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Psychological Consequences For The Perpetrators And Victims Of Hazing

Hazing and Bullying

When we talk of hazing, we think of it as embarrassing but generally harmless behavior to initiate new students into college fraternities or sororities. We might equate it with the rites of passage for soldiers as they are initiated into the ranks of their peers, or athletes when they join a new team. Examples of group initiation behaviors might include doing laundry of a more senior group member or singing a silly song in front of a group. Sometimes, initiation and hazing behaviors are benign and safe, but it is not always the case. It can inflict serious physical or psychological damage. Hazing victims should seek advice from hazing injury attorneys.

Understanding Hazing

Hazing is any activity that is expected of a person joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, demeans, abuses, or endangers them irrespective of a person’s willingness to participate. This certainly is not just harmless and voluntary initiation rituals that a person may agree to when they join a club or team.  Hazing behaviors can be damaging and destructive. In a disturbing case of high school hazing in Sayreville, New Jersey, students aged 15 to 17 are facing criminal charges for alleged demeaning and violent behavior, including sexual assault of fellow students Investigations are still on and has once again brought the issue of bullying and hazing to the forefront. It has raised questions about how this can happen and what the consequences should be for this kind of conduct. Victims, with the help of sexual harassment law firm or fraternity hazing lawyers, can sue the perpetrators.

Hazing is not a new phenomenon, it has existed in colleges since the 1970s. Forty-four states now have anti-hazing laws.  Hazing is no longer a problem confined only to colleges and universities, but it has become more frequent and violent in high schools with over 2 million students experiencing hazing each year.  Additionally, almost 50% of students who join any group in high school experience some kind of hazing.  Of these, 43% were reportedly subjected to humiliating activities, 23% of hazing behaviors involved alcohol or drugs, and 29% had to perform illegal acts as part of the hazing/initiation. Hazing may be a bigger problem than many realize.

Difference Between Hazing and Bullying

The differences between bullying and hazing have to do with the ages and objectives of the perpetrators.

Bullying is verbal and/or physical aggression that is meant to harm the victim psychologically or physically.  Bullies act alone or in small groups, and victimize individuals who they believe are vulnerable.  Hazing, on the other hand, involves behaviors that are more about maintaining traditions or hierarchy, or a group initiation ritual that can sometimes cause significant psychological and/ or physical harm to the victim.  Forcing sleep deprivation, excessive drinking, exposure to weather, confinement in a restricted area, or other activity that subjects the student to the risk of physical/ psychological harm.

Psychological Consequences for Hazing Victims

It’s natural for people, especially college students, to want to join groups and fit in with their peers. They feel that being a part of a group, like a sorority, fraternity, or athletic team gives them security and protection. However, they may be astounded to find out the types of initiation they may be expected to endure in order to join.  They may be shocked and frightened, but unable to resist the pressure to endure the abuse and humiliation that is a part of hazing. Those who are subjected to hazing behaviors as teens or young adults may experience negative emotional and psychological reactions for months or even years.

Psychological symptoms may emerge immediately after the hazing or may appear later. Those with a history of trauma are more likely to suffer from negative psychological reactions to hazing.  The hazing may trigger reactions to the previous victimization, which can have devastating consequences for the victim. Unfortunately, someone who has been the victim of hazing is also more likely to haze others in future. Those students who do the hazing, and those who watch it happen, are also at risk for psychological trauma and emotion

Ramifications for Perpetrators and Bystanders

Those who initiate or participate in hazing are ordinary people. They believe the actions are expected of them, and that they are just carrying on a tradition. Ironically, those who haze others can suffer similar psychological consequences as the victims of hazing.

The feeling of guilt and shame that they experience, can affect them for some time. Bystanders may feel guilty for their failure to intervene and help the hazing victim. They may also feel the trauma of witnessing the suffering of the victim. Those who participate in hazing may experience depression, a decline in school performance, ostracism by their peers, etc. Additionally, perpetrators and bystanders may have legal and financial consequences for their hazing behaviors. Hazing injury attorneys would be needed if there is a legal case against them.

Hazing is a widespread problem impacting not only colleges and universities but high schools as well. Some of the hazing that goes on, as part of initiation rituals, is devastating for victims and their families, and even illegal. Both victims and perpetrators of hazing can experience serious psychological effects including trauma reactions and shame and guilt.


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