Beware

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

WARNING SIGNS: Hazing may skid into the hazardous zone when:

  1. The leaders of the group are very aggressive, and intimidating.
  2. You have heard rumors from your peers about activities that are hazardous.
  3. Your gut is churning and you sense danger.
  4. You have been warned by authorities that the group has a reputation for being extreme.
  5. You don't want to acknowledge it, but you have witnessed some events which are dangerous or are inconsistent with your own morals and values.
  6. You feel stuck. You are already involved and do not know how to get out of the group or process.

RESPONSIBILITY: There are many kinds of responsibilities, some legal, some ethical. Each state and each school has different laws and policies and therefore it is impossible to predict who may be held responsible. In general, you are responsible for yourself.

 Your presence or absence may count towards responsibility. For example, even though you did not actively hurt someone, you also made no attempt to stop it, get help or report it.

You may be held responsible for your lack of actions. Obviously if you participated in some hazardous behavior you may be held responsible. In the end, many people get away with a lot, but some get into deep trouble.


What Can You Do?

KIDS:

  1. Depending on your position in the group (status, degree of power) you can try to influence others to think before they act, and to consider the long-term consequences.
  2. Create connections with your peers, and have a plan of action in case a dangerous situation arises.
  3. IF YOU ARE A BYSTANDER, DO NOT GO AGAINST THE GROUP ALONE. Unless you are in a powerful position of leadership, opposing the group as an individual will cause you pain and suffering. It you can organize the group to act together to prevent the perpetrators and the victims from getting into trouble than do it. If not, do not try to stop violence alone. However, you can try to get help or report the incident as an individual - either anonymously or by revealing your identity.

PARENTS:

  1. Teach your children that no one has the right to violate their body.
  2. Model behaviors which you want them to imitate.
  3. Protect your child by making the school and other authorities accountable for the actions of their staffs.
  4. Demonstrate by doing; therefore have your child see you organize as a group in order to fight for a cause.
  5. Support your children when they sense danger or injustice. Discuss actions that they might do.
  6. Teach them, at the appropriate age, (middle school) about hazardous hazing.
  7. If you are a bystander in any situation, consider your options and explain them to your child.
  8. Before your children are in a situation without adult supervision, have discussions about responsibility and consequences - legal and ethical.
  9. When relevant, check to see the kinds of adult supervision, rules and laws that are in place for the location that your children will be in.
  10. Have complete information about the place where your child may be when under the supervision of others. Make sure you can contact them and vice-versa.
  11. Let your child know, that regardless of the stated policy, if there is a true emergency, where they are significantly threatened, that they can reach you by phone; and that they should call.

To Tell or Not To Tell

TO TELL: becomes a really complex question. Who to tell? How to tell? When and what to tell? The initial question however, is do you want to be responsible for helping yourself and others by reporting and perhaps stopping the hazing from occurring and re-occurring? To get involved means: you may be exposed to media and legal questions, and you may experience ostracism from a group or community. To tell means that you are willing to stand up and perhaps be exposed. There are ways to stay anonymous so that you will not be open to exposure, however this may not be foolproof. The danger in not telling is that you or others may be more hurt. If for example, you need medical or psychological help it is more important to get help and be healthy then it is to protect others. People who break the code of silence and come forward are sometimes frustrated but they are at least making an effort to stop others from injustice and suffering. Breaking the code of silence is one of the hardest things you may do; and it may be one of the most important and satisfying.

NOT TO TELL: this seems to be the simplest decision. After all, many parents might even advise you to "not get involved." The positive part of this choice is that you are not exposed and do not feel guilty for causing any problems for others. It may also protect you from the media or legal issues. The down side is that some people may be seriously injured, including you. Ignoring, avoiding or denying the pain and suffering will not make it go away. You may heal but the scars and after effects may go on for a long time. Even if you do not report the incident consequences may occur, such as a death, so that you will become part of an investigation. You cannot predict what may happen after a hazardous hazing.


What To Do

BEFORE A HAZING:

If you intend to join a group that has initiation rites try to find out what they are.

If you still want to participate consider an exit strategy for yourself, to be used when you believe that you are in danger.

For example, if you are one of 10 freshmen joining a football team, gather together before the team begins. Create a plan so that all of you can act together to prevent anyone of you from being seriously injured.

Make a plan so that an outsider with authority can be notified if things become dangerous.

Discuss the definition of hazardous hazing within your group so that everyone understands and agrees to act together, as a group, to stop the event or call the authorities.

If you are already a part of a group that has a tradition to haze at specific times, such as on your birthday, make a choice about participating that day. Should you decide not to be available do not consider yourself a wimp, consider the fact that you may have just saved yourself, and others, tremendous pain and suffering. Any tradition has the potential to skid out of control.

Remember, the life you save may be your own!

DURING:

  1. Be Aware. Try to remember the layout of the area. Read the emotions of the perpetrators. Do not: volunteer to be hazed, to be the first, or to try to please the group.
  2. If you are asked to do something that is dangerous and you do not want to do it, follow your gut. Though it may mean that you will not be accepted into that group, you will be happier with that decision in the long run.
  3. It may be difficult to exit during an initiation rite. The best way to avoid significant problems is to plan ahead, which means, finding out as much as possible so that you can create an exit strategy. Those in control spend much time planning the event, so you should also spend some time planning how to avoid the event should you decide that you do not want to participate. Such a decision is the earmark of someone who is intelligent and aware.
  4. During an initiation rite, if you want to leave, try to find a group of like-minded individuals who choose to leave together. Trying to de-pledge as an individual may be dangerous. You are more likely to avoid problems if you are part of a group.

AFTER A HAZARDOUS HAZING

  1. SAFETY FIRST: which means the first and most important action is to establish that you are physically O.K. You may not be able to determine this by yourself. If you are not sure, seek the help of a medical professional. Internal bleeding, fractures and the effects of overdose are all serious and need to be attended to as quickly as possible in order to reduce long term damage. This is your responsibility, because no one else can determine how you are feeling.
  2. Safety first holds true for others as well. If you know that someone else is hurt and you do not help them get to medical help, several things may occur. First, the victim may be more damaged and even die due to the fact that too much time elapsed from the time of the incident. Secondly, you may be held responsible from a legal point of view. Thirdly, you may feel guilty for the rest of your life. Lastly, one day someone else might save your life!
  3. Psychological Trauma may occur even if you have not been seriously endangered physically. Many events that are part of initiation rites are structured to cause feelings of humiliation, degradation and helplessness. Sometimes the psychological damage can be worse than the physical, because the trauma continues. Some of the symptoms to be aware of include:

a. SLEEP PROBLEMS: recurrent nightmares, difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking early.

 b. FLASHBACKS: recurrent thoughts which flash back to the original events; you may re-visualize them, or remember sounds, smells or emotions. If these thoughts repeat in your mind, interrupting your ability to function or attend to your life, you may have been traumatized.

c. EATING ISSUES: gaining or losing significant amount of weight after the trauma may also indicate that you have been effected psychologically.

d. ANXIETY: nervousness, agitation, having a short fuse, difficulty concentrating, fears, reluctance to go somewhere or do something, and feeling uneasy are signs of anxiety, which require psychological intervention.

e. AVOIDANCE: staying away from people, places or activities that usually give you enjoyment is another symptom. Sometimes avoidance is the first stage in the development of a phobia.

f. DEPRESSION: if nothing seems to make you happy, and you have no desire or energy to do anything, see anyone, or go anywhere you may be suffering from depression. The sooner you receive some kind of psychological intervention the better the outcome.

g. INTENSE FEELINGS: there are many intense feelings that may interfere with your ability to get through your day. Some examples include: feelings of sadness, helplessness, humiliation, crying without apparent cause, lack of motivation, inability to focus or complete tasks, revenge fantasies, and intense anger.

4. If you want psychological help. There are lots of ways to get psychological help. The quickest is the emergency room at a hospital, and this is suggested if you feel like actually killing yourself or someone else. If the problems are less severe consider the following:

  • COLLEGE OR HIGH SCHOOLS: All schools have psychologists on staff that must be available for free and must maintain your confidentiality. They can help connect you to outside resources for further help should you want it.
  •  INSURANCE: If you have medical insurance you are most probably covered for some kind of mental health benefits. Call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask to see a mental health professional. They will tell you about your coverage and they must find you someone who is in your area. They may offer you a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. The most important criteria is that they have experience with your age group and kind of problem, and that you feel that you can trust and connect with the professional.
  • PARENTS: If you feel comfortable it is always wise to ask your parents for help finding a professional to help you sort out your feelings. Parents are interested in helping their children and may know people or resources.
  • AGENCIES: almost all areas have low-cost mental health agencies. If you cannot find them call the psychiatric department of a local hospital and ask for recommendations.
  • RELIGIOUS organizations often have connections to services which provide counseling.
  • THE TRUTH: if you are in psychological pain you need to find someone who you can trust and who will support and guide you. If there is a will there is a way, even if you have to ask family or friends to help you find the way. Do Not Give Up!

To Tell or Not To Tell

TO TELL: becomes a really complex question. Who to tell? How to tell? When and what to tell? The initial question however, is do you want to be responsible for helping yourself and others by reporting and perhaps stopping the hazing from occurring and re-occurring? To get involved means: you may be exposed to media and legal questions, and you may experience ostracism from a group or community. To tell means that you are willing to stand up and perhaps be exposed. There are ways to stay anonymous so that you will not be open to exposure, however this may not be foolproof. The danger in not telling is that you or others may be more hurt. If for example, you need medical or psychological help it is more important to get help and be healthy then it is to protect others. People who break the code of silence and come forward are sometimes frustrated but they are at least making an effort to stop others from injustice and suffering. Breaking the code of silence is one of the hardest things you may do; and it may be one of the most important and satisfying.

NOT TO TELL: this seems to be the simplest decision. After all, many parents might even advise you to "not get involved." The positive part of this choice is that you are not exposed and do not feel guilty for causing any problems for others. It may also protect you from the media or legal issues. The down side is that some people may be seriously injured, including you. Ignoring, avoiding or denying the pain and suffering will not make it go away. You may heal but the scars and after effects may go on for a long time. Even if you do not report the incident consequences may occur, such as a death, so that you will become part of an investigation. You cannot predict what may happen after a hazardous hazing.