An Outside The Lines Investigation
A troubling trend is plaguing school athletic programs across the country: hazing incidents involving sodomy. Outside the Lines has found more than 40 such incidents since 2011, including seven so far this year.
The majority of these type of incidents likely never get reported, experts say, and no state or federal agency tracks them. A code of silence often prevents witnesses and victims from speaking out -- though some do. These are the stories of three victims.
Breaking The Silence
“I was just too scared to tell.”
In 2013, Josh Villegas was a 14-year-old freshman on the Oak Hills High School football team in Hesperia, California, when he says he was attacked while using a urinal inside a locker room bathroom. Overpowered by teammates, Josh says he was pinned against a wall face-first while another teammate sodomized him with his fingers. No suspects were identified and the case resulted in no criminal charges. But in July 2014, Josh and his mother sued the school district, alleging that coaches and administrators allowed to exist a "long-lasting tradition of ritual hazing and sadomasochistic sexual beatings." School officials, who completed their own investigation in about two days, found no wrongdoing and deny those allegations. That investigation was led by Bill Holland, a school police officer on the district's payroll, who had previously served as a volunteer freshman football coach. Josh's legal team has questioned the credibility and thoroughness of Holland's work.
Tracy Stopford, Jordan Preavy's mother: “Having that sexual abuse in front of his team devastated him. Devastated.”
In September 2011, at least two older teammates of Jordan Preavy, a junior on the Milton High School football team in Vermont, used a broom handle to sodomize the 16-year-old through his clothing as part of a hazing ritual. Witnesses told police that Jordan's head snapped back and he looked pained, yelling "No!" and "Get off!" Jordan never told his parents about the incident. Nearly a year later, on Aug. 28, 2012, just a few weeks after his 17th birthday, Jordan committed suicide. Milton school administrators first became aware in May 2013 that Jordan had been hazed, but they didn't report the incident to the proper authorities or notify Jordan's parents. It would be another year before police, while investigating other allegations of hazing on the Milton football team, discovered and finally informed the family about Jordan's hazing. Today, Jordan's parents are convinced that the incident contributed to his decision to take his own life and are suing the school district, claiming it failed to protect their son from being hazed. In a court response to the lawsuit, the district denied culpability, arguing that the broom handle did not break Jordan's clothing: "It is not likely that Preavy killed himself because on one occasion an object was pressed against his clothing in the buttocks." An independent report commissioned by the school district, though, criticized its officials for failing to report the attack on Jordan to authorities as required by school policy and state law. A criminal investigation into hazing on the Milton football team eventually led to the conviction of five football players on various charges.
“It takes a lot to get through this. But I think for me what ended up driving it was just focusing on that one goal: stopping it. ... If I didn't speak out, I didn't feel anyone else there that night would.”
In 2005, 18-year-old D'Arcy McKeown was a high-profile incoming center for the McGill University football team in Montreal. Soon after he arrived, he started hearing degrading and violent threats from some veteran players, including ominous references to “Dr. Broom” and a bizarre hazing ritual. D'Arcy shared his fears with his father, Bob McKeown, a CFL veteran and well-known TV journalist. Bob says he couldn't have imagined that the threats were more than just tough talk, so he advised D'Arcy to go along and be one of the guys. But on an August night on a squash court, away from staff and coaches, D'Arcy was sodomized with a broom handle while teammates cheered from the bleachers above. By the next day, D'Arcy was determined to fight back. He reported the incident to his head coach, and when he wasn't satisfied with his response, he went to the athletic director, university president and provost. D'Arcy's actions eventually led to player suspensions, forfeited games and major revisions to McGill's hazing policies. He ultimately decided to play football for the University of Toronto, walking away from McGill having never played a down.
In these three cases, school administrators often minimized the events or were ill-equipped to investigate what happened. The results were long-lasting and traumatic: “I'm always looking over my shoulder,” Josh Villegas says. “I'm always on edge.”
“It's become much more violent, sexually, since the internet,” says psychologist Susan Lipkins, who focuses her work on hazing. She believes that kids have become desensitized to sexuality and see this form of hazing as a way to humiliate others. “And I think with each year it gets worse and worse.”
Hazing in America
Last year, Vermont passed “Jordan's Law,” which requires school officials to report all hazing incidents to the Department for Children and Families within 24 hours. Before, districts had been allowed to conduct their own investigations first. Across the country, though, six states still have no hazing laws, seven have laws that don't extend to the high school level, 13 exclude “athletic events” from hazing laws, and only one state, Nebraska, actually mentions "sexual penetration" in its hazing law. Below, a state-by-state breakdown of laws, as well as a listing of all the reports found by OTL of sodomy hazing in high schools since 2011.
|State||Illegal?||Felony or Misdemeanor||Incidents Since 2011||School, town and place of incident|
|Arizona||Yes||Law doesn't specify|
|California||Yes||Law doesn't specify||3||Oak Hills High, Hesperia (locker room); Westlake High, Westlake Village (hotel room); La Puente High, La Puente (storage room)|
|Connecticut||Yes||Law doesn't specify|
|Florida||Yes||Law doesn't specify||1||Cooper High, Cooper City (hotel room)|
|Georgia||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Parkview High, Lilburn (hotel room)|
|Idaho||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Dietrich High, Dietrich (locker room)|
|Illinois||Yes||Law doesn't specify||3||St. Francis de Sales High, Chicago (locker room); Plano High, Plano (locker room); Maine West High, Des Plaines (training run)|
|Indiana||Yes||Law doesn't specify||2||Clark High, Hammond (locker room); Wood Memorial High, Oakland City (unknown)|
|Iowa||Yes||Misdemeanor||2||Clarion-Goldfield-Dows High, Clarion (side room); Nodaway Valley High, Greenfield (locker room)|
|Kansas||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Great Bend High, Great Bend (bus)|
|Kentucky||Yes||Law doesn't specify|
|Maine||Yes||Law doesn't specify|
|Massachusetts||Yes||Misdemeanor||2||Somerville High, Somerville (camp); Chelmsford High, Chelmsford (camp)|
|Michigan||Yes||Law doesn't specify||1||Constantine High, Constantine (house)|
|Minnesota||Yes||Law doesn't specify||1||Browerville High, Browerville (locker room/classroom)|
|Missouri||Yes||Law doesn't specify||2||Hardin-Central High, Hardin (locker room); Principia Upper, St. Louis (dorm/camp)|
|Montana||No||N/A||1||Glacier High, Kalispell (bus)|
|Nebraska||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Maxwell High, Omaha (camp)|
|New Jersey||Yes||Felony||1||Sayreville War Memorial High, Sayreville (locker room)|
|New York||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Bronx High School of Science, New York (unknown)|
|North Carolina||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||McDowell County High, Marion (locker room)|
|Oklahoma||Yes||Misdemeanor||3||Southmoore High, Moore (locker room); Norman High, Norman (bus); Ardmore High, Ardmore (unknown)|
|Oregon||Yes||Law doesn't specify||2||Grant High, Portland (locker room); Philomath High, Philomath (camp)|
|Pennsylvania||Yes||Misdemeanor||2||Conestoga High, Berwyn (locker room); Leechburg High, Leechburg (locker room)|
|South Carolina||Yes||Law doesn't specify||1||Walhalla High, Walhalla (bus)|
|Tennessee||Yes||Law doesn't specify||1||Ooltewah High, Ooltewah (cabin)|
|Texas||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Edison High, San Antonio (locker room)|
|Utah||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Bountiful High, Bountiful (bus)|
|Vermont||Yes||Misdemeanor||1||Milton High, Milton (locker room)|
|Virginia||Yes||Misdemeanor||2||Strasburg High, Strasburg (bus); Spotsylvania High, Spotsylvania (locker room)|
|Washington||Yes||Misdemeanor||2||Juanita High, Kirkland (locker room); Capital High, Olympia (locker room)|
|West Virginia||Yes||Law doesn't specify|
|Wisconsin||Yes||Law doesn't specify||1||Lincoln High, Wisconsin Rapids (locker room)|
What has to change? Lipkins says there needs to be greater awareness and accountability, so that victims feel more comfortable coming forward and going to the courts. “If we can't break the code of silence, we're not going to change things.”