A Manitoba hockey player recently revealed a hazing incident that altered and almost destroyed his life.
It took Carson Shields almost 10 years to do it, but now the 25-year-old encourages others to come forward right away.
"I was young. I was proud and it might have ended my junior career," he said about why he never told anyone — a move that he regrets.
"Maybe I wouldn't have spun completely out of control."
Shields said since he went public with the story, he's received a lot of support.
"It was all positive, which was really unexpected," he said.
Returning to the scene of the crime
As part of his recovery, Shields is now coaching. He's an assistant coach with the Transcona Railer Express in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League.
"The step [back] to junior was a big step," he said. "It was like returning to … it's almost like the scene of the crime."
Shields said helping the players and connecting with them is therapeutic. In December, Shields told the team about the hazing and the impact it had on him.
Team captain Greg Myall said Shields is brave for doing it.
"I think a story like Carson's can give guys an eye-opening as to what's funny and what's awful," Myall said.
Myall said at the Railer Express rookie party, they played a Jeopardy!-style game to quiz the guys. A rookie on the team told CBC News he felt safe the whole time.
Myall said when hazing happens, it's because it's a learned behaviour.
"It's kind of passed down through generations," he said. "If it happened to them, they're going to do the same thing to the guys."
Hazing permeates all sports
Shields story might sound dramatic and rare, but psychologist Susan Lipkins, a leading hazing expert in the United States, said it's not.
"In almost every community there is hazing that is happening," she said. "So those who say it's not happening or it doesn't count or boys will be boys, that isn't true."
In Manitoba, there have been some high-profile hazing incidents. In 2009, hazing allegations rocked Winnipeg private school St. John's Ravenscourt. Four students were arrested for assault and one pleaded guilty after allegations surfaced a younger student was sodomized with a walking stick.
In 2011, hazing sidelined the Neepawa Natives of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The incident attracted national attention when the parents of a 15-year-old player for the Natives who came forward with hazing accusations.
They told CBC News their son was forced to dance in the team's dressing room and drag around water bottles that were tied to his genitals. Sixteen players were suspended and the team was fined, but there were no charges.
Hazing help line
Hockey Canada's "Speak Out" program is aimed at things like hazing.
However, Shields wants the national hockey organization to add a hazing help line to its offence to end hazing. Shields said the phone line should be staffed by recovered hazing victims.
Todd Jackson oversees the Speak Out program for Hockey Canada. The senior manager says "Speak Out" is already linked to Kids Help Phone, but Jackson isn't ruling out Shields's idea.
"We would have to look at the logistics around that. Who would maintain it, who would answer the calls?" he said.
Jackson said Hockey Canada also recently launched an online tutorial for coaches and parents to crack down on hazing ahead of time.
"If everyone is aware and preventing and helping to create the environment we need, then we will have success," he said.
Hockey Canada and Shields agree the culture of hazing in sports has improved. Shields said he wants it gone for good.
"This hazing has to stop," Shields said. "One is more than what it should be."
Ways for kids to prevent or stop hazing:
- Depending on your position in the group (status, degree of power) you can try to influence others to think before they act, and to consider the long-term consequences.
- Create connections with your peers and have a plan of action in case a dangerous situation arises.
- If you are a bystander, do not go against the group alone. Unless you are in a powerful position of leadership, opposing the group as an individual will cause you pain and suffering. It you can organize the group to act together to prevent the perpetrators and the victims from getting into trouble, then do it. If not, do not try to stop violence alone. However, you can try to get help or report the incident as an individual — either anonymously or by revealing your identity.
Ways for parents to prevent their child from being hazed:
- Teach your children that no one has the right to violate their body.
- Model behaviours which you want them to imitate.
- Protect your child by making the school and other authorities accountable for the actions of their staff.
- Demonstrate by doing; therefore, have your child see you organize as a group in order to fight for a cause.
- Support your children when they sense danger or injustice. Discuss actions that they might do.
- Teach them, at the appropriate age (middle school) about hazardous hazing.
(Source: Susan Lipkins, psychologist and author of Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers and Coaches Can Stop the Violence, Harassment and Humiliation)