As September approaches, youth are back to school. For some, they’re off to college. A time for growth, college facilitates opportunities to create a new identity and pursue new friendships. It’s an exciting time of discovery. But, there is one adverse tradition that continues to permeate college campuses everywhere: hazing.
Hazing is a group ritual that involves harassing and initiating potential and new members. In the setting of high school and college, hazing usually occurs within fraternities and sororities, sports teams, and performing arts groups. In wider society, it is not uncommon in gangs, the military, police departments, and even among religious groups.
Hazing differs from bullying because the victims almost always “see what’s coming.” Humiliating and sometimes violent or dangerous, victims possess a vague idea of what’s to come. The practice has become widespread and accepted as commonplace in many circles. Unlike bullying, visibility is low, and incidents are usually denied. Sworn to secrecy, victims sometimes fail to predict the extent of harm they may endure and “what’s coming” ends in injury…or death.
Hazing can involve any number of dangerous activities including:
- Binge drinking.
- Branding or burning.
- Consuming non-edible substances.
- Exposure to elements.
- Forced calisthenics.
- Near drowning.
- Nudity/sexually-oriented offenses.
- Public humiliation.
- Psychological abuse.
- Situations of simulated or actual danger.
- Sleep deprivation.
- Whipping, beating, or hitting.
So why go through it? “Hazing has benefits. It can facilitate life-long commitments and strengthen loyalty to a group or cause. Those bonds can lead to jobs, protection, and a better life.” The desire to belong is innate. Participation in hazing events underlines a desire to prove dedication to the group. It is a plea for respect from other members.
Death is rare, but it happens, as was proven in the tragic and widely covered 2011 death of Florida A&M University student Robert Champion. Hazed by one of the world’s most highly acclaimed marching bands, Champion was beaten to death by his band mates. A total of twelve people were subsequently arrested on felony charges.
If hazing results in any kind of bodily harm, multiple people may be held responsible. This could be:
- The leader(s) of the group.
- Group members who inflicted the injury.
- School officials who knew about the group’s culture of hazing and did nothing.
Forty-three states outlaw hazing. Most colleges and universities follow strict codes of conduct against these activities. In criminal court, if the student does not suffer physical harm, hazing is considered a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature and punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. If the student is hurt, it is viewed as a felony.
Hazing can cost victims their pride, liveliness, and dignity, leaving many seeking well-deserved monetary damages for physical injury and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one has been physically or emotionally abused by hazing, you need to hold their transgressors accountable. For specific advice regarding the nature of your case, contact McAleer Law at (404)-MCALEER.