Hazing and Sexual Assault

Hazing is a common initiation among sports teams. Recently, at the prestigious boys private St. Micheal’s College in Toronto, it came to light that there was a traumatic video circulating social media of older members of a sports team physically abusing and sexually violating a Grade 9 boy. This is an example of off the field violence in the form of hazing reaching a level of criminal violence.

An article in the Toronto Sun describes this incident in the context of hazing and assault, including a discussion with hazing expert Professor Hank Nuwer. Nuwer discusses the prevalence of hazing and the reasons for most occurrences, as the following:

“In many cases, it’s about trying to establish dominance over a younger player. And it escalates if it looks like the younger player is going to take the [sports] position of someone else. It can be a combination of hazing and outright bullying.” – Professor Hank Nuwer

Hazing is a form of bullying and, when accompanied by sexual and physical violence, it becomes extremely dangerous to the physical and psychological health of victims. Unfortunately, hazing rituals has become normalized among sports team and are a cause of concern that needs direct attention from sports programs and coaches.

A recent study on hazing and peer sexual abuse outlined the issues as follows:

“The underlying causes of hazing are complex but rooted in maintaining a hierarchical structure within the team unit. By implementing various changes and strategies, coaches and team administration can mitigate the risks of these behaviors.” – Jeckell, Copenhaver & Diamond

Researchers have analyzed the hierarchical structure, role of dominance, and over-conformity to the sport ethic. They have also determined hazing is preventable, with the right strategies and close supervision of coaches especially in youth sport such as the case at St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

Featured image: St. Michael’s College (Photo: Paul Smith/CBC)


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