College comes with a lot of social pressures. Sometimes, in our efforts to make fast friends or join a particular group, we can find ourselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations.
Here are 4 things everyone should know about hazing.
What is hazing?
Hazing includes any activities expected of a person to join or participate in a group that has the potential to humiliate, degrade, abuse, endanger or risk emotional and/or physical harm. Hazing can also include any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally causes harm.
When we talk about hazing, it’s important to know that the person’s willingness to participate in a given activity or task does not make it okay.
Who is at risk?
It’s important to know that hazing can happen in any group, including:
The risk of hazing can differ from group to group depending on a number of factors, including group culture and tolerance for hazing behaviors. Taking some time to reflect on the types of groups you want to join and why can help you understand what types of relationships and experiences you want to have in college. It can also help you begin to outline what activities you are or are not comfortable doing in order to be part of a given group.
What does hazing look like?
Hazing encompasses a wide range of activities. These activities are often required of specific members of the group, such as new recruits. Additionally, they are often meant to take priority over other activities in a person’s life as part of the initiation process.
Here are some examples of what hazing can look like in real life.
- Deception, secrecy, coercion
- Assigning demerits
- Demeaning names
- Social isolation
- Expecting certain items to always be in your possession
- Ignoring members
- Progress reports for members
- Duties assigned only to specific members
- Trying to instill fear in members
- Depriving members of privileges
- Verbal abuse
- Threats or implied threats
- Asking members to wear embarrassing attire
- Skit nights with degrading or humiliating acts
- Sleep deprivation
- Sexual simulations
- Questioning or interrogation under pressure
- Requiring new members to perform personal service to active members or alumni (e.g. carrying books, running errands)
- Required singing or chanting at an unrelated game or event
- Forced consumption of alcohol, drugs, food, etc.
- Beating, paddling or other forms of assault
- Water intoxication
- Sexual assault, including inappropriate touching, non-consensual sex (oral, anal, vaginal) or sexual acts with objects (including sex toys)
- Forced tattoos or body piercings
- Enduring harsh weather without appropriate clothing or protection
(Allan, 2015; Allan & Kerschner, 2020; Adapted from Bringing in the Bystander)
Due to the nature of these activities, many hazing behaviors go unrecognized and unreported.
It’s important to know that groups who participate in these types of hazing activities or rituals often swear members to secrecy about all aspects of the group, including initiation requirements and activities. Speaking up about hazing, even when it interferes with a group’s expectations, can help prevent it from escalating or happening to other members.
What can I do about hazing?
Hazing can be a sensitive topic, especially if someone has been subjected to degrading, humiliating or violent behaviors and activities.
Here are a few things you can do to help someone who may be experiencing hazing.