexual battery, which is a felony.

And don’t forget more than two dozen cases of underage drinking, according to witnesses’ testimony. Our sheriff tells us most of the 18- to 20-year-old crowd brought alcohol to the post-prom party held by Calhoun High School seniors, primarily. We hope our district attorney and presiding judge are concerned about where they got the booze.

Rumors have abounded in this high-profile case mixing alcohol, teenagers and sex: The 18-year-old female victim had emergency surgery ... well, no, according to authorities. She had to have a hysterectomy and will never be able to have children ... again, not true. She was given a date rape drug ... not factual, according to investigators.

But one rumor that is being floated is detestable. Although the victim gave her story to a police officer that she was raped by “multiple guys,” there is talk in legal circles that the girl was complicit in what was going on.

In other words, she “wanted it.”

So here we go again with the old double standard that gives males an “out.” In this scenario the “multiple guys” the girl refers to only have to plead, “Hey, she wanted it — what did you expect us to do?”

There have not been any easy answers in this case, authorities tell us, because most of the kids were in an alcohol-induced haze of faulty recollection, or at least a convenient smudging of the facts. And there’s not going to be a tidy summation of the case in court. This is not to malign or accuse anyone beforehand, but what we have here is young males who are popular athletes and from well-to-do Calhoun families evidently acting extremely badly.

That is, of course, unless you think the girl just made the whole thing up. But then there’s that evidence examined by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab that authorities were waiting on before they arrested anyone. So if this column is considered legally prejudicial, ask for a change of venue.

The story is being carried around the region and state, due to media coverage. That’s a good thing, because we’re facing a long, hot summer and sometimes teens like to cool off with a few brews or ice cold drinks with their friends. So is there a “morality play” in this case? Sure, just pray that young people heed it, and don’t have to visit the grave of a friend they’ve killed by driving drunk, or find themselves spending the rest of their lives in a wheelchair.

Or several years behind bars.

“Teenagers and alcohol just do not mix.”

Mark Millican is a former Daily Citizen staff writer and is editor of the Times-Courier in Ellijay.

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