Hazing: Child Play or Violent Crime?
On a startling Court TV program, Al Roker investigated the horrors of 'hazing' reportedly not only in College sororities and fraternities, but even in high schools across the country. The program was extremely revealing and shocking as it provided a weatlh of information regarding so-called Greek 'hazing' rituals carried out across this Nation. Unfortunately, hazing is a predominant force among colleges, schools, military and even church groups, that it is blatantly out of control. Often, supposed 'leaders' or participants of hazing are sadly protected by 'frat brothers & sisters,' school coaches, and are rarely prosecuted for hazing incidents - even those involving death. The horrors of hazing are so unbelievable that most parents would shiver to think that their child could ultimately be faced with such vile cruelty.
What exactly is 'hazing?' According to the NFHS' Interscholastic Athletic Administration magazine, 'Hazing is defined as: any act or ceremony which creates the risk of harm to the student or to any other party and that is committed as a form of initiation into a particular club or activity. Hazing includes, but is not limited to, activities that involve the risk of physical harm, whipping, branding, ingesting vile substances, sleep deprivation, over-exposure to heat or cold, restraint, nudity, or kidnapping. Hazing could also include include actions or simulations of a sexual nature, activities that create a hostile, abusive, or intimidating environment for the student.'
As a random example, the state of South Carolina lists the S.C. Code of Laws for hazing as:
HAZING SECTION 16-3-510
Hazing unlawful; definitions.
It is unlawful for a person to intentionally or recklessly engage in acts which have a foreseeable potential for causing physical harm to a person for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with a chartered or nonchartered student, fraternal, or sororal organization. Fraternity, sorority, or other organization for purposes of this section means those chartered and nonchartered fraternities, sororities, or other organizations operating in connection with a school, college, or university. This section does not include customary athletic events or similar contests or competitions, or military training whether state, federal, or educational.
Unlawful to assist in or fail to report hazing.
It is unlawful for any person to knowingly permit or assist any person in committing acts made unlawful by Section 16-3-510 or to fail to report promptly any information within his knowledge of acts made unlawful by Section 16-3-510 to the chief executive officer of the appropriate school, college, or university.
Any person who violates the provisions of Sections 16-3-510 or 16-3-520 is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be punished by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for a term not to exceed twelve months, or both.
Consent not a defense.
The implied or express consent of a person to acts which violate Section 16-3-510 does not constitute a defense to violations of Sections 16-3-510 or 16-3-520."
If we look at this law, we can clearly see how vaguely defined the hazing law is. In fact, the penalties are a gross insult to student or other individual victims of 'hazing incidents.' In one breath, it states that '...it is unlawful for a person to intentionally or recklessly engage in acts which have a forseeable potential for causing physical harm to a person...' Then if we scroll down on the same code of laws' page, we find the following set of similar laws, exluding hazing by definition:
ASSAULT AND CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT
Assault and battery with intent to kill.
The crime of assault and battery with intent to kill shall be a felony in this State and any person convicted of such crime shall be punished by imprisonment not to exceed twenty years.
Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree.
(1) A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if the actor engages in sexual battery with the victim and if any one or more of the following circumstances are proven:
(a) The actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the sexual battery in the absence of aggravating circumstances.
(b) The actor knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless and aggravated force or aggravated coercion was not used to accomplish sexual battery.
(2) Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years, according to the discretion of the court.
Whoever shall unlawfully seize, confine, inveigle, decoy, kidnap, abduct or carry away any other person by any means whatsoever without authority of law, except when a minor is seized or taken by his parent, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned for a period not to exceed thirty years unless sentenced for murder as provided in Section 16-3-20.
Conspiracy to kidnap.
If two or more persons enter into an agreement, confederation, or conspiracy to violate the provisions of Section 16-3-910 and any of such persons do any overt act towards carrying out such unlawful agreement, confederation, or conspiracy, each such person shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be punished in like manner as provided for the violation of Section 16-3-910.
HARASSMENT AND STALKING
As used in this article:
(A) "Harassment" means a pattern of intentional, substantial, and unreasonable intrusion into the private life of a targeted person that causes the person and would cause a reasonable person in his position to suffer mental distress. Harassment may include, but is not limited to:
(1) following the targeted person as he moves from location to location;
(2) visual, physical, verbal, written, or electronic contact that is initiated, maintained, or repeated after a person has been provided notice that the contact is unwanted;
(3) surveillance of or the maintenance of a presence near the targeted person's:
(b) place of work;
(c) school; or
(d) another place regularly occupied by the targeted person; and
(4) vandalism and property damage.
Penalties upon conviction for harassment.
(A) A person who engages in harassment is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than two hundred dollars, imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.
(B) A person convicted of harassment against a person within seven years of a prior conviction of harassment against or stalking of that person, or when an injunction or restraining order is in effect prohibiting this conduct, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand dollars, imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Clearly, we can see that all of the above laws directly coincide with incidents of 'hazing.' Deplorably, these laws reflect similar views across the Nation and are in incredible need of revisioning. In addition to this, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming have absolutely no anti-hazing laws. To find out how your individual state laws are written, you can review them by going to StopHazing.org for a complete list of states.
In a report written by Greg Toppo of USA Today in 2004, there were 48 school-related violent deaths from August through June alone. In his article, he writes, 'President Bush's 2005 budget proposes a 40% drop in spending for juvenile crime prevention, following a 44% cut...' For more literature on hazing, read 'Too Cruel for School,' by People Magazine (compliments of HazingLaw.com), '511 Dangerous Traditions: Hazing Rituals on Campus and University Liability,' (Journal of College and University Law) or 'Brutal Rituals - Dangerous Rites' (the American School Board Journal).
Is 'hazing' child's play or violent crime? I'd like to refer back to the list of laws above for that answer. It is plain to see that hazing groups are liken to that of sociological destructive cult groups. A shared trait of both sociological cults and hazing members, are that they both isolate their victims or 'pledges' from friends and relatives to gain private access, and better control over them. Additionally, they both tend to brainwash members or prospective members into believing their ideals and practices. A good checklist to review on cult-like behavior can be found on a Cult Checklist. (Checklist can be found at http://en.wikipedia/wiki/Cult_checklist)
As a social issue, hazing is a volatile crime that should not only be prosecuted to the fullest extent of assault, battery, rape and other criminal laws; but also, any community leaders such as coaches, teachers, etc. should be held accountable for inaction to prevent hazing incidents when they are aware or condone such events. Today, hazing is still considered 'child's play' by many communities that yield a blind eye to hazing rituals. In most cases, victims are humiliated, physically tortured, mentally abused, molested, raped, and live with emotional and physical scars that may last a lifetime. Hazing victims are usually forced to leave schools, institutions and other organizations in fear of their lives.
Hazing is NOT child's play. It is a violent act or acts that sometimes leads to a senseless, fatal crime. As a parent, it appauls me that a Nationwide law has not been legislated to prevent or legitimately prosecute hazing organizations. A formidable form of 'child's play,' hazing is considered light-hearted and a simple 'initiation process' until it happens to your child, your niece or nephew, or your sibling.
There are several organizations, like StopHazing.org that advocates total elimination of Hazing and offers in-depth resources, support and a free sign-up form (See site) for individuals interested in supporting their efforts.
Hank Nuwer, a leading researcher in citing hazing incidents and deaths, has written several informative books on hazing. Per his website, (hazing.hanknuwer.com), Mr. Nuwer provides beneficial resources to individuals about hazing incidents, external links, laws, and much more.
In a 'moral' and civilized society, hazing should never be tolerated. You can make a world of difference...stay informed, get involved, be aware and stop hazing in its tracks before it touches you personally.
2005 - Hazing: Child's Play or Violent Crime? by C. Bailey-Lloyd