The process of joining a group may involve hazing. Reactions to being hazed vary. If you are hazed you may need some resources for dealing with the experience. A friend may come to you with information that he or she has been hazed and you may wish to help. If you want to help stop hazing you are not alone. We can help you find support. Alumni may also be concerned and wish to be of help.
Hazing and Joining a Group
If you are thinking about joining a student group, such as a fraternity, sorority, performing group, athletic team, club, or other student organization, consider whether or not doing so might involve some type of initiation. Initiation into a group can be a single event or an extended process. See a Message to First Year Students to read a statement on hazing from university administrators.
Since the process of joining a group may involve hazing, it is important to be informed of the experience for which you are signing up. Suggestions to reduce the likelihood of winding up in a situation in which you are hazed:
Ask current members:
- What kinds of things do you have to do to join the group?
- What is the group's position on hazing?
- Has the group ever been in trouble for hazing?
- How long does the pledging/new member/joining process last?
- Does the group have a policy of non-secrecy?
- How much time will be involved?
- Do they have a hell week?
- If your organization initiates members after an intake or recruitment process, do you pledge "underground"?
- If the group members cannot give thorough descriptions of what new membership involves (e.g., service projects, pro-social group-building activities) or seem evasive, have your guard up. Even if they say that they do not haze, be cautious if they are unable to describe what they do.
Ask other students:
- What do you know about this group?
- What kind of a reputation does it have?
- Have you heard about what they do with new members?
If You Are Hazed
Reactions to being hazed vary. Two people who go through the same experience might feel quite differently. Some people feel relatively positive about going through hazing (seeing it as an achievement), some feel mildly annoyed, and others have strong negative reactions. Reactions depend on the extent of the hazing, individual characteristics, and past experiences. For people who have been abused in the past, hazing can be re-traumatizing.
- Anger, confusion, betrayal, fear, resentment, embarrassment, humiliation, hopelessness, helplessness, anxiety and depression are all normal reactions to being hazed. Some individuals have become suicidal.
- Physical consequences can include exhaustion, headaches, hangovers, illnesses, injuries, and scars.
- It's common to believe that things won't get worse, though they often do.
- You may want the hazing to stop, but don't want to get the group in trouble.
- You may want to leave, but fear the consequences or feel like you've invested too much already to walk away.
- Self-blame can occur and is fueled by hazers who tell new members that they will let others down if they leave or tell anyone what is going on.
What you can do
Stay connected with friends outside of the group. Groups that haze often try to isolate their new members from others who might challenge them to question what they are going through.
- Talk with others about what you are going through. You do not have to keep it a secret. Demanding secrecy is a common practice designed to protect people who are abusing others. You have a right to tell anyone anything you want about what you are going through, even if you were made to promise that you would not do so
- Seek guidance from your parents/guardian or other family member.
- Refuse to participate. Others before you have done so.
- Join together with other new members to refuse to be hazed. There is power in numbers because groups depend on getting new members to join. Some fraternity members admit that they became very worried when it appeared that a group of new members might rebel, because the financial consequences to the group would be serious if the new members left. Hazers don't want new members to realize how much power they have, so they work hard to keep them subjugated.
- Leave the group. This is hard to do, but is always an option. Walking away from hazing takes strength. Don't believe it if anyone who tries to tell you that it is sign of weakness or that you weren't tough enough to hack it. Quitting when you are being hazed takes character.
- Talk to a health care provider to help you sort out what to do.
- Medical Care from the Student Health Center 681-WELL
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 660-1000
- Report the hazing incident confidentially.
If a Friend Is Hazed
If you are concerned that someone you know is being hazed, you can make a difference by helping that person. The demands of hazing often isolate students from their friends who are not in the group. By having a friend who is outside of the group provide support, the person who is hazed can think more clearly about what options are available. See If You are Hazed for insights into the experience of someone who is hazed.
How to talk with a friend about your concern:
- Tell the person that you are concerned.
- Describe what you have observed (e.g., lack of sleep, changes in your friend's mood, energy level, ability to do work).
- Ask your friend what he or she has had to do as part of joining the group.
- If the person describes being hazed, underscore that hazing is wrong and that he or she doesn't have to go along with it.
- If you suspect that your friend is being hazed but he or she won't say so, ask if there are things going on that he or she isn't supposed to talk about. If that is the case, it's very likely that the person is being hazed.
- Let your friend know that it's okay to withdraw from an organization at any point.
- Offer to support the person and ask how you can be helpful.
- Let your friend know what resources are available for support and reporting.
If you are concerned about someone who you suspect is being hazed, you can also talk to University staff members for advice about how you can provide support. You can also report hazing confidentially through this site, or make a phone report to a University staff member about your concern. You can remain anonymous when calling in a report.
Reprinted with permission from author Timothy C. Marchell and Cornell University.