Once viewed as an activity solely used by fraternities and sororities, recent research shows that hazing is a growing societal problem, expanding beyond the college campus into high schools, churches, athletic teams, marching bands, military organizations, and professional clubs. Parents are often unsure what constitutes hazing or how to address it with their child. Becoming educated and aware is the first step.

What defines hazing?

"Hazing" refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group(or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate. Often new members feel that enduring these activities is expected so they can earn their place in the group. However, group development should involve learning about the group, not earning membership.

What are the "signs" of hazing?

  • Responses to hazing vary from person to person. The feelings can range anywhere from seeing the activities as a personal challenge to feeling a sense of abuse and harassment.
  • Show physical signs such as exhaustion, hangovers, increased illness, scars, or bruising.
  • Feel anger, confusion, embarrassment, helplessness, anxiety and even depression due to being hazed by peers.
  • Feel that there is no way out. They started the process and they have to finish it.
  • Feel a sense of loyalty to the group and avoid sharing their concerns or fears with anyone for fear the group might get in trouble.
  • Feel like they are weak and should toughen up, just like those did before them. See a decrease in performance in school, sports, etc.

What can I do if I suspect my student is being hazed?

First, tell your student you are concerned and why. Next, share some of the signs you have observed. Ask your student specifically what he or she has to do to join the group. Your student may provide an answer, but continue to probe until you get more details. If what your student describes sounds like hazing, affirm that they do not have to participate in such activities, that they are wrong, unlawful and harmful. Ask your student if there is anyone they can talk to, a coach, faculty member or advisor, who can help your student address the concern.

What if my student denies being hazed, but I am still concerned?

If your student denies he or she is being hazed, but you still have concerns, there are resources on campus that can help you. Staff members in the Counseling Center, Greek Life Office, Student Life Office, Safety and Security Department, and Residential Life Office can help you or refer you to the appropriate department for assistance.

If it looks like hazing, feels like hazing, and sounds like hazing…

If you suspect your student is either the victim of, or facilitator of, hazing activities, you may wish to probe further with one or more of the following questions.

  • Would you be nervous or embarrassed if your parents, grandparents, spiritual leader, or teachers observed these activities?
  • Do any of the activities involve sleep deprivation, demerit points, blindfolding, name-calling, drills or tests?
  • Would you object to the activities being videotaped or photographed for a news broadcast or newspaper?
  • Do the activities involve alcohol or other substances?
  • Do you feel like you are an equal member of the group?

If your student answered yes to any of the above questions, you are right to be suspicious of hazing.

Adapted from Will Keim, Ph.D., "The Power of Caring," www.sigmapi.org/cornerstone/hazing.cfm

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