My client came forward like many who have suffered from hazing; he had a vague idea that he had been mistreated but did not know the extent of the harm, nor even that his suffering was the result of illegal activity.
The events leading to his physical injuries began when he entered Valley Forge Military Academy in fall, 2006. At first, it was name calling and light harassments. One of the adult officers even recommended that my client needed additional guidance and special attention. Regardless of whether this recommendation was intended to stoke the negative attention against my client, the suggestion was followed by increasingly bold and harmful activity.
The slander moved to direct insults. He was even told to kill himself. The hazing became physical. He was slapped. He was shot with a pellet gun. Then, on one spring day two of his classmates who were cadets came into his quarters, forced him into his dress uniform (including his ceremonial rifle). They bound his arms and legs with duct tape and then hung him on a door hook. He was left hanging and unable to move or escape.
Eventually, his uniform tore free, and he fell forward onto his rifle, losing several teeth and suffering facial lacerations. The fall knocked him out completely. His teeth were so severely damaged that it took over $5,000 in dental reconstruction before he looked like himself again.
He came into my office later that year courageously. It is not easy for an individual who has suffered from hazing to come forward. He/she has been taught within the closed group or institution that the practice is completely normal and even good for the group. But at heart, many who suffer severely from this ritualistic practice know they have been wronged.
Hazing does not help anyone involved – even the aggressors and institutions where the practice is commonplace. We took the case and immediately set about the task of assessing my client’s damages, as well as the institution’s responsibility in the matter.
Read my next post about Assessing Damages to see how we resolved the case in my client’s favor.