In early October, a disturbing story emerged from the small town of Sayreville, New Jersey, with allegations that upperclassmen on the Sayreville War Memorial High School football team were sexually assaulting their freshman teammates.
â€œIt would startÂ with a howling noise from a senior football player at Sayreville War Memorial High School, and then the locker room lights were abruptly shut off,” NJ.com reported in an exclusive report. “In the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman playerâ€™s mouth.â€
According to reports, this gut-wrenching behavior was occurring in the locker room nearly every day, with several students participating while others watched, and nobody did anything to stop the behavior. Seven players, aged 15 to 17, have been charged with sexual assault so far.
Following the allegations, the district superintendent canceled the remainder of the high school’s football season.
MaleSurvivor executive director Christopher Anderson told The Good Men Project that the number of boys facing sexual assault is likely much higher than we realize, and that a “boys will be boys” mentality only condones further abuse.
“Hazing is a power play,” Michael Kasdan wrote for The Good Men Project, in reaction to the Sayreville case. “And itâ€™s an ugly self-reinforcing cycle. Those who were once victims ascend to the role of alpha males, where they get to inflict harms on a new set of victims, and put their own victimhood behind them… What was going on in the Sayreville locker roomÂ was not an exercise in character building. It was an exercise in asserting dominance over victims; it was an exercise inÂ abuse.”
The former co-director of National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention, Mary Madden, also commented on the pervasiveness of locker room sexual assault under the guise of hazing:
â€œMore and more weâ€™re seeing this among male high-school athletes, where this is their mode of hazing: some kind of sexual assault that involves anal penetration. We donâ€™t know if itâ€™s getting more severe, or whether itâ€™s just getting discovered more often.â€
In 2013, the National Crime Victimization Survey found that in a rape and sexual violence survey of 40,000 households, 38 percent of reported sexual abuse incidents were against men. Additional research shows that 1Â in 6Â men have experienced abusive sexual experiences before age 18.