October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and so we turn the spotlight on an organized form of bullying: college athletic hazing. Hazing comes in many forms, including the forced consumption of alcohol, engagement in sexual activities, and other physically and emotionally devastating actions. Hazing is such a destructive act that it has prompted colleges and universities to shut down entire sports seasons in an attempt to put an end to it. Unfortunately, it continues to resurface over and over again, despite such drastic efforts.
Prevalence of College-Level Hazing
Even though countless collegiate organizations have spoken out against hazing and have taken steps to reduce it on their campuses, the existence of hazing in college sports is still considered to be par for the course at many schools. But, just how prevalent is it?
Based on studies done over the last 15 years, college athletic hazing continues to be a problem, despite efforts by administrators and educators to end the devastating ‘rite of passage’. For example, a 1999 survey conducted by Alfred University showed that as many as 80% of college athletes in NCAA schools had been victim to hazing practices by teammates. In 2008, the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development conducted research that showed varsity teams (74%) and club sports groups (64%) were among the student organizations with the highest level of hazing activity.
Injuries Athletes Have Sustained as a Result of Hazing
The act of hazing is of great concern, not only for the emotional scars it leaves, but because hazing can cause irreversible physical and mental damage. The list of injuries sustained by college athletes during a hazing rite is extensive. It varies from hospitalization due to alcohol toxicity to traumatic brain injuries, and even death.
No official national hazing organization exists, so numbers are difficult to track. However, there has been at least one hazing-related death on college campuses every year since 1970. The percentage of those deaths that can be attributed to athletic hazing is unknown, however, sports teams and fraternities consistently have the highest number of hazing events reported.
Is Hazing a Form of Bullying?
The connection between bullying and hazing is a controversial one. Some consider hazing to be a form of bullying, while others believe that athletic hazing specifically is not bullying, in part because some of the actions are considered to be “voluntary” on the part of the victim. However, it’s an act of aggression, pressure, and intimidation where the victim is forced to endure humiliating, painful acts in order to be ‘accepted’ by his or her peers. So, college athletic hazing is a form of group bullying.
What to do if You Have been Hazed
Victims of hazing often don’t report it for reasons including embarrassment and the desire to be part of a group. However, if you’ve been hazed, or are feeling pressured to participate in the rituals, report it to your school immediately. Many schools have a way to report it anonymously, but still, some victims don’t feel comfortable either way. If that’s the case, contact the local police instead of campus security.
If you are unsure whether or not you should report the incident, consult your parents, clergy or other trusted family, friend or community member. This is especially important if you’ve been threatened. After all, if it’s happening to you, it’s happening to others, too.
Prevent and Raise Awareness to Hazing
Myriad groups, including Stop Hazing, Pacer, Stomp Out Bullying, and Hazing Prevention, sponsor events and provide anti-hazing education to the public. Even collegiate sports organizations, such as the NCAA, have anti-hazing programs in place. Of course, the end goal is to stop it altogether, but organizations can’t do it alone. Such a prevalent and historic issue requires help from the community at large.
Fortunately, there are ways that individuals can make a difference and help raise awareness about hazing to stop it in its tracks. Joining an anti-hazing group and participating in their events is a great place to start.
There is even a free app designed to make it easier to learn about and report hazing, as it “provides access to resources and state-by-state facts about hazing.” The app provides a list of local organizations and allows for the ability to send video or photos of the hazing event directly to the reporting agency of the user’s choice.
Awareness of the damage caused by hazing, as well as efforts to end it, should not be limited to the month of October. Diligence in resisting and ending hazing should be a year round endeavor on the parts of everyone. School administrations can’t end it without our help.
This guest post brought to you by Jason Lee.