How did you become involved with anti-hazing initiatives?
My activism in the fight against hazing is a direct result of the abuse my son suffered while a member of his high school swim team. Hazing victims face many obstacles trying to recover from the abuse they suffered and I wanted to help my son recover in the best way possible. I hope sharing my story with others will help someone else who may feel lost or alone. My son was one of the 1.5 million victims of high school hazing abuse annually. While our main goal is to see hazing come to an end, until that time we hope to become a resource for other families facing similar situations.
What challenges have you faced in trying to address hazing in your community?
The biggest challenge we have faced is the shroud of secrecy that surrounded hazing here. The complete and total circling of the wagons to deny the problem exists. A problem cannot be addressed if it is not acknowledged in the first place. Anyone who downplays or ignores hazing is jeopardizing the lives of the victims. As if hazing wasn’t bad enough by itself, it’s traumatic to have the abuse discounted by those who could and should do something to stop it. Victims must be treated with care and compassion to help them deal with the trauma they have experienced.
What advice would you give others trying to eliminate hazing in their group or community?
Educate everyone and enforce rules that have been put in place to deter such behavior. When rules are ignored and hazing behaviors are not disciplined, it sends a strong message that hazing is condoned and tolerated. When that happens, the smaller behaviors turn into the larger behaviors as the perpetrators become emboldened by an attitude of acceptance and tolerance. School officials and law enforcement personnel, as well as prosecutors and government agencies, must recognize the damage that results from hazing and respond appropriately when abuse is reported. All 50 states have laws requiring teachers, doctors, and police to report child abuse, both physical and psychological, and hazing should be included under these statutes. There are clearly victims and yet all too often hazing is not seen as a crime by those who in a position to help the victims.
Finally, should you become aware of a hazing culture within an organization, report it immediately. Report it to anyone and everyone. You cannot do too much towards ending hazing. It will take a collective effort to end hazing, but it can be done.
To learn more about Karla and her son’s experience visit the Make Hazing Stop Facebook page.