While popular conceptions of hazing involve brutal rites of passage to join fraternities and other social organizations, the new digital trend is “friend hazing,” in which adolescents are victimized without warning by peers they thought were their friends, apparently only for sadistic enjoyment and online notoriety.
On March 16, 2023, a violent attack took place in Australia at a sleepover. Kirra Hart, age 14, was brutally attacked during the night by three other girls. She was repeatedly punched and received several knife wounds. Due to her severe injuries, she was hospitalized and underwent surgeries in hopes of recovery. Not only did her assailants physically harm her, but they also recorded several videos of the assault and posted them on social media, which sparked outrage around the world.
After the attack, online petitions and fund-raisers were launched in support of Hart and her family, as well as to identify and target her assailants. Soon, social-media users were presented with the first and last names of three girls alleged to be “the leaders behind this hideous crime.” Then came a wave of TikTok videos of self-appointed vigilantes purportedly breaking into these girls’ houses and destroying their property.
As the aftermath of the Hart attack went viral and spiraled out of control, corporate coverage was basically nil. The story was kept alive on social media primarily by creators/influencers to raise awareness of the issue. Some influencers have gone so far as to call out corporate news outlets in Australia to question why this story hasn’t reached as far as it could.
Barsha Roy, “‘How Sadistic Must You Be to Do That’: Kirra Hart Sleepover Video Sparks Outrage as Gofundme Raises Thousands of Dollars,” Sportskeeda, March 27, 2023.
Prakash Israni, “Is Kirra Hart Dead Or Alive? Sleepover Bashed Viral Footage Explained,” PKB News, March 29, 2023.
Student Researcher: Emma Rowan (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)