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What Happened To These Freshmen Football Players Isn’t Hazing, It’s Sexual Assault

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Sayreville high school football hazingSayreville War Memorial High School’s football season has been cancelled after horrifying allegations of locker room “hazing” were recently made public. I put “hazing” in quotes here not because I am 100-years-old, but because what happened to these kids was not hazing but sexual assault.

Here is how the attacks were described to NJ Advance Media in an exclusive interview with the parent of one of the team’s players:

It would start with a howling noise from a senior football player at Sayreville War Memorial High School, and then the locker room lights were abruptly shut off.

In the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth.

That’s not hazing. That’s not funny. That’s sexual assault, and that is hideous.

This New Jersey High School football team is considered elite, having won three state championships in the last four years. Football is a big deal in this town, and parents are furious. Not because of the actions of some of the senior players against freshmen players, but because their football got taken away. A story in Gawker quoted one angry parent as saying:

“I was at the police station with him when they were questioning him,” she said. “They were talking about a butt being grabbed. That’s about it. No one was hurt. No one died. I don’t understand why they’re being punished. I think that the forfeited game was punishment enough.”

Holy shit. Really? Her defense for her son is, “No one died”? Outstanding. Way to go, team, for not murdering anyone.

She is dead wrong, however, when she argues that no one was hurt. First of all, on a purely physical level, having an un-lubricated finger shoved into your anus is painful. Second, these boys were pinned down in the dark and violated. That sounds agonizing and traumatizing to me. Third, they then had to call these guys their teammates and see them every day. That is demoralizing and humiliating.

Did I mention that these assaults are said to have happened every day during the fall football season?  And that the freshmen would race to the locker rooms after practice to try to get out of there before the seniors showed up because they were so scared of them?

The practice of hazing, in and of itself, disgusts me. The idea that you get to humiliate and hurt people who are less powerful than you and then call it a bonding experience is monstrous. It gives predators and people with no conscious a green light to assault and debase people however they like. But let’s be clear — once you violate someone’s body, that is a crime. That is sexual assault. That is rape. And referring to it in the news as a case of “fingers in butts” and making it seem like some kind of harmless roughhousing is appalling.

(Photo: Twitter)

50 Comments

  1. Valerie

    October 9, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Oh God this makes me ill. Maybe my son will just join the chess club or something. Just kidding. But not really.

  2. Ursi

    October 9, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Your kid’s a rapist and you’re concerned about whether or not he can play football?

    What. The. Fuck.

    • keelhaulrose

      October 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      She would be the type of mother who is standing on the courthouse steps as her son is arraigned for a serious crime saying “he’s a good kid” even if there is indisputable evidence to the contrary.

      I hope this sends a message, that (hopefully) the times are changing and being an athlete isn’t a “get out of jail free” pass anymore.

  3. Jen TheTit Whisperer

    October 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I was “hazed” in school. Which meant as a freshman I had to carry the bag of soccer balls or bats and had to sit at the front of the bus. Seriously that was it. This? This is disgusting. And if someone thinks this was just “all in good fun” and “no one died” they are disgusting. Kudos for the school shutting down the program for a year. Maybe some of those students will realize their actions have consequences.

    • Spongeworthy

      October 9, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Yup. Freshmen carried the equipment, freshmen got the bad seats on the bus and were last to get to shower. Oh, and at the last practice of the season, freshmen had to wear the smelliest scrimmage vests. No sexual assault–imagine that!
      I’m also glad they shut it down for the year. Usually this type of behavior is part of the culture of the team and a “tradition”–they need strict, harsh consequences to stop this, not a slap on the wrist.

    • Jen TheTit Whisperer

      October 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      I just hope those boys aren’t bullied punished by seniors or others as repercussions.

    • Spongeworthy

      October 9, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      Yea, me too.

    • alexesq33

      October 10, 2014 at 8:17 am

      just saw this. I agree and mentioned something similar – unfortunately, I feel like they may be….the town is already up in arms over lost football season…

    • Gruzinkerbell

      October 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      My high school had similar “hazing” for the incoming grade nines. You got to pick between getting hugged by like six of the senior students at once or getting a big ‘9’ drawn on your arm in washable ink. That was ‘all in good fun’ though and as far as I know, if any of the new grade nines objected, the older students didn’t make them go through with it.

    • Boozy Shark Lee

      October 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      I was hazed at swim team. I got a surprise pick up and had to put a
      swimsuit on over my clothes and wear a swim cap to go out to eat. The
      upperclassmen even covered the freshman’s meals. Parents were also
      called beforehand for permission and to arrange pick up. That is all
      good fun. Sexual assault is never “all in good fun”.

    • Nimue

      October 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Yeah the senior soccer ladies hazed us freshman by “making” us play a game of rugby against them in the mud and rain. That was it, that was our hazing. We lost the game, but it was so much fun. And it was an actual bonding experience.

    • alexesq33

      October 10, 2014 at 8:16 am

      I was hazed as part of a sorority and it was NOTHING EVEN CLOSE to this. It was basically doing stuff for the sisters, not getting enough sleep, having to clean up glitter (yes, I know, blegh) that they would pour in our drawers and on our carpets before the next day. Nothing alcohol related or sex related. I for sure would have known that was wrong and I don’t see how people can feel close to people who have violated them in this way. This is akin to date rape – being violated by a person you thought you could trust.
      ETA – and in the same way, I hope those poor freshmen are not blamed for this, but I’m sure they will be – it sounds like that kind of town.

  4. guest

    October 9, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    I think that lady might feel differently if someone turned off all the lights at work and a finger was shoved up her rectum and then into her mouth. Just sayin.
    I also will never understand how it seems boys in particular in high school are so quick to call out gay slurs but they do stuff like this… wut? Does. not. compute.

    • Ursi

      October 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Because rape is not about sex in many cases it’s about power. And this kind of sexual assault is primarily done to humiliate the victim. There is no element of desire here. When straight men do this to other men they don’t think twice about any gay subtext. It’s all about control.

    • guest

      October 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      It just makes no sense. But I guess that is how one feels about this when they aren’t a crazy person.

    • Spongeworthy

      October 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing re: the parent quoted. Even if it was “just grabbing butts”(which it clearly wasn’t), would this woman think it was no big deal if a couple of her co-workers grabbed her butt every day? She wouldn’t want the person doing that disciplined?

    • alexesq33

      October 10, 2014 at 8:13 am

      Agree. I think people have (from movies maybe?) a skewed view of how things should operate in a locker room. If you were showering after pilates and the other women in the gym did this to you, would that be ok?

    • OptimusPrime*

      October 9, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Kinsey basically claimed that his male research informants all had homo-erotic encounters as children or young adults. He concluded that sexual identity was a continuum (we’d probably say that it is fluid today).

    • cabecb

      October 9, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      My mom worked with middle and high school boys. From her I learned boys that age are nasty and touchy. Even in my own experience with working with that age, they liked to touch each other in a gross way. It is weird because girls usually don’t do this crap.

  5. SunnyD847

    October 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    This is horrifying. Canceling the season MAY help break the cycle of violence and teach these young men a valuable lesson. I only hope the complainants are not further victimized by classmates/teachers/parents etc.

    • Katherine Handcock

      October 9, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      I say don’t cancel the season; kick the seniors off the team and let the hazed kids play. They shouldn’t have something they (presumably) really wanted cancelled in addition to having such a terrible crime committed against them.

    • SunnyD847

      October 9, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      Yeah, but the coaches and other staff may have been complicit. They need to clean house and make a fresh start. The younger players will still have the opportunity to play in the future – if they even want to anymore.

      My husband went to the University of San Francisco which in the 70’s had a dominant basketball program. In the early 80’s a bunch of scandals revealed all sorts of corruption from paid players to grade tampering and sexual assault. The University canceled the program entirely and didn’t have basketball for 4 or 5 years. I really respected that they did that despite the howls of alumni. Institutions as well as individuals need to take responsibility for the culture of entitlement that surrounds athletics.

    • Katherine Handcock

      October 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      I understand what you’re getting at, and I agree that the school needs to make 100% sure that staff etc. weren’t complicit in the “hazing.” But it just makes me think of a comment I read about kids who report sexual abuse by a family member: if they do the right thing and report, the first thing that happens is that THE KID gets pulled out of their home by social services/police, and therefore has to leave behind other family members, their pets, their toys, their room etc. So essentially systems punish those who do the right thing by reporting.

      Effectively, I feel like cancelling the season entirely for the players who reported would be punitive. If nothing else, since the superintendent quoted elsewhere in the comments seems to have a head that’s screwed on right, maybe the kids who did report can play for another local high school.

    • pixie Ninja Tits

      October 10, 2014 at 12:24 am

      My university cancelled the hockey program (Canadian, so hockey is a big thing here) because of an investigation of sexual assault made by a few team members at an away game last season. The head coach was apparently fired, too, because he was apparently made aware of the situation but did nothing. This was sexual assault against a young woman in the community where they were playing, though, at a party or something. So many people were pissed, but Im actually glad the university took it seriously and suspended the team as soon as they found out.

    • Spongeworthy

      October 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      The problem is that hazing like this is usually part of the team culture, and handed down year-to-year–at considered

  6. keelhaulrose

    October 9, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Lady, your son should be charged with sexual assault. Then maybe you’ll gain a bit of perspective that a criminal act is a much bigger deal than a fucking football season.

  7. nikki753

    October 9, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    If I found out that my child had done something so terrible to another person, I don’t think that my reaction would be to be pissed off that he can’t play football this year. Probably something more on the horrified, ashamed, humiliated, appalled, questioning where I went wrong, and where to go from here. But that’s just me…

    • C.J.

      October 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Me too, and they wouldn’t be doing anything else fun either for a really long time.

    • Kelly

      October 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      I swear, if my parents had found out
      that I had known about something like this in high school and didn’t do/say
      something and instead just stood by silently and let it happen for weeks, let alone months or years, I know I would have been
      in more trouble than I ever could have imagined. Even if team/club wasn’t disbanded for the
      year, I can promise I wouldn’t have participated again that year – or probably
      ever again – and that would have barely been the start of the punishment.

  8. Katherine Handcock

    October 9, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    No matter how much I read about group psychology and how these things happen, I cannot wrap my head around it. I cannot fathom ever being around people who are planning this and thinking, “What the heck, it may SEEM awful, but everyone is doing it!”

    Independent of any criminal charges (and there had better be some), I hope the seniors are out for the season. Not only would that give the kids who were attacked more time on the field, but it would also likely pose a real problem when it came to college application time. Nothing like some natural consequences to drive a lesson home.

    • Ursi

      October 9, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      Group psychology scares the shit out of me. People always think they’re immune, but you just don’t know until you’re in that situation.

      A girl I know told me a story once about how she saw another girl get falling down drunk at a party until she was kind of half out of it lying on the couch. Some of the guys there started gesturing towards her and laughing about it and then gradually it became apparent to her that one or more of the guys were going to rape her. Body language, aggressive behavior, touching the unconscious girl etc. No one was going to do anything so she went over and sat near her and started trying to wake her up and I guess she got the girl out of there, thank God. But the idea that a bunch of guys had just come to an agreement on sexually assaulting a girl because no one was to speak up and say anything… People are terrifying when they’re reduced to a herd mentality.

    • Katherine Handcock

      October 10, 2014 at 5:18 am

      It’s terrifying. Both my husband and I have been in minor group psychology situations, and we’ve both been able to stand up and say, “Nope, not happening.” But we also both know that’s no guarantee that, when it comes to the big stuff — if something major was really on the line — we’d be able to do the same

  9. guest

    October 9, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Yeah, I remember when my brothers two friends got moved to Varsity (this was maybe class of 2000) they were held down in the locker room and between the two of them there was shaving of eyebrows, legs, genitals, and someone peed on them. Yep. I’m pretty sure the parents pressed charges if I remember correctly. No just because it was foul but being forcibly shaved they got cut up really badly. Just wtf.

  10. ted3553

    October 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    I had an ex tell me about his junior hockey team hazing which involve sticking a chopstick coated in icy hot up a newbies’ butt. Not much fazes me but this horrified me. He was very much of the mindset that this is just what happened. I don’t even know what I’d do (because I’d be so incredulous) if I heard my son did this to someone else.
    I can be ok with hazing when it’s fun like wearing a ridiculous outfit, not when it’s rape or sexual assault.

  11. LeggEggTorpedoTits

    October 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Here’s a quote from the school superintendent:

    “…Superintendent Richard Labbe told the newspaper the hazing ‘took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level, and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated, and in general accepted.'”

    How horrible that children felt compelled to dismiss the humiliation and severity of the assault as a condition of being “part of the team”. How did this not get caught sooner?

    • rockmonster

      October 9, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      That God the super doesn’t have his head up his ass.

    • Spongeworthy

      October 9, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      It’s hard to speak up as a freshman. You’re on the team, you want to belong, and the older kids explain it as a rite of passage. No doubt the older kids, even the ones who didn’t participate, knew what was going on. The freshmen probably looked up to these older kids. And the assault itself is humiliating–not surprising they didn’t want to tell others.

  12. LaughingRat

    October 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    But the football! What about the football? Don’t you know football is more important than student safety? And more important than books? That’s why we spend more money on the football than we do on our teachers! Why can’t anyone else see what’s really important here?!

  13. rockmonster

    October 9, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    But mah footballz!

  14. MAC

    October 9, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    The attitude of mother quoted in the piece is all the justification needed to shut the program down for the season. When the Penn State/Sandusky thing was happening I thought that program should be shut down for awhile. Not to punish the current players, who I felt for, but because the way the fans and the community completely lost their shit over a football program to the exclusion of any sympathy for the victims proves that the community needed to take a timeout from football and reexamine their priorities.
    If your community prioritizes football over basic human decency, taking away football is an easy call.

  15. tk88

    October 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    The parebt reaction doesn’t surprise me. Remember in the late 80s when the Glen Ridge, NJ football team assaulted a mentally challenged girl? Everyone was so upset at how this would ruin the boys’ lives! And shit, this thing happened every time they played? It would be bad enough if it was just once!

    • SunnyD847

      October 10, 2014 at 1:03 am

      Just like those nice boys in Stubenville having their lives ruined by that nasty rape thing!

  16. jen27

    October 9, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Wow. In the article it said nearly 100 people showed up to the BOE meeting (which was already on the schedule) to complain that the season was cancelled. 100 grown ass people, showing up at a meeting of the BOE, whining about not getting to watch high school boys play football and downplaying how horrible the rape/assault of these children are. What a fucking bunch of assholes.

  17. whiteroses

    October 9, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I have to wonder how that mom would have reacted if someone shoved their finger up her son’s butt. Something tells me she wouldn’t be so cavalier about it.

    • alexesq33

      October 10, 2014 at 8:30 am

      and it could have happened to her son! This wasn’t just one year, it’s a “tradition of hazing”. I’d be more concerned with finding out what was done to my son when he was a freshman.

  18. AlbinoWino

    October 9, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Where did kids get these weird creepy ideas? Is it like one freaky kid does it and decides it’s a thing and it needs to happen to everyone to make them tough or something? Yuck.

  19. alexesq33

    October 10, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Sex offenders. Period.

  20. alexesq33

    October 10, 2014 at 8:19 am

    First of all – why the F wasn’t there an assistant coach or SOMEONE in the locker room besides these kids? This isn’t a pearl-clutch-y statement – shouldn’t there be a teacher/coach/aid in any room students are in at any time on school property? Just for liability sake?
    ETA: they don’t need to be standing there where they’re showering, but just at the door or off in a corner somewhere or an office – where they would see lights going off, etc.

  21. SocraticParent

    October 10, 2014 at 9:26 am

    This is sexual assault. It’s important that we call it what it is. Yes, it’s also hazing, harassment, intimidation, and bullying, and we may be more comfortable with these euphemistic understatements of the conduct, but the real crime here under the NJ criminal statutes I’m reading is not just sexual assault, but aggravated sexual assault. Because of the pervasiveness of the practice, every upper classman was complicit and is a potential defendant. Those who are 18 years old must be charged as adults. The others may very likely be waived into adult court even though they are still juveniles based upon the seriousness of the offense.
    Here are the relevant New Jersey statutes for anyone who wants to read them:

    2C:14-2. Sexual assault. a. An actor is guilty of aggravated sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual penetration with another person under any one of the following circumstances: (5) The actor is aided or abetted by one or more other persons and the actor uses physical force or coercion;

    2C:14-1. Definitions. c. “Sexual penetration” means vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus,
    fellatio or anal intercourse between persons or insertion of the hand, finger
    or object into the anus or vagina either by the actor or upon the actor’s
    instruction. The depth of insertion shall not be relevant as to the question of
    commission of the crime;

    2C:2-6. Liability for conduct of another; complicity. a. A person is guilty of an offense if it is committed by his own conduct or by the conduct of another person for which he is legally accountable, or both. …c. A person is an accomplice of
    another person in the commission of an offense if: (1) With the purpose of promoting or facilitating the commission of the offense; he (a) Solicits such other person to commit it; [or] (b) Aids or agrees or attempts to aid such other person in planning or
    committing it;

    2A:4A-26. Referral to another court without juvenile’s consent. 7. a. On motion of the prosecutor, the court shall, without the consent of the juvenile, waive jurisdiction over a case and refer that case from the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part to the appropriate court and prosecuting authority having jurisdiction if it finds, after hearing, that: (1) The juvenile was 14 years of age or older at the time of the charged delinquent act; and (2) There is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed a delinquent act or acts which if committed by an adult would constitute:
    (a) Criminal homicide other than death by auto, strict liability for drug induced deaths, pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-9, robbery which would constitute a crime of the first degree, carjacking, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated assault which would constitute a crime of the second degree, kidnapping, aggravated arson, or gang criminality pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2007, c.341 (C.2C:33-29) where the
    underlying crime is enumerated in this subparagraph or promotion of organized
    street crime pursuant to section 2 of P.L.2007, c.341 (C.2C:33-30) which would
    constitute a crime of the first or second degree which is enumerated in this
    subparagraph;

  22. Leah

    October 10, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    This is disgusting and qualifies as sexual assault. High school boys(jocks especially) are notoriously homophobic,yet they do this in the name of a joke?

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