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Sexual Assault in High School Gets Covered Up with Hazing Label

Posted on: June 27th, 2017 by Romanucci & Blandin

There is a disturbing problem that has flown under the radar in many high schools across the country for years.  Many sexual assault incidents have been covered up by calling them hazing or bullying problems.

The AP examined sexual assault cases in high schools throughout the US as part of a broad investigation into student on student sexual assault.  They found 17,000 cases of reported abuse, but that barely touches the surface of sexual assault in high school.  Even more alarming, they found that sports played the largest role in both assaults and covering them up.

Investigators with the AP discovered that many cases of sexual assault within boys’ sports was commonly played down as hazing and never reported to officials.  The most common incident is older team members “initiating” younger teammates and what might start off as a hazing event quickly turns into sexual assault, with one or more parties injured and abused.

The problem goes even further when coaches and other officials know of this abuse but turn a blind eye or worse, try to cover it up.  The main concern coaches have is they don’t want to ruin a young man’s life by tagging him with a sexual offense.  Unfortunately, this just creates a vicious cycle, and experts have found that older sexual offenders had histories of abuse in their youth.  One expert, Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, stated, “I think we need to help shift people’s understanding.  It’s not about ruining a young man’s life.  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.”

Here at Romanucci & Blandin, we are all too familiar with this issue.  In fact, in February of this year, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parents of two Lake Zurich High School Students.  These students were subjected to a hazing ritual that included stripping naked and un-consensual sexual assault.  These problems are not going to stop by covering them up or mislabeling them as hazing and bullying.  We need to shine a light on these issues so we can help everyone involved in these incidents and keep our students safe.

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