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Parents' Guide to Hazing - How to Keep Your Children Safe
Hazing is a widespread activity, affecting almost half of high school students and more than half of all college students.
Over 90 recorded deaths have been attributed to hazing. Countless others have been substantially harmed. Clearly, most cases of hazing do not lead to permanent injury, but you want to take certain precautionary measures.
TIP #1 Know your institution
Hazing is a cultural rite, meaning that it occurs repeatedly and in the same groups. That is not to say an institution or group is incapable of stopping, but institutions that have been brought to court repeatedly for hazing suits are fairly likely to suffer from the practice.
It is easy to do a bit of homework on any institutions your child is considering for the next step of their education. Do a quick Google search, inputting "hazing" and the name of the school in question. I did this for Penn State as an example. You might also search Google News for published articles on court cases or reported conduct. For every single case that is written about, there are likely many more.
TIP #2 Understand the Code of Silence
Hazing is usually conducted under terms of absolute secrecy. The word only gets out when someone suffers extreme consequences, such as death or permanent disfigurement. But mental and emotional symptoms can go unnoticed and unreported.
According to hazing expert, psychologist Dr. Susan Lipkins, pressure is often placed on new members to keep quiet. She calls this unwritten agreement the code of silence: "...the power behind the code of silence is based on fear, and this fear makes us not want to break the silence... Sometimes the fear is real and intimidation and threats are used. Sometimes the fear is implied, such as the fear of retribution or social isolation."
If you find a few cases of hazing at your child's institution, then you are in a better position to communicate some of the real dangers of hazing to your child. In the end, you might select the school anyway, but you can arm your child with awareness and understanding of how dangerous the practice really is.
TIP #3 How can I tell if my child was hazed?
Dr. Lipkins, who provided her expert opinion for my client wrote an outline on some of the things she normally looks for when treating her patients.
- Physical effects - broken bones, burns; drug/alcohol overdose, any condition requiring surgery
- Psychological symptoms - depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, sleep disturbance, decreased concentration, decreased achievement, impaired social relationships, lack of trust, and post-traumatic stress disorder
In her evaluation of my client, Dr. Lipkins concluded post-traumatic stress disorder was caused by hazing. My client was awarded reimbursement for medical expenses, tuition, and psychological damages without even seeing a courtroom.