Hazing Stories: Common Behavior Or Intentional Bullying?
No matter what age your children are, they want to feel as though they belong to a group or segment of society. In college years, this involves hazing. Hazing is described as humiliating and sometimes dangerous rituals that generally college students, wanting to join a sorority or fraternity, are subjected to. They could also be considered strenuous with rigorous physical training involved for initiation into a group.
Why would any student or person choose to be put through a hazing ritual to join any group is a question asked by many. Hazing is a long time tradition at many Greek fraternities or sororities, along with sports teams and military groups also participating in this ritual. According to many college fraternity members, hazing is not a cruel punishment, it is not a dangerous ritual. Hazing is meant to build strong bonds, hazing is an event that creates a bond that ties members together for life.
The National Statistics from “insidehazing.com” tell us that:
•More than 250,000 people endured some form of a hazing ritual to join a sports team
•At least 5% of college attendees admitted to being the recipient of hazing rituals
•Almost half, 40% know about hazing rituals and activities
•That same amount, 40% will say that the coach knew about the hazing rituals
•22% will state that the coach or director was part of the ritual
•50% of the female athletics division was reportedly hazed in the NCAA
•Of that 50%, 20% was alcohol related
•10% report they were physically branded, tattooed or physically beaten during the hazing
•Up to 9% did report sexual activities were forced during hazing
That list goes on and on, creating fear in parents everywhere. For those that have college age daughters, this could lead us to refuse college at times. Hazing is in the news due to the dangerous activities practiced. The alcohol consumption can and does cause death in some students. The beatings and physical hazing can and does cause death to some also. What seems to be more atrocious is that 9 out of 10 students, who have been hazed, do not consider it hazing.
Giving a true meaning to hazing is at times difficult. According to students, faculty and other staff at colleges, an activity is considered to be hazing if the activity involves physical or emotional harm; alcohol is involved, and if there is a fear of telling parents, staff or other peer about the activity. Hazing is any activity that involves physical dangers, mental or emotional injury or any humiliation, and it does not matter if the participant is willing to partake in the activity. That is a key to understanding hazing activities. Since the majority of hazing involves being part of a group, team or fraternity or sorority, participating in any hazing activity is considered peer pressure, the need to belong and the willingness to put yourself in harm’s way to be part of the group.
Some elements that might play a leading role in hazing include:
- Evolutionary psychology
- No constraints externally
- Obedience to authority and conforming to groups
- Cognitive dissonance
- Shared Thinking
- Identifying with the Aggressor
- The Cycle of Abuse
- Need for building esteem
- Symbolic interaction
- Rite of Passage
- Feeling the Need for Power
- Need for intimacy
- Misunderstanding the norms
- Being afraid of Reprisal
- Not realizing there are alternatives
In college life, the need for a sense of belonging is strong, especially among the newcomers to college life. They feel that if they do not conform and follow the peers, they will be rejected. The desire to belong to a fraternity or the sorority of their choice begins to diminish if they do not comply with the rest of the pledges. Some feel that it is the rite of passage for a normal, interactive social life in college. For some, the abuse they would receive during the hazing may seem minimal compared to what they imagine it would be, so it is okay in their thinking.
For the leaders of the group, the participants performing the action or humiliating instance, it is a need for power. Being the head of a sorority or fraternity is a notch in life that they strive for, to be a leader to a group of underlings that will do all that is told of them so that they feel as if they belong.
For a vast majority, the fear of being left out or abandoned is too great a risk to take, especially at this time of life. It could be the first time they have been so far away from home for such a long period. The desire to be part of the popular group is extremely high and they want to please everyone. For the rest, they see or hear of no other alternative but to conform and proceed with the degrading or humiliating or even hurtful attacks put upon them. If they were given an alternative method, rather than hazing physically, such as using their knowledge; the hurtful and possible dangers would be tremendously minimized.
At one college in New Jersey, a group of six pledges were ordered to dig graves that were six foot deep, they were then ordered to lay down in the graves and were covered with handfuls of sand. One grave collapsed on top of a pledge and the young male died of asphyxiation. The fraternity ordering that hazing had been expelled.
There are many horrific hazing stories available publicly for all people to read. Many of these have since led to expulsion for the fraternity or sorority. Some stories are simply frightening such as:
A southern California University fraternity ordered their pledges to eat raw liver soaked in oil. They were each given three attempts at doing so. One pledge did manage to swallow his oil soaked piece of liver on the third try. However, it lodged in his throat; numerous efforts were made to dislodge the meat and all failed. The student died in this instance.
Most recently, thirty college students are facing multiple criminal charges, ranging from hazing to homicide after the death of a fraternity pledge. During a retreat to the Poconos, the pledge was blindfolded and forced to wear a backpack filled with 20 pounds of sand. After being nudged to move, he fell and hit his head causing brain trauma. The pledge died of his injuries.
How many horrific hazing stories does the public need to read or watch on the evening news before they decide to step up and join the groups that are trying to end the hazing rituals and Hell Week at colleges? These hazing stories are not memories that students will want to remember, they are not stories to pass down about the joys of being part of a fraternity or sorority, these are true hazing stories, filled with death, pain and grief to families around the country. We need to teach our youth how to stand up to this pressure, how to realize their lives are more important than a ritual that will supposedly make them feel that they belong to a special group. We need to make them realize that they could be a part of the next horrific hazing story.
What can be done to stop or prevent hazing?
There are options to prevent hazing now. There is a four day event that is interactive, it teaches interdisciplinary people how to handle the fact of hazing, using a strategic approach. This program focuses on the community as a whole, staff and students who want to prevent the hazards and harmful long term effects of hazing. This interactive experiences teaches about the risk management, counseling. Student life, residential campus life, campus security and also helps understand the laws against hazing in many communities, and on most campuses.
Since hazing is such a complex issue, the institute teaches a multidisciplinary approach. They identify the real facts about hazing and why it happens, why the pledges conform to the idea of these tactics just to belong and ways to act against such behavior. They also help parents to understand why it would happen to their student.
Many psychological principals are involved in the hazing practice. Many students do not seem to realize until it is too late, what is actually taking place. By this time, they feel that strong need to allow it to continue because of the embarrassment that putting a stop to it would cause them. Many go into this situation thinking that hazing will not happen to them, nothing is said since hazing is such a big and highly guarded secret around campus on with sport’s teams. The students, both the pledges and the others, excluding the leader, are set in the belief that once they have their foot in the door, so to speak, life will be easier for them. They feel that they will be okay and that they will then belong fully. By this point in the act, it is too late again, to back out.
Upon completion of the hazing process and the full ritual, the pledge and the current fraternity or group have formed a cohesive bond, a tight knit family of brothers or sisters. They believe that this is a group of brothers or sisters that they will have for the rest of your life. Furthermore, the following year, these pledges then take part in the hazing of new recruits. They feel a strong need to give back, to be fair and share the “I had to do it, you can to” attitude.
What should be taking place with high school students and up in age is education about hazing, both the reasons given by the group that does hazing and the explanations and reasons against hazing. The need for education to teach that hazing is an unnecessary part of the bonding process and the alternative methods of joining any sorority, team or fraternity. Parents can help by telling of their times in college, if applicable. They can give examples of tight knit groups that had no hazing practices and still formed a band of a brotherhood. Our students do not need to be bullied into a hazing just to be part of a group on campus. They need to know and feel secure in the knowledge that no group is worth risking their health or even life for, except their own biological family. Teaching our youth to be secure and confident with who they are, what they want and who they believe in is important for their esteem, not a bunch of youth their age, telling them that in order to belong, they must subject themselves to the hazing rituals.
Hazing rituals may have been around since way back when, but they have become more dangerous and life threatening over time. We need to love our kids enough to not allow this hazing practice to consume them and teach them that they do not have to be any part of a hazing ritual to belong.
Many sororities and fraternities have now created an anti-hazing hotline. With the aid of this hotline, any hazing can be reported anonymously and the call will be connected to a voice-mail for a law agency that handles these types of issues. Do not let our children go into this without teaching them about all forms of bullying; hazing is just grown up kids performing the bullying acts to get others to conform to what they want.