A Nation of Sayrevilles indeed. Michael Kasdan digests the latest high school locker room hazing and abuse incident, this one in Doylestown, PA.
By now we are all familiar with the facts:
- Deeply troubling allegations of inappropriate hazing and sexual abuse at the hands of high school football players.
- A canceled football season.
- The outcry of students and parents, upset with the decision to cancel the remaining games.
But this isn’t another report about Sayreville. It’s a new report from another suburban high school, this one in Doylestown, a suburb outside of Philadelphia in idyllic Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
As reported by ThinkProgress and The Daily Record, Central Bucks High School West’s football season has been canceled by school administrators due to allegations of extreme hazing that involved forcing freshmen to touch other players’ genitals, as well some form of ‘waterboarding’ that involved placing towels over their heads and leading them into the showers.
I applaud the decision of the administration to cancel the season in Doylestown, just as in Sayreville. As the Superintendent, David Weitzel, stated, “I want to be clear that these activities did not result in physical harm, but were not harmless.” Only an absolute zero tolerance policy by decision-makers will teach that this behavior is not acceptable. This cannot be achieved by cowing to pressure of playing a game.
I am again aghast at the parents who do not understand this, who complain about the lost football games.
These incidents raise serious questions about our culture and about our values.
In my Good Men Project article about Sayreville, What’s Unusual About Sayreville’s Locker Room Sexual Assaults? Nothing, I openly wondered how often this type of sexual abuse based hazing happens. I noted that though much of the evidence is anecdotal, there is data indicating that it happens more often than we may realize and acknowledge, both on football teams and in fraternities. Some of the evidence is discussed in that article.
But let’s go back to the anecdotal for a moment. Since publishing the Sayreville article, I’ve personally heard a number of these anecdotes. From friends, in emails, in notes, in comments.
I’m beginning to think that these anecdotes are far more important than the statistics here. More true.
Salon republished our Sayreville article under the title, “A Nation of Sayrevilles: why locker room assault is all too common.” When I first saw that title, I remember thinking to myself, “Clever headlining, but ‘A Nation of Sayrevilles’? That’s a bit much.”
Now, after a week of hearing peoples stories, after reading about this next Sayreville in Doylestown, what I’m thinking is:
“A Nation of Sayrevilles indeed.”
There are a lot more Sayrevilles out there.
We abuse each other, physically, emotionally. We work violence on each other. We assault each other. And we let it happen over and over and over again.
Through our continual coverage of this issue, we are trying to promote a dialogue that puts us on the road towards change. Hopefully.
We need to keep shining a light on that which previously was just not talked about.
We – both parents and children – need to change from a culture of ‘just go through it’ and ‘just watch in silence’ to one where we speak out and say ‘this is not OK.’
For additional Good Men Project Sports coverage of this issue, see:
The Good Men Project, What’s Unusual About Sayreville’s Locker Room Sexual Assaults? Nothing, by Michael Kasdan
Salon.com, A Nation of Sayrvevilles: Why locker room sexual assault is all too common, by Michael Kasdan (reprint from The Good Men Project)
The Good Men Project, With Football and Hazing, History Repeats Itself, by Brian Patrick Harmon
BBC News, ‘It’s rape’: Sayreville High School players face charges of abusive hazing, citing and quoting Michael Kasdan of The Good Men Project.
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Jenni C
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