Allegations of hazing involving high school football players in Maryland’s suburban Montgomery County, reported earlier this month at state powerhouse Damascus High, now allegedly include a second group of gridiron competitors at Seneca Valley High, also in Montgomery County. Both cases could eventually result in serious criminal charges being lodged against the young men involved, including sexual assault and second-degree rape. Even more troubling, Damascus youth may have been participants in a long tradition known as “brooming” — a long-held, so-called myth that may actually be a more fact than fiction, after all.
Meanwhile, with the public demanding answers, what we’ve witnessed so far is tantamount to a carefully-crafted game of musical chairs as finger-pointing escalates. At the same time, claims by adult supervisors who should have known what was transpiring in the own locker rooms refute having any idea. Surely someone knew what was going on. Further, if they were indeed part of a tradition, then someone had to have served as an instructor, a guide, a mentor, a confidante. Someone knew something!
One day, the smoke will clear. But until then, and afterwards of course, a group of young men will forever be trapped in the midst of madness — both those who now face allegations of perpetuating various crimes and especially those victimized, and in multiple ways, violated all because they wanted to be accepted as members of a special “team.” And whether the spotlight is shining on them or not, they will inevitably discover how impossible it will be to extricate themselves unscathed.
They are now scarred physically, spiritually and emotionally — perhaps for a time — maybe for the rest of their lives.
As an 18-year-old freshman on the campus of the University of Michigan, I decided to join a fraternity — something that had not been among my goals prior to my becoming introduced to the Black fraternities and sororities on the yard. Yes, I had heard about hazing but figured it couldn’t be all that.
Wrong answer. It was bad, painful, humiliating, debasing — more than I could have imagined. One day, I decided I had had enough. But before I was able to let the “brothers” know, my father, never a fraternity pledgee himself, asked if they’d “hazed me.” (I knew what he meant). He sternly demanded that if I had been hazed, then I had no choice but to see it through. He wanted me to understand the costs that come when we make certain decisions. And learn I did.
We all find ourselves hoping and dreaming about becoming part of something special — being welcomed into an exclusive group whose members have privileges for which we long. But for the record, hazing is anything but safe. It can even be deadly. And I know from firsthand experience, it definitely isn’t fun.