Boys Lives at Risk – Is the Buddy System the Answer?

Another headline, another unfolding tragedy for parents of a teenage boy caught in a mesh that kills more young men than are killed in wars. Take any classroom picture in which the boys are equal in number to the girls; the chances of the boys living long enough to pick up their pension are far lower than it is for the young women.

Statistically boys are more likely to fall victim to sexual predators than are girls. Adding to the high risk gauntlet that nature obliges them to navigate, boys from the age of ten become over confident risk-takers. Many are drawn to dangerous pursuits, blithely unaware of their vulnerability, and to a justice system that is weighed against them.

In Spain, gaoled without bail on the flimsiest of evidence, British teenager Stefan Beal is charged with the rape of an 80-year old gypsy female. The attack is alleged to have taken place after Stefan became blindingly drunk at a fiesta near his home village close to Granada. An appeal is pending. The evidence still being collected suggests he is the victim of a ‘compensation’ sting set up by two male relatives of the woman, who have since disappeared.

The Named and Shamed Innocents

In England, 19-year old Ed Stobart is named and shamed with the rape of a 15-year old girl. Several beatings later, he still carries the social stigma. Yet the trial collapsed when the judge dismissed proceedings, describing the evidence against the teenager as deeply flawed.

The alleged victim was so drunk she could not remember anything at all about the incident. There was no evidence of sexual assault, and there was mobile phone footage of her totally inebriated and falling over. The following day both youngsters spent a relaxed social time together, even exchanging innocent texts. It was only later she decided she had been ‘raped.’

Such injustices are commonplace and equal in number to young men killed in high risk sports pursuits, traffic accidents, and suicide. Is there a solution?

The Buddy System

The Buddy System was introduced by American military regulations during the Korean War; in certain conditions it is mandatory. It has proved to be one of the U.S Armed Forces greatest success stories.

The Buddy System is based on the principle that many accidents, incidents and casualties could have been avoided had the victim had a buddy looking after him or her. In the U.S. Army they are called ‘battle buddies. Since its introduction tens of thousands of lives have been saved and injuries avoided by this superb survival system. Such has been its success that Americans in civilian life have embraced the buddy system too.

Parents and friends of teenagers are quick to see the advantages; urging their children to team up with a close friend to look out for each other. Both boys and girls are at their most vulnerable when driving, partying, or following high risk sports.

The Life Saving Buddy System

Father of two Dermot M says, “I have 24-year old sons who mean the world to me and I dread ‘the telephone call’. I hope both of them have a guardian angel. More pragmatically I encourage them to team up with a close friend and to undertake to look out for each other in all circumstances.”

Young adults finding their adult feet will go through the social rituals of partying, drinking to excess, driving and taking part in sports, some of which are high risk. Inevitably there will be occasions when circumstances combine to put them under threat. “Essentially,” Dermot says, “If you are partying, delegate a buddy and vow to look out for each other. It will also teach young people the importance of showing personal responsibility towards others.”

“If a youthful companion is depressed and vulnerable; foolishly rising to a challenge or drinking too much; perhaps unaware of a threat posed by others, do step in and act as a good buddy should. If a friend is drunk never ever allow him or her to go home on their own.”

Every day newspapers carry stories of teenagers caught up in situations like those of Stefan Beal and Ed Stobart. Both would have been avoided had they ‘signed up’ to the buddy system. It reduces risk, it saves lives, encourages responsibility, and it builds faith in others. Never has the support system been more important than it is today when teenagers’ lives are being so senselessly shortened. ©