When Hazing Becomes Assault
Posted by Scott Gorman - November 28, 2015

Fraternities, sororities and many sports teams consider hazing to be a time-honored tradition designed to build bonds and create solidarity among the group. Hazing is integral to many organizations’ vetting process—newcomers and applicants are forced to participate in silly or reckless acts to test their limits, prove their loyalty to the group and ultimately form bonds between the newbies and the long-standing members of the group. But when these hazing pranks go too far, or cross over into the territories of assault and sexual harassment, the criminal repercussions for traditional rituals could be severe, assault lawyers in Morris County say.

In a recent case, seven senior members of the Sayreville War Memorial High School football team—reportedly one of the best teams in the state—are facing a number of charges after freshmen team members alleged that the hazing they were forced to endure constituted sexual assault. Three of the team’s upperclassmen have been charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit sex crimes, criminal restraint and hazing. The other four are facing charges for multiple counts of conspiracy, aggravated assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact and hazing because they participated in the planning and execution of the events.

Hazing Crossed the Line

According to reports from one of the parents of a freshmen player, the Sayreville team’s upperclassmen hazed their incoming members by pinning them down in the locker room and inserting a finger into their rectums, then into their mouths. While the players may have viewed this activity as a harmless prank, the sexual nature of the crime can lead to serious, long-term consequences, especially for the ringleaders—the older team members who are 17 and 18, according to juvenile defense lawyers in Union County.

Although the students who are facing charges are still juveniles under the law, the severity of their crimes may allow the Middlesex County prosecutor to seek a waiver from the judge to have all seven teens tried as adults. As the teens await trial, they have been suspended from school and Sayreville’s coach has cancelled the rest of the football season. The cancellation is a blow for the varsity team, which has made the playoffs for the last 20 seasons and has won three state championships in the last four years.

Future Teams Have Been Warned

Additional steps have been taken to warn future team members about the consequences of hazing in any form, especially when it is of a sexual nature. New language has been added to the Sayreville Athletic Association sports programs that will stress the school’s zero tolerance policies for bullying, harassment and inappropriate behavior.

Know Your Options

At the Gorman Law Firm, our juvenile defense lawyers represent students in Morris County and the surrounding areas who have been charged with harassment or assault as a result of hazing traditions in their organizations. Often, these cases can quickly become subject to media frenzy and may lead to unfair accusations or actions against a young person. For a consultation on your case, contact Scott Gorman, an assault lawyer in Union County, today.

Published in Categories: Domestic Violence, Juvenile Defense