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Almost all U.S. states have outlawed hazing. Laws vary by state, but you can check on the regulations in your area.

What Is Hazing?

“Hazing” refers to any activities or tasks expected of someone joining a group that intend to humiliate, degrade or harm them, regardless of a person’s willingness to participate. This often occurs to wrongfully make new members think they must endure these activities to gain official membership into a group. Hazing can happen in any group setting, such as sports teams, Greek organizations, bands, clubs and societies. These activities may cause physical, mental or emotional abuse – or even death.

Colleges and universities have policies that prohibit hazing and enforce punishments for it. Please investigate the student code of conduct at your institution; the office of student life is a good place to start. View WVU’s anti-hazing code.

An activity is probably hazing if:

  • the activity is not educational;
  • it does not represent the values of the group;
  • only select members are participating;
  • you do not feel like an equal member of the group;
  • it puts members at risk for physical, mental or emotional trauma;
  • or you would not feel comfortable having others witness your activity.

Potential Signs of Hazing

If you observe any of the following signs in someone you know, they may be experiencing hazing:
  • sudden change in behavior after joining the group
  • physical, mental and emotional exhaustion
  • lack of communication
  • avoiding sharing the experiences they’re having in the group
  • claiming the experiences they’re having in the group are acceptable because “it’s their tradition” or because “it’s a rite of passage for new members”
  • decreased performance in school and other activities
  • physical abnormalities like scars, bruising, broken bones, illness and other injuries
  • weight loss
  • anger, anxiety, depression and other emotional signs
  • cancelling plans with friends or family at the last minute to do something with the group instead
  • an immense sense of loyalty to the group
  • other irregular behavior patterns

How to Prevent Hazing

  • Make groups aware of the dangers of hazing and its consequences.
  • Educate all members on hazing, its signs, how to report it and ways to prevent it.
  • Foster a safe, inclusive environment within groups by creating alternative group bonding and teamwork activities.
  • Encourage members to report any signs of hazing.
  • Take reports of hazing seriously and investigate them.
  • Hold members and leaders accountable if hazing arises. If a member knows hazing is occurring and fails to report it, they are just as responsible as those engaging in hazing.