Young men, get a text before sex

newsroom@tri-statedefender.com | 11/29/2013, 8:13 a.m.

It seems nearly every week, we hear news stories about sexual encounters at parties where everyone is drinking – and a young woman says she was raped, and a young man insists the encounter was consensual.

Make no mistake, no woman – no matter how much she parties – is asking to be raped. But too often when heavy drinking is involved, the meaning of consent can be misconstrued on both sides. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, each year about 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. And those are only the cases that are actually reported.

So understandably, parents worry about how best to prepare their daughters and sons for college. We spend a lot of energy learning to navigate the academic and financial requirements. We give years of thought to which colleges are a best fit for our kids. Once they are accepted, we make sure our children are sent off to college with every overpriced, not-so-necessary item listed on the "what-to-pack-for-college" list. And just before we drop them off on campus, we make sure we have "The Talk" about focusing on grades and not getting caught up in the party scene.

In my case, I filled my son's duffel bag with about 300 condoms and told him watch out for party girls but have fun; meet new people but stay focused on academics.

But I know from my own fun-filled years at Penn State that campus life can be confusing even for the best of kids. So I taught him how to do his own laundry, grocery shop and cook – just so he wouldn't have to depend on anyone else to do those things. But lately, I've been worried that I left out one important piece of advice that is a must-do today:

Never have sex with a girl unless she's sent you a text that proves the sexual relationship is consensual beforehand. And it's a good idea to even follow up any sexual encounter with a tasteful text message saying how you both enjoyed being with one another – even if you never plan on hooking up again.

Crazy, I know, but I've actually been encouraging my son and his friends to use sexting – minus the lewd photos – to protect themselves from being wrongly accused of rape. Because just as damning text messages and Facebook posts helped convict the high-schoolers in Steubenville of rape, technology can also be used to prove innocence.

How to protect yourself from false rape allegations is a constant conversation among professional athletes. I've covered many rape cases over my career, including those of Kobe Bryant, the Duke lacrosse team, and many others that never made the headlines. Sports agents and athletes have tried everything from openly or secretly recording their sexual encounters, which is illegal in some states, to asking all women they have sex with to sign a pre-consent form. And though the public may scoff at stories of athletes who frequent strip clubs or solicit prostitutes, many athletes say they do this to avoid unwarranted sex assault charges.