Hazing Victims Can Be Responsible, Too

WSB-TV Atlanta
WSB-TV Atlanta

Writing at the Huffington Post about the blame game surrounding recent hazing tragedies, Gregory S. Parks presents legal and practical reasons for examining the roles of hazing victims as well as perpetrators.

… While these deaths and injuries, and those suffered by many others, are tragic and problematic, it is a legitimate question to ask how much "blame" the aspiring members share. In part, it is a legal question. On the criminal side, at least sixteen states have language eliminating consent defenses in their anti-hazing statutes. On the civil side, Alabama is one of the few, if not the only, state that employs the assumption of risk doctrine to completely bar recovery for hazing against fraternities and sororities. Other jurisdictions recognize contributory negligence, which bans all recovery to the plaintiff due to his own negligence. Most jurisdictions, however, adhere to the doctrine of comparative negligence — reducing the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover in a negligence claim based on the plaintiff's percentage of fault toward the injury. As such, both civilly and criminally, courts at least can and do entertain the notion that hazing victims can play some role in their hazing experiences …

Even more, some hazing victims may be on due notice of the dangers of certain organizations. For example, my colleagues, Drs. Rashawn Ray, Shayne Jones, Matthew Hughey and I conducted an empirical study of black Greek-letter organization ("BGLO") members to see what they knew about the BGLO hazing experience and when they knew it …

While it may seem insensitive to "blame" hazing victims for their hazing experiences, the issue is not so much blame. It's a question of who are the various stakeholders who may play a vital role in ending, or at least seriously curtailing, hazing. Some critics and commentators argue that hazing will end when hazers stop hazing. That argument is as true as it is naïve. It's like saying that auto theft will stop when thieves stop stealing without considering the role that not having an alarm, leaving doors unlocked, and leaving valuables on the front seat play in victimization. If people want to get serious about addressing hazing, they have to be serious about assigning blame responsibility to those who are in a position to bring about change. And, without question, all too often hazing victims have that responsibility.

Read Gregory S. Parks' entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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