Don’t blame the boys of Whitehorse’s under-14 soccer team who tied up three teammates, wrote obscenities on their bodies, squirted toothpaste in their ears and sprayed them with water at recent tournaments, says Doug Green.
Blame the adults who excuse such behavior.
“This isn’t the kids’ fault. The kids are just doing what other kids did before them. This is the fault of my generation, who were hazed, who went through the rituals as athletes, who believe there’s something valid in this whole process,” said Green, who is the drug awareness co-ordinator at Porter Creek Secondary School.
He also teaches kids about bullying.
Green has listened to comments made in the wake of the hazings that occurred at a Labour Day tournament in Langley, BC, and at the nationals in October in Charlottetown, PEI.
Much of what he hears disturbs him.
Of particular concern are comments made by the coach of Whitehorse’s U-12 and U-14 girls’ teams, who told the Canadian Press, “I think it has been made out to be more than it is and I think that it’s sad.”
“It’s pretty unfortunate for the accused kids to be made out to be town bullies,” said Monique Bennett.
“For 14-year-old boys to be made out to be criminals by the community is unfortunate. They made a mistake, but most people make mistakes. From what we know there were no criminal acts.”
She’s wrong on several counts, said Green, who worked for the Edmonton police force for 25 years.
The hazings fit the criminal code’s definition of assault, he said.
He’s also disturbed by suggestions that the victims consented to be hazed. Young boys cannot consent to such acts, he said.
“Just because a kid sits down and takes it, and doesn’t cry, and might even laugh, doesn’t mean they’re having fun. Those are human responses to being a victim,” said Green.
“I’m almost waiting for someone to say they wanted it. It’s insinuated.”
Some comments to online CBC stories have suggested one player agreed to be hazed.
“That’s like saying the lady who was sexually assaulted, who didn’t fight back, deserved it. That’s the same argument,” said Green.
“If someone has consented to that, there’s a problem. Because they’re not mature enough to be out there on their own, without appropriate supervision,” he added.
Some, including the president of the soccer association, has expressed concern only one side of the story is being heard.
“What exactly is the other side?” asked Green. “That they liked it?”
Defending the hazings sends a message to kids that such behavior is acceptable, said Green.
He has a simple test for anyone who suggests otherwise.
Imagine the same thing happened to your child, outside of a sports environment.
“Because you put it in the context of sport, it makes it OK,” he said.
Leave such behavior unaddressed and “it festers,” said Green. Then it escalates.
He points to McGill University, where, in 2005, the varsity football team was suspended for a year after one player spoke up about being hazed.
Junior players had been gagged, stripped and told they would be sodomized with a broomstick.
“One is an extension of the other. We just get better at it when we get older,” said Green.
“It’s never funny enough. It’s never nasty enough. And the reality at the end of the day is that the guys who are perpetrating these acts are doing it for power and control.”
Kids learn to behave this way. They learn it from adults.
This weekend the soccer team was supposed to meet with a facilitator and sports psychologist to discuss the hazings. Three perpetrators have been suspended for an undisclosed period of time. Brian Gillen, president of the Yukon Soccer Association, has said the length of suspension has not been released to protect the identity of the young perpetrators.
Green doesn’t buy it.
The identities of the students involved are no secret to Whitehorse students — so it goes with the terms of the punishment. Kids talk. So protecting anonymity is “a moot point,” said Green.
All accounts suggest the students received a suspension substantially shorter than the one-year term suggested by the parents of the victims.
This means the perpetrators would miss soccer practice during the winter, but they should be able to play during tournaments next summer.
But less important than the length of punishment is the way it has been discussed by the soccer association, said Green. Speaking openly about the terms of punishment would have sent a message the soccer association is taking a strong stand against the hazings, he said.
An investigation into the hazings should have been conducted by someone outside the organization who is qualified to interview young victims, said Green. Instead, it was conducted by Gillen, who Green suggests is in a conflict of interest.
It took several weeks for victims to come forward and complain. Had there been a relationship of trust between soccer authorities and players, this would have happened sooner, said Green.
None of this is the fault of the perpetrators. If anything, they too have become victims now that the story is national news.
“They didn’t tie that kid up to become a Canada-wide story,” said Green. “They probably did it because it happened to their brothers, or their fathers, and somewhere along the line people have persuaded these people it’s right.”
“This is a culture. The kids are only doing what’s learned.”
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