Sorority Hazing Increasingly Violent, Disturbing

Burlingame added, "Penn State Altoona strictly prohibits any and all activities, actions, or situations which recklessly or intentionally endanger the mental or physical health or safety of a student."

Joanne said she switched campuses at the end of her first year because of the hazing. But despite the switch, Joanne said, she is still receiving hateful Facebook posts and messages from the young women she once called sisters.

"All the sisters and pledges turned on me," Joanne said. "My car was keyed. I was getting threatening text messages every day. The second semester I couldn't sleep because I would have nightmares."

Dan McCarthy, who runs the Hazing Hotline for the law firm Manley Burke in Cincinnati, said the hotline received 55 calls from mid-August to mid-December in 2009, its third year in business.

"Last year, for the entire year, we received 150 calls and we expect to receive around the same amount this year," McCarthy said, adding that the calls were split between the genders.

'Pure Emotional Blackmail'

Sally Spencer-Thomas, a suicide expert and author of "Violence Goes to College," said she was hazed while joining a co-ed fraternity in the late 1980s. Spencer-Thomas defines hazing as "the pure, emotional blackmail of a person.

"Students join these organizations because they want a quick group of friends," Spencer-Thomas said. "Even though the pledges form close bonds from surviving the hazing together, they often have invisible scars."

Invisible scars can mean anything from depression to a lack of self-esteem resulting from the hazing. But the scars can also be visible.

The Trend Toward Violence

A Sigma Gamma Rho pledge at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., went to the hospital last month because of injuries allegedly sustained during a violent paddling incident.

The school arrested six girls from the sorority the night the pledge went to the hospital. All six girls have since been released on bail and have entered not guilty pleas. Gregory Blimling, the university's vice president of student affairs, said, "When we hear about [hazing] issues, we move aggressively to stop them.

"Rutgers has a no tolerance policy. Every student organization is required to go through an anti-hazing workshop and sign a pledge saying they will not participate in hazing."

Despite that, a 21-year-old senior at Rutgers University who said she is friends with the sorority members who allegedly paddled the pledge said that hazing in campus sororities was common.

"Hazing is something that everyone knows is going on here on campus," the senior said, requesting anonymity. "All the fraternities and sororities use paddles here. It is really nothing new at all.

"People are just more upset that this girl ratted. Some people actually found out who the girl that ratted is and she will probably be shunned now. They probably won't, like, talk to her at Greek events or anything."

Maxwell of Hazing Prevention said that violent hazing seems to have worsened in the past five to 10 years.

"Hazing is a societal problem," she said. "Especially with reality-TV shows forcing people to do something crazy to win a prize. I am sensing some of the hazing happening today is for entertainment purposes. Now we are seeing more of a prevalence of hazing based around, 'Let's see what we can get them to do.'"

Maxwell said she often receives e-mails from distressed girls like Joanne who say they have nowhere else to turn.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...