Recent headlines of sexual abuse and hazing among male students has raised questions about what drives some boys towards such horrifying behaviour.

Psychologists say that hazing is bullying for the purpose of bonding, borne of a need to exert power and to subject someone to the same embarrassments that they once suffered.

“I believe they get caught up in the gang mentality at the moment,” Sevda Basar, a child therapist, told CTV News. “Being part of a team, being part of the boys…that frat house mentality really clouds their judgment.”

Last year, a Canadian study of university-aged students found that of the 434 participants surveyed, 59 per cent of them were hazed. More than 60 per cent of those who were victims of a hazing incident said it made them feel more connected to the team.

Jay Johnson, one of the study’s authors, said the evidence shows that despite years of messaging against it, hazing is still very much a part of sport culture.

“The largest change that I’d say we’ve seen is that in the last five years or so, we’ve seen a lot more prosecutions that are happening, a lot more cases that are being tried,” said Johnson, who has been studying hazing in sport for more than two decades. “We’re seeing not only charges, but convictions as well, including of minors and youth.”

That’s because the increased use of smartphones and social media is exposing not only the scope of the problem, but also its perpetrators.

While many in Canada believe the cycle of abuse that underlies hazing needs to end, the question of how to do that is more complicated.

Most American states have adopted anti-hazing legislation. The most recent was Pennsylvania, which amended its laws after a 19-year-old died during a hazing ritual at a frat party.

Canada has no specific anti-hazing legislation, but a patchwork of policies that fall under the purview of individual schools and sport organizations.

There are growing calls for one uniform policy at the federal level that everyone must follow.

“We have a consensus across the country that these things are wrong,” said Sandra Kirby, a sociologist who studies abuse in sport and former Olympic athlete. “We should have a consensus across the country about what policy will work to stop it.”

Johnson believes there should be a multi-pronged approach that ensures polices focus on team building.

“We need education and we need public awareness,” he said. “We also need to do something at the grassroots level with our youth. We need to actively change the culture.”

With a report by CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon