Hazing News

Unusual suit.



WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) – A man claims that forcible sodomy is a “prerequisite” for volunteers at the Piermont Fire Department. He says that when his teen-age son volunteered, firefighters “forcibly caused [him] to engage in acts of sodomy, all against his will and consent,” and that this “ritual” is “a prerequisite” for all people who want to join.
Mark Bernstein sued the Village of Piermont and three named firefighters in Federal Court, on behalf of his 17-year-old son.
Bernstein claims the village knew about the hazing ritual and “took no steps to prevent this rite of passage and as such acquiesced in its implementation.”
He claims that when his son volunteered for the force, in August 2010, he was “battered, physically restrained, pushed, shoved and forced into submission,” and that the sexual abuse left him “physically and psychologically ill.” It caused him to seek medical and psychological treatment and has left him “permanently damaged.”
The father says every prospective firefighter is subjected to this hazing and that Piermont “manifested a deliberate indifference to these violations of civil rights” and created “a receptive atmosphere for the various acts of pedophilia performed by the co-defendants.”
The complaint states: “(S)ometime prior to Aug. 14, 2020, and on occasions too numerous to mention, the defendant the Village of Piermont promulgated, fostered and implemented a policy whereby new arrivals (‘initiates’) into the position of volunteer firefighter would be subject to a form of ‘hazing’ whereby fellow firefighters would restrain the initiate’s movements, depriving him of his freedom of movement, expose their genitals to the said initiate, and attempt to forcibly cause the initiate to place his hand upon and/or fondle the genitals of various members of the Piermont Fire Department, and/or force the said initiate against his will by dint of duress to sodomize an existing firefighter.
“Sixth: That upon information and belief, the aforementioned exercise of what the defendant The Village of Piermont deemed to be ‘hazing’ was done to each and every named individual defendant herein and further deemed to be a ritual utilized as a ‘rite of passage,’ a prerequisite in acceptance into the Village of Piermont Fire Department”.
The father and son seek damages for battery, civil rights violations and outrage. They are represented by Richard Gilbert with Levine & Gilbert of New York, N.Y.
Piermont, on the west bank of the Hudson River, is a town of about 2,600. Its median household income of $88,000 is 61 percent higher than the state average, according to Its fire department apparently is all-volunteer. The town budget for fire protection is extremely low; the village has no official website. It decided to create an official website 2½ years ago but the site is still under construction, according to an Internet search this morning (Thursday).

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.