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Television Reviews : ‘Date Rape’ Looks Poignantly at Teen Victims, Attackers

“Over 80% of teen-age (rape) victims know their attackers.” “Over 50% of all rapes occur on dates.”

Those 1987 figures are from the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and they are quoted today in a poignant drama called “Date Rape” that kicks off the 17th season of “ABC Afterschool Specials.”

Airing at 3 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42, the sensitive teleplay by Bruce Harmon and Donald MacDonald shows the people behind the statistics--ordinary young people who become victim and victimizer, casualties of today’s societal swamp of sexual confusion.

High school senior Gary (Reed Edward Diamond) seems to have it all. He’s good-looking, athletic and smart and he thinks he can have any girl he wants. His rough-edged widower father Joe (John Karlen), who sees a bright future for his son, has a firm opinion of a woman’s importance: “You think about women at night; you forget about ‘em the rest of the day.”

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When Gary forces Sammantha (Danielle von Zerneck), the new girl in town he’s begun dating, to have sex with him, he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong.

He is outraged to be charged with rape.

“Most girls say no at first,” he tells his father. “It’s no big deal.”

Slowly, through talks with his father’s co-worker Bernie (John Savage, in an eccentric cameo) and with his lawyer, Maria (Patricia Kalember), Gary realizes that he has committed an act of violence. But he also has a future to protect. There are no tidy endings in store here.

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Using tight close-ups, director Jesus Trevino subtly allows the story to unfold in each expressive face. The fine cast is up to it. Von Zerneck’s delicate features show anguish, shame and fear. “You’re only guilty of going on a date,” a rape counselor tells her.

Diamond’s sleek blond arrogance changes to anger and petulance, then bewilderment and, finally, to stricken recognition of the truth.

Without exploitation, without shrillness, “Date Rape” addresses an issue of which all teens should be aware. It’s one of the “ABC Afterschool Specials’ ” finest efforts.


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