Bullying is an aggressive behaviour by an individual or a group with the intention of causing harm to a person either physically or psychologically. It is the use of force, coercion, or threat to abuse, dominate or intimidate a person. Bullying may also occur by hitting, teasing and taunting, and name-calling, or in more subtle ways such as spreading rumours or encouraging others to reject or ignore the person. Bullies typically target individuals who are perceived as weak or vulnerable.
Hazing is any activity that is expected of a person who joins a club or a group that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional or physical harm irrespective of whether the person consents to it or not. It’s an action or a situation that is intentionally created by a group to cause mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule those who wish to join the group. Hazing activities that result in serious injuries are punishable under the law, and the services of a hazing defence attorney would be needed to pursue the case in court.
How hazing is different from bullying
Hazing is a form of bullying, but it is different in some ways. In bullying, the victim is rejected by or excluded from a group whereas hazing is a ritual imposed on a person who wants to join a group. Bullies often act alone or in small groups, but hazing typically involves an entire group or team.
Hazing activities may include:
- Making victims act in embarrassing or humiliating ways
- Swearing and yelling insults at victims
- Sleep deprivation for victims
- Forcing victims to eat vile substances
- Physically assaulting victims
- Excessive drinking
- Subjecting victims to sexual assault
Of late, hazing and bullying have become major issues in school and colleges throughout the United States leading to injuries and even fatalities. According to a survey, 42 percent of 6th graders reported being bullied, with 14 percent getting being injured as a result. In what is called cyber bullying, internet is being frequently used to embarrass, humiliate, or harass individuals through messages or video. Hazing too has become quite common these days with 48 percent of high school students report some form of hazing. According to hazing injury attorneys, the occurrence of bullying and hazing is far more prevalent than reported because most victims are too embarrassed to report what occurred or they fear retaliation should they do so.
Role of coaches in preventing bullying and hazing
Some coaches in schools condone bullying by older or more prominent and influential athletes on the team. Their indifferent attitude allows the perpetrators to engage in hazing activities. Hazing is common among girls as well, though to a lesser extent than boys. But even mild form of bullying may result in considerable harm to the victim. The harm may not be physical, but bullying often leads to depression when a victim feels trapped in the situation. In some extreme cases, depression can even lead to suicide. You might be charged for a crime along with the perpetrators and would need to hire a hazing defence attorney to defend you in court. As a coach of character and integrity, you must have zero tolerance for any form of bullying on your team.
As a coach, you should have similar attitude of zero tolerance towards hazing as well. After decades of indifference, hazing of athletes by other athletes is finally being recognized as a serious issue. Earlier, coaches often looked at hazing as part of a ritual to build team cohesiveness and camaraderie, and condoned or even encouraged such practices. But hazing is against the moral values of the Athletes’ Character Code which encourages respectfulness, responsibility, care, honesty, fair play and being a good citizen. As a coach you should recognize subtle and appalling hazing practices for what they actually are—ill treatment or abuse of fellow human beings.
Some incident cited below bring to fore the role of coaches in preventing hazing and why they should be more proactive.
- Four members of a New York high school football team sodomized their juniors. The players were charged with a criminal offence and the coaches were dismissed.
- The senior girls of a high school soccer team in California forced four freshman girls to drink excessive alcohol. The girls started vomiting and collapsed.
- In New Jersey, freshman soccer players were physically abused and thrown in the mud as part of an annual hazing ritual. It led to the dismissal of the head coach and two assistants for their failure to prevent the incident.
If you are a victim of hazing, consult a hazing litigation lawyer to take necessary action.