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Friday, June 21, 2013

Boy-On-Boy Sexual Hazing On The Rise

A high school hallway in Vicksburg, Miss. (Michael Gilliam/Flickr)

(Michael Gilliam/Flickr)

Ten percent of high school boys report being victims of rape, forced oral sex and other sexual assault, according to a study by the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Experts say sexual hazing has been increasing in the past decade, and high school hazing fuels college hazing.

“They never contacted the police. They contacted their attorney and they suspended the kids that did this to my son for one day.”
– Father of assault victim

One recent example is in Norwood, Colorado. On an empty school bus at a high school wrestling tournament, three upperclassmen bound a 13-year-old boy with duct tape and sodomized him with a pencil.

Response to an attack

His father, the school’s principal, first confronted the coach and reported the incident to the vice president of the school board and the superintendent of schools.

“None of them ever talked to my son to make sure he was okay,” said the father, who Here & Now is not naming, in order to protect his son’s identity. “They never contacted the police. They contacted their attorney and they suspended the kids that did this to my son for one day.”

Under Colorado law, school officials are required to report incidents of abuse to the police or social services.

Life at school became difficult for the boy who was assaulted.  Other students were cruel to him.

“They were either making fun of him for what happened or giving him a hard time for actually saying something about it,” said the father.

The father found no recourse in the school administration, or sympathy from other parents. People in the town considered the boy a snitch, the father said.

Searching for justice

“We called the department of education, we called everywhere we could,” he said. “It was kind of like we were on an island trying to figure out what can we do, but nobody wants to talk about it.”

Some people in town made t-shirts supporting the attackers, and some students wore them to school. That’s when the father decided to pull his son out of school.

“He was in school everyday,” the father said. “He was stronger than anyone, going and facing that every day.”

The father reported the incident to the Denver police, and the Denver District Attorney pursued charges against the three attackers. One pleaded guilty to sexual contact without consent, the other two pleaded guilty to third degree assault.

“There still seems to be the sense, especially in schools or colleges, that when these incidents happen it’s part of ‘boys being boys.’”
– Jonathan Kaufman, journalist

“As an administrator, just like a parent, you have to realize there’s going to be backlash when you push it forward,” he said. “But you have to do what’s right. That’s the only way you can change the attitude towards this.”

The family has since relocated.

A closer look at sexual hazing

Jonathan Kaufman, a managing editor at Bloomberg, coordinated a larger investigation on sexual hazing among boys.

His reporters investigated the Norwood, Colorado, incident involving the father and his son, and they were surprised to find how dismissive administrators were of the incident.

They also found that sexual hazing among boys and young men is more widespread than people realize.

“We have a lot of awareness these days about sexual abuse involving adults—Penn state and other places,” Kaufman said. “But there still seems to be the sense, especially in schools or colleges, that when these incidents happen it’s part of ‘boys being boys,’ or let’s take care of it internally. And so you’ll have authority figures, including coaches, who either turn a blind eye or in fact encourage it.”

The reporters found that when hazing starts in younger years, it can escalate later.

“They hear about these things through social media, they read about these attacks, they decide to somehow one-up, and that then fuels what goes on in colleges,” Kaufman said. “That’s true of lots of things. That’s true of drinking, that’s true of sexual assaults as well.”

Parents and authority figures should not turn a blind eye, Kaufman said.

“Kids will do things, but it’s really the role of adults to step in and to say stop, and to find out what is going on, and to fix it,” Kaufman said. “What was so shocking [in the Norwood story], as the father, I think, described so movingly, was that everyone from the school board to local town officials and fellow parents turned their back on him. And I think that’s the part that really has to give us cause for reflection.”


  • A father whose son was assaulted by three upperclassmen boys.
  • Jonathan Kaufman, managing editor for Bloomberg News.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

    Sexual assault awareness is not a
    zero sum gain. Just because we try to educate people about male-on-male sexual
    assault doesn’t take away from awareness of the male-on-female kind.

  • Apathesis

    Absolutely disgusting.

  • ericd725

    I’m missed how forced sodomy was down graded from RAPE  to hazing,  WTF?

    • geraldfnord

      If it were ‘rape’, they’d _have_ to try to do* something about it, immediately, and as a priority.  (I voted for Clinton twice, but still must point out that this were similar to why the Rwandan crimes were never called ‘genocide’ as they were happening.)
      *There is no ‘do’, only ‘try’.

  • Bill98

    The simple truth is, sexual assault against males is not treated as seriously as it is for females.  Most people would prefer not to discuss it at all.  When they do, they minimize it.  For boys, they say it’s a “right of passage”, for men in prison, they make jokes. 

    This humiliates the victims, and helps to keep them quiet, which, I believe, is the intention.

    It is long past time that we started to offer the same support to male victims as we now do for female victims.

  • Maggie

    Haven’t we been saying that “moral values” are subjective?  We continue this “enlightened” path that free us to act on our own depravities and our children grow up without a absolute point of reference for what is moral or inmoral.

    • MOFYC

      Moral values have always been subjective throughout history and across cultures. The law, on the other hand, is quite specific.

  • Guest

    The children that executed this despicable act learned their behavior from the adults that raise them.  Based on the entire town’s reaction to a 13 year old child being bound and raped by other children, quite obviously this is the accepted culture of this town – approved of and encouraged by the resident adults.  Sickening.

  • Karennm1102

    I am appalled at the non-reaction of the community. My son was harassed when he was new in High School. A couple of boys in gym class were harassing him and one of them grabbed the towel from my son in the locker room and humped his leg.
    I got all of the perpetrators names from my son and went to the principal and had a very clear discussion that if something wasn’t done to stop those boys that I would be going to the local police, news station and filing sexual assault charges.
    I don’t know what he said to those boys, but they never bothered my son again.
    So, there are adults that will and should take action.
    Great topic to get out into public awareness!
    Thank you.

  • Michael0812

    Can someone please discuss the difference between this “sexual hazing,” and your garden variety “sexual assault?”

    Is it a question of degrees, or what?

    I was a victim of one of them as a boy and, hey, I always just assumed it was sexual assault.

    Now this story’s got me wondering.  Still, it really couldn’t matter less what you call it.  I’m just curious.

    • AVG

       The behavior being described would be first degree criminal sexual conduct where I live. That IS rape/sexual assault. We need to call it what it is instead of trying to “tame” the language and the criminal act by calling it hazing. This is a shame.

  • pat

    This was not hazing, it was sexual assault. Any person who does not understand that should have the opportunity to learn about it in a prison.

  • JennNH

    Jackson Katz is an anti-gender violence activist who has a lot to say about preventing male violence against other males and females. He gave a powerful TED Talk and has powerful tips to help men & boys prevent gender violence:  http://jacksonkatz.com/wmcd.html

  • Joann Cipriano1

    We are going backwards. We are becoming Barbarians. 

    • Maargen

      Don’t think for a minute that we’re going backwards. This would imply that these sorts of things didn’t happen in the past. They most certainly did happen. The difference is that the public rarely heard about them.

      The fact that we are outraged for this crime to happen to anyone, male or female, and that it’s being addressed publicly is a huge step forward, not back. Kudos to this boy’s family for championing their son, rather than hiding in missplaced shame.

  • Ker0pi

    This begins so much earlier in school.  My son’s school is currently dealing with a lawsuit over their lack of action regarding a sexual assault and bullying of a 1st grader by another 1st grader.  One boy was bullying another much smaller boy, choking him and holding his head under running water and these repeated incidents culminated with the bully putting his penis in the mouth of the boy he was bullying.  The school called police and social service, suspended the boy for a day but carried on with an attitude of laughing and boys will be boys.  I know the parents and one of them is a public school teacher in the district.  The lawsuit is based on the fact that the school was aware of the bullying from the 1st incident and did not inform the parents.  This bully in the first few weeks of school had and incident with my son where he was trying to climb under the stall door in the bathroom while my son was trying to go.  My son pulled up his pants and left the bathroom after clearly telling the bully to go away.  The bully grabbed my son around the waist and try to stop him from leaving the bathroom, my son is  bigger then the bully and was thank goodness able to fight him off while screaming at the top of his lungs.  We were informed of the incident and told we needed to work with our son to remain calm, that he over reacted.  I told the school he reacted exactly the way we taught him to react in such a scenario and after what that boy went on to do I am so glad we did.  I am terrified of what this bully will do during the rest of his school career.  How many  more children will be victims like this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1119678068 Leslie Tremayne

      This more than bullying.  This other student is a sexual perpetrator and probably a victim.  You should contact the local law enforcement agency and/or social services to report what he attempted to do to your son.  The cycle of perpetrator, victim, perpetrator won’t be disrupted by one phone call or one reported incident.  Every incident must be reported so that a pattern of behavior is recognized and investigated.

      • Cheryl Ahmed

        I agree; the bully undoubtedly a victim himself.  How else would he know about putting his penis in someone’s mouth in first grade?  Children who have been victimized often feel that there are only 2 types of people: bullies and victims.  So if you don’t want to be a powerless victim, you have to be a bully.  I think the incident should be reported to Child Protective Services. 

  • Stanley Green

    Thank you–along with Bloomberg News–for bringing attention to this issue.  Look at the outreach being done by Federal VAWA-funded and other anti-sexual-assault programs: you will rarely, if ever see males portrayed as the possible victims, but almost always profiled solely as the perpetrator class.  No wonder boys and young men don’t reach out for help.

  • Joann Cipriano1

    Its disappointing that you (NPR) didn’t give this store more time.  This is serious. This is going to change or has changed our Society. This should have been on for at least an hour. Some of the topics you cover are enlightening.  Some are just a waste of time i.e. Conye West he didn’t even deserve the acknowledgement you gave him.

  • RajRam

    “Sometimes when it’s a female it’s exactly the same.” I don’t think that’s accurate at all.

  • Lady Enide

    I caught only part of this program while driving on the road today and was crying my eyes out before it was done. This is pure evil. I can’t stand that such things actually happen to our youth, perpetrated by other youth, or that whole communities of adults look on as if there’s nothing wrong. What has the world come to? NPR, can you run a follow-up story on what can be done to stop this??

  • Concerned parent

    My family had a personal experience with some much moee tame but still completely unacceptable behavior.  An older boy was being physically agressive (pushing, shoving) and repeatedly saying to my freshman son “Want me to stick my d__ up your a___?” “Want me to stick my d__ up your a___?”  And similar language in a threatening and abusive way.  The school vice priniciapl at a large urban school basically said my son needed to be sure he had not done anything wrong towards this otherboy because if the vice principal investigated, that would come out, and my son would be punished also.  None of the kids who witnessed it would confirm what happened which is common with bullies.  My daughter was also a witness but since she was related her statement was allegedly not enough to result in any discipline.  And I am a well known and respected lawyer in the community.  I fear for what happens to children who do not feel they have the same protection from their parents.   I had to threaten to call the police  to get their attention but even so, no discipline.  None.  Schools are not prepared and have no training to deal with these issues. 

  • SteveL

    I too, think this story requires more air time.  I think the father was remarkable calm–if I were him, I don’t know what I would do.  Norwood, you just got the bad PR you may have been hoping to avoid–this community reminds me of the one in “The Lottery.”  Teachers attempted to help and as a teacher myself, I see how administration can sometimes side with the students, or bow to pressure from parents.  I had a student once who I let leave 5 minutes early so he wouldn’t have to endur gay slurs during passing time.  Coaches?–yikes–we need some professional athletes to step up and address this “hazing” issue before we have some suicides or Columbine like retribution.  I love my HS students, but if this kind of thing is going on in my school?????

  • Paul Whitman

    I heard your story about high school sexual hazing and felt chilled.  I am now 49 years old, but this story made me feel like a thirteen year old again.   As a Jr. High student at that age I was ruthlessly bullied by other boys in a seventh grade gym class.  On one occasion my clothes were stolen from me while I was showering.  My towel was also stolen and I was forced to run a gauntlet of boys taking turns pushing and punching me.  I was knocked to the floor and kicked repeatedly.  
      After my tormentors tired of this “sport”, one of them reluctantly gave me back my clothes.  
      At the time I was a painfully shy young person.  I had been sheltered by parents who had an almost Victorian concept of personal modesty.  The very idea of undressing in front of other people was terribly embarrassing to me, so perhaps you can imagine the deep humiliation I felt at this type of treatment.  
      I was already painfully shy and hated attending school.  I tried to keep a low profile and hide from other kids.   As I write this I am amazed that even all these years later I feel the need to defend my innocence… to say that I had done nothing to deserve all of the merciless bullying which I received throughout  my time in Jr. High School.  As if anyone could do anything to deserve such treatment!
      After the locker-room incident I described above I was shocked to learn that my Phys. Ed teacher had been fully aware of what was going on… as it was happening.  He admitted as much to me when I came to him for help.  His advice to me was that I should simply forget about it.
      I have never forgotten about this and other similar incidents.  It took me many years to come to terms with the feelings of victimization I felt.  Though My treatment was not as explicitly sexual as what has occurred in recent cases, I felt violated.  
      I am sorry that such behavior still happens among adolescent boys, but I’m not surprised.  And, I’m not surprised that coaches are sometimes accessories to this behavior, which isn’t merely hazing… it IS rape!
      Something is very wrong with the way we raise young men in this country.  I can only hope that we will learn from these awful stories and make a decisive change.     

    • Nancy Gold

      Paul,  Your story and your bravery in retelling it is bringing tears to my eyes.  I applaud you.

  • Banner

    This story is so incredibly like the one from our high school a year or two ago. The coach’s young son witnessed a shower room scene which involved several upper classmen sexually assaulting a freshman. All the boys involved, including the victim, were “good” students- popular and athletic    The school did take action -perhaps the Joe Paterno ordeal happening at the time helped.  
    The astounding thing was that this community reacted mostly in favor of the  young men who were involved and were angry that they should be suspended. The high school students had a day where they protested.  The older generation stuck with “boys will be boys”.   The students who did this are a product of a society that has influenced them so we need not label them as terrible–but how could a parent not wonder how it would be if their son or daughter had been humiliated in this way?  

  • Professor Ferrel Christensen

    Whether this particular case is considered “hazing”, there is certainly such hazing going on, then shown to the world, on college campuses. Just google “haze him” and “haze her”. Where is the outcry?

  • Toobusyforfacebook

    It is so hard to imagine any parent being capable of endorsing such barbaric behavior. Extending unconditional love is to accept who the child truly is and to be willing to help with his individual needs. Pretending that there isn’t a problem is neglectful. Celebrating the problem presents an endangerment not only to the child but to all of society.

  • apoiken

     I just finished listening to the program on ‘hazing’ in the schools and questions on how we might best cope with this problem.
    In these days we are forever  shocked at the constant and ongoing news of unimaginable atrocities committed in society- terror attacks, rape in the military, bullying at all ages, vicious verbal attacks now spread by ‘media, acts against others with different actions or beliefs , ad infinitum.
    The usual solution proffered from pre-school on is to set up written rules and specific punishments, and for older members of the society to get laws on the books, set up specific consequences, and involve the law enforcement
     You CANNOT legislate decent behavior. Empathy for all other beings must be taught in the homes at the earliest age, in school settings, and in society. Television no longer shows programs that were prevalent only a short time ago, when the theme of the show was often lapses in judgment, seeing the consequences of the act, and finally feeling remorse. In the days before television recreational reading was wide spread and most literature led us to empathize with the characters.
    I recently watched a re-run of the old movie “The Breakfast Club”, which not only portrayed such lack of understanding and compassion for others, but actually described an almost perfect description of the atrocity that instigated this morning’s program.
     I guess, in the end, we only need one rule: Do unto others~~~~>

    • geraldfnord

      There are many who explicitly deride empathy; there are many who promulgate, and more who accept, that the less powerful are rightfully the prey of the more.

      I’d settle for ‘What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour.’

  • musicluva

    I was raped when I was 8 y.o. It was one of the most live changing experiences that’s ever happened to me. It inform so many of my decision and choices as I grew into adult hood. I’ve written and talked about it as an adult but never mentioned to any one as a child. The perpetrator was a teenage boy and next door neighbor.

    I do not envy this young boys experience. And hope to create a culture that looks to solve this issues in our society instead of hiding behind secrecy and shame.

    And while I appreciate H&N for not revealing the name of the boy and his family, I would have liked to know the name of the town. So I or anyone that I know won’t accidently land there with hopes of starting a life. Maybe I missed it (the name of the town) if so could someone reply and let me know.

    People know of Penn State and the Catholic Church ills and can choose whether or not these are environments they wish to be a part of. A town like this should be on the list too.

  • _illustrated

    So male on male sexual harassment/assault = hazing? I don’t think that’s remotely correct.

  • Bill98

    Cheryl, I agree with you to a point.  In the case of female victims, there can be a degree of victim-blaming, and some shame still persists.  I believe that this is changing, and has improved greatly over the last couple of decades.

    Male victims, on the other hand, face ridicule and silence, and this does not seem to be improving.  Men and boys can look forward to laughter and jokes if they claim to be a victim of such a crime.  Many definitions of rape won’t even classify the crime as a rape, if the victim is male.  So, the allegations are taken even less seriously than they would otherwise have been.

    The simple truth is, the number of male victims of rape is actually greater than the number of female victims.  Yet, for women, we have slut-walks, shelters, public awareness campaigns, and the like.  For men, we have late-night comedians, and not much else.  Certainly, there is no national movement to reform our prisons, as I truly believe there would be, if female prisoners were being abused in the same numbers as men.

    I do agree with you that all victims face the accusation that they should have done something more to defend themselves.  I believe that men face more of a stigma in this regard, but it is getting worse for women.  Movies that show 100 pound women dropping 250 pound men with a single kick might be empowering, but they set an expectation that most women simply cannot meet.

    The situation is not good for any victim, regardless of gender.  But, I do believe that more is being done to improve the situation for females, but precious little is being done to assist males.

    As for colleges, here I think our disagreement is more pronounced.  Presumption of innocence is vital to our justice system, and this is in danger on campus, due to a change in federal guidelines for handling accusations of rape.  The accused should not be removed from school, until and unless he or she is convicted of a crime.  And, of course, no university can arrest anyone.  The investigation of any serious crime has to be left to the police.

    As to false-allegations of rape, the accuser is rarely arrested, let alone are they prosecuted.  So, I am not certain why you think that the police are likely to arrest a women if she reports a rape to the police.

    • Cheryl Ahmed

      Hi Bill;
      Thanks for the insightful reply. 
      While I question whether more men than women are raped in the world, I agree that it is true for the military.  While 40% of women and 2% of men in the military are subject to rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment, because of the sheer number of men in the military it ends up being that there are more male victims than female.  And because of the homosexual element involved, men are reluctant to come forward.  I recently watched a documentary on military sexual trauma, and they interviewed both men and women, so men are getting at least a little attention at least in this regard.  An interesting statistic is that victims of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment are 3 times more likely to develop PTSD than soldiers who have seen combat. 
      Unfortunately, for people in prison (women get raped in prison, too) there is little public sympathy.   Probably the best course of action for men who want to  gain public support is to ride current public sentiment and demand support for our troops–they are fighting for our freedom, only to be violently raped.  We want heroes, not sex offenders!  etc…..  Then you could just add on prison rape, too. 
      I don’t know how false allegations of rape came into it, that is an entirely different conversation.  As far as the victim being arrested or threatened with arrest, there are hundreds.  Look at Donna Palomba and Sara Reedy, to name a couple.  Those women get media attention because they were successful in suing the police afterward.  Like lottery winners–they get a lot of attention.  And like the lottery, the losers get no attention.  There are plenty of victims who have arrested, many do not want their real name used.
      While I was not raped, I was arrested after I asked the police 3 times to help me with sexual harassment.  They handcuffed me in front of the pack of men who had been humiliating, degrading and demeaning me for a year to intentionally humiliate me.  And then I was prosecuted on false charges by the DA that I had also asked to protect me.  “Presumption of innocence” is bs.  The hackney officer (who I had gone to begging for protection) wrote up a false police report and even used a fake name, took my hackney license away so I could not work, even though I proved the reports were false.  I almost lost my house.  If I am “presumed innocent”, why do I have to have an arrest record for the rest of my life, that keeps me from getting jobs?  And why doesn’t the court make him give me back my Hackney?  By the way, the creeps who falsely accused ME were never arrested either, nor were the police who wrote up bogus reports and destroyed the videotape of the entire incident.  Even worse, the police have a history of falsely accusing sexual harassment victims, and were being sued for harassing and falsely accusing their fellow female officers.
      University police have the same power and authority as any other police, so they CAN arrest, and CAN investigate.  I think you are confusing them with smaller colleges that only have campus security.  Undoubtedly the new legislation stems from the horrendous way many universities have been handling rape on campus.  If you cheat, you get thrown out of school.  If you rape, they just move you to another dorm until you rape 3 or 4 more women.

  • geraldfnord

    This sort of thing is much more common—now, and historically*—than is generally known.  I will take issue with one trope, though, the one that says ‘It’s not about sex, it’s about power,’ when it is palpably about both at once.  As much as I’d like to think we’re more like bonobos than chimps, the truth is that we’re like both of our nearest relations at once, so hierarchy abetted by sex and power hierarchy enforced by violence combine in us—sex is powerful and power is sexual.

    How are we to get rid of bullying when so many of our social norms are passed-on and enforced by it?  They certainly don’t stand up to cost-benefit analysis and rational thought, so force and its threat are the only ways we can retain so many of Our Revered Gender Traditions!

    *No-one ever told the child me one of the most important reasons my ancestors tried to stay out of the Tsarist Russian Army, to the point of permanently damaging their health and limbs therefor—Jewish boys were taken at 11 and 12, thinking that getting us pre-{Bar Mitzvah} would help us see the error of our ways, and so we were particularly endangered target of the hazing-rape which is still common even to this day in that army.

  • Phyllispeters2

    There was mention made in the Boston NPR story that high school students bring hazing into the college setting and abuse fellow male students.  That is what happened to my son when he left one of Florida’s top private high schools as an honor student to enroll in one of California’s leading private colleges–where he was in essence kidnapped, restrained overnight outside in the elements to a public park bench, forced to wear women’s clothes, ridiculed, harrassed and accosted by fellow residents of his dorm who were jocks.  My son is “all-boy”, very academically inclined, an outstanding Eagle Scout chosen out of all of Florida as one of nine high school boys for training by the scout organization for national leadership roles.  He was just not a California boy—and was preyed by the jock culture.  My son was broken by what happened to him–dropped out of college and years later was finally able to complete his degree.  But he has never been the same–lacking confidence, ambition and appears as one who lost his moorings–never trusting and is a rolling stone–having no real human connections.  I as his only parent made every effort to intervene when he shared with me what had happened on his college campus in California. The college would tell me nothing or assist me because my son was of majority age.  My son would not give me permission to open any legal action; he was beyond humiliated and wanted to escape that college campus–”the scene of the crime”.  Even with therapy, my son cannot accommodate to the injuries that he suffered in which he accepts blame totally for what happened to him.  I feel he lost his life, his life’s mission to pursue medicine and his ability and desire to deeply connect with anyone–even me, his mother.   This, fellow parents, high school and college administrators, police enforcement, legislators at the federal, state and local levels and concerned Americans, is what is the aftermath of inhuman and uncivil treatment of our gifted boys who have so much to offer our nation.  Our children, boys and girls, are left as detrius on the battleground of violence and insensisitivity created by the act of hazing which has been generated by the the perverted mentality that “this is what boys do” and “girls were asking for it”. This BROKEN mentality makes for BROKEN children–some never to be healed or redeemed–and a BROKEN society—–and a parent with a BROKEN heart.

  • Cheryl Ahmed

    Why don’t YOU report it?

  • http://www.proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/ K. John Dukes

    Where’s the download button????

  • John Hurd

    Another example of an athletic COACH being perfectly comfortable with acts of violence with their kid as the attacker. 

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