Hazing in sororities and fraternities refers to activities that are forced on someone wanting to become a member of the group. These activities can humiliate, degrade and inflict physical as well as emotional harm. It is not accidental; hazing is pre-meditated considering that those forcing hazing rituals have the power and control over others to do whatever they wish. Sororities and fraternities insist that hazing is their way of effectively teaching aspiring members or pledges, how to respect the sisterhood or brotherhood, and in order for them to develop discipline. Fortunately, 44 states in the US now have laws against hazing activities to help victims and families seek justice. A lawsuit can be filed in these states, against a sorority or fraternity and their members for any hazing rituals that occurred within the state, which led to injury or death, regardless if the victim had consented to participate.
How to Determine Hazing
If you are supposed to take part in a sorority or fraternity initiation as a member or pledge, ask yourself these questions:
- Are drugs and alcohol involved?
- Will the activity cause physical or emotional harm?
- Do the activities risk injury or even death?
- Do you have any hesitation in describing the activity to family, professors, or a college administrator?
- Do the senior members of the group refuse to participate in the activity, but prefer to inflict or watch the activity being carried out by the pledges?
- Does the activity seem improper to be photographed or recorded for the college's newspaper or local news?
- Will the activity damage the reputation or social image of a person?
If you have answered yes to these questions, then you must consider backing out and reporting the hazing to a professor, administrator, your parents, or even the police. If you participate as a pledge, you may become a victim of severe hazing. If you are a member initiating the hazing, then you may get into serious trouble with the law, when the hazing goes wrong.
Sorority and Fraternity Hazing Rituals
Each Greek group of a college and university will have its own hazing rituals. Here is a list of the most brutal and common hazing rituals inflicted on pledges.
- Ranking of Bodies– In sororities, pledges are made to strip in a cold room and line up according to breast size. The sorority members then mock the pledges and reinforce insecurities that their pledges may already have. Some forms of rankings involve the sisters marking the parts of the pledge's body that need improvement.
- Paddling – The infliction of this beating is meant to humble pledges and build trust and love in the group. Paddling is done with a thick wooden cane that is somewhat similar to a cricket bat. The beatings are made on the buttocks and thigh areas. This ritual has led to numerous injuries and deaths in recent years.
- Illegal or Sexual – In some sororities, pledges are made to choose between inhaling cocaine and inserting a sex toy in their genitals in front of all sorority members. This leads to emotional and social humiliation.
- 90 Minutes Drinking – Fraternity pledges are made to drink large amounts of alcohol within 90 minutes. This ritual can lead to alcohol poisoning resulting in death.
- Exercise in Human Waste – In some fraternities, pledges are forced to do push-ups in urine and feces or even made to carry rocks covered in feces for miles. Often, pledges are even forced to drink urine.
- Critiquing Assembly – Female pledges are forced to strip naked and stand in a line in front of a fraternity. Each pledge is then made to stand on a bench while the fraternity members shout critiques as to which body parts need improvement.
- Boiling Water and Hot Pepper – Fraternities are known for testing the physical strengths of pledges. As such, some hazing rituals also include pouring boiling water mixed with hot pepper powder on a pledge's back, chest, and genitals. Pledges are at risk of incurring second to third-degree burns.
- Water Intoxication – Alcohol is not the only beverage that sororities and fraternities use in hazing rituals. Members have their pledges drink several gallons of water while naked in a cold or wet room. Pledges can die from water intoxication within hours.
Despite the imposing of anti-hazing laws in many states, many fraternities and sororities continue to practice hazing in their initiations. However, more and more people are becoming aware of the serious effects of hazing and parents are now becoming more vigilant. This awareness has led to many fraternity and sorority chapters being closed down. And with the help of well-experienced legal professionals, members of these groups have been incarcerated under criminal charges.
Valerie Clearwater is a freelance writer specializing in anti-hazing and criminal cases. She regularly contributes articles to law firm websites such as ElliotSavitzLaw.com, where legal professionals provide quality legal assistance and consultations.