Over the past few years, a growing number of youth-athlete hazing incidents across the country have involved disturbing allegations of sexual assault. This past year alone, three high school basketball players in Tennessee were charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault after allegedly sodomizing a 15-year-old teammate; three high school football players in Tennessee were charged with assault after allegedly penetrating a freshman teammate’s rectum with a broom handle; and six high school basketball players in Virginia were charged in connection to simlar allegation of sexual assault involving one of their 16-year-old teammates.
On Tuesday evening, ESPN’s Outside the Lines debuted an hour-long feature about the disturbing trend. Since 2011, OTL found more than 40 hazing incidents involving sodomy, including seven this year, according to an accompanying written report. Experts told OTL that 1.5 million high school students are victims of some form of hazing each year, not all of which include a sexual assault component.
“For the last eight months, Outside the Lines has been investigating a series of violent, athletic hazing incidents with one troubling common thread—all of the victims have been sodomized,” said OTL reporter John Barr in a statement. “Hazing victims with the courage to break the code of silence, police, who specialize in investigating sex crimes and experts, who’ve studied this phenomenon have all helped to lift the veil of secrecy on what’s become disturbingly-ritualized behavior.”
The OTL special report features the stories of three student-athletes who were victims of hazing assaults: Josh Villegas of Hesperia, Calif., Jordan Preavy of Milton, Vt, and D’Arcy McKeown of Toronto, Canada. The now-17-year-old Villegas said he was touched inappropriately “every day” as a 14-year-old freshman football player.
School officials became aware of Preavy’s assault months before police did, but they did not report it immediately. That led Preavy’s parents to file a civil lawsuit against the Milton Town school district, alleging that it failed to protect him against hazing. The player who assaulted Preavy spent 12 days in jail for simple assault and felony unlawful restraint.
McKeown, a former football player at McGill University in Montreal, shared his story with OTL as well. In 2005, when McKeown was an incoming freshman at McGill, older teammates would taunt younger players with the threat of “Dr. Broom,” he told OTL. He described his brutal assault and said he promptly informed his coaches of what happened, quit the team, and filed a formal complaint with the university. As a result, the university suspended six players involved with the incident and cancelled the football team’s final two games of the season.
Those interested in viewing the Outside the Lines feature can stream it on WatchESPN (as long as you have ESPN in your cable package).
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.