Hazing: Rituals of Bonding or Humiliation?
Both the magazine Sports Illustrated and the newspaper USA Today published major stories about hazing incidents in our schools and colleges, especially among athletes. Accounts of student athletes being subjected to harmful and degrading acts as part of an initiation to become members of a team were highlighted. Lest we think hazing is a problem confined to boys, both articles reported the flagrant abuse that transpired at a “powder puff” football game between junior and senior girls at a suburban high school outside Chicago. The event, caught on video and aired repeatedly on television newscasts, showed seniors kicking and punching their junior counterparts as well as smearing them with a mixture of house paint, fish guts, and human feces. Several of the juniors required hospital care for their physical injuries (one can only imagine the extent of their emotional injuries).
Hazing is not a new practice, although some researchers believe it is on the rise. It has been occurring on athletic teams and in fraternities for years. There are those who view its purpose as a harmless rite of passage. Perhaps for many that may be its intent, but all-too-often the actions that fall under the umbrella of hazing are anything but harmless. In a well-publicized case on Long Island in New York, a junior and a senior football player sodomized several jayvee players at a football camp with broomsticks, pine cones, and golf balls. The coaches were in a different cabin and reported that they were unaware of these events. The reason the acts were discovered was that one boy experienced ongoing intense pain as well as rectal bleeding that soiled his sheets and underwear. He asked his mother to take him to the doctor. When the latter asked what had caused these injuries, initially the boy was hesitant to respond but finally revealed what had occurred. Obviously many acts of hazing are not reported because of embarrassment and/or fear of retribution (one learns that “tattling” is strictly forbidden).
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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