Justice

Schools Are Covering up Sexual Assault by Calling It 'Hazing'

An investigation into high school sexual assaults has found schools are mislabeling sexual assault on sports teams as "hazing" to cover it up, the Associated Press reports.

A worn baseball.

The AP found 17,000 official reports of sexual assault incidents over a four year period in grades K through 12. Reporters also found evidence of unofficial sexual assaults on male teammates that were not reported as such. 

"Although many of the cases AP identified included anal penetration, grabbing crotches or grinding genitals into teammates, those who often first learn of incidents — coaches, school officials — routinely characterize them as hazing, bullying or initiations," the AP's Reese Dunklin wrote. 

Yellow schoolbus

The investigation found that coaches in several states — including Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee — initially characterized sexual assaults as "hazing" and didn't report it to authorities. 

ATTN: spoke to Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, about male sexual assault in high schools.

"Absolutely, sexual violence is a serious and pervasive problem in society as a whole," she said, and "the reality is people don't wait until college."

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Houser said society is uncomfortable with the idea that high school boys could commit sexual assault. But adult sexual assault offenders have a history that often stretches back years, including back to high school. 

"Our society as a whole has a very difficult time accepting that young men commit acts of sexual violence, and you hear people talking about not wanting to ruin the lives of young people accused," she said. "We do know that the majority of people who are offenders as adults were doing this as minors, and you're more likely to interrupt a lifelong pattern of behavior in the beginning." 

Houser said hazing often includes a component of sexual assault, and we need to change the way we talk about it. 

"I think we have to help shift people's understanding. It's not about ruining a young mans life," she said. "It's about getting a young person help so they don't go on to ruin the lives of tens or hundreds of other people across the life span. This is about helping both the victims and the perpetrators." 

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