When team initiation becomes sexual assault

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To the editor:

We have heard the Jerry Sandusky excuse of “just horsing around” in the showers. We hear the words, "I was just joking," and "It was a prank." But some of these behaviors are actually physical assaults and illegal.


Currently a case in western Pennsylvania involves an investigation of hazing by the senior members of a football team. The behavior under investigation is commonly referred to as "brown nosing."

Some may think of the behavior as a type of "mooning"– showing a bare buttocks, then forcing the bare buttocks on the face of another. It is done under coercion and is meant to intimidate and humiliate the victim. One person bares the buttocks and others are needed to hold the victim down.

According to news reports from Pittsburgh, the board of education is investigating. There is no mention of a criminal investigation. However, an Internet search of the term "brown nosing" listed incidences in New Jersey that could provide some guidance for the board of education in the Pittsburgh area.

In 2008, two 14-year-old boys "brown nosed" two younger schoolmates. A judge ruled that the behavior was a sexual assault, even though the boys’ attorney argued that it was just "horseplay." A July 2011 article indicated that the boys had to register as sex offenders under the Megan's Law statutes. The term “sexual predator” would be attached to their names for the rest of their lives.

No doubt the boys in both instances acted in ignorance of the law. But ignorance of the law is not a defense.

Forced sexual contact is a sexual assault.

Some may be naive to think that this type of behavior is innocent or it doesn't happen here. It is not innocent and it did occur on a local city's baseball team several years ago. No one pressed charges.

Hopefully, with all the information out there about child assault prevention, parents and youth leaders are having the discussion about what constitutes safe behavior among peer groups.

Group thinking often takes over with team initiations. "Take it for the team” they say.

Well, no one has to take any type of sexual assault for any team. Not only is hazing a criminal offense, but “brown nosing” is a sexual assault.

Prevention is defensive, sexual assaults are offensive.

Marian R. Carlino

Somers Point

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