Texas Fraternity Brother Branded, Family Furious Over Ritual

Craven said the Carters, who brought Chance Carter to the emergency room for treatment as soon as he returned home, have already consulted with a plastic surgeon who estimated it would take at least six procedures to repair.

Craven said the possibility of a lawsuit is "nothing I can say at this point."

"As far as I'm concerned," Johnson said, "his backside is a crime scene."

The Carters are one of the most prominent families in Forth Worth. Amon G. Carter was the president and publisher of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram newspaper in the 1920s and was credited with bringing several major businesses to the area, including a General Motors assembly plant and the company now known as Lockheed-Martin.

Johnson said her cousin is a "good looking kid" and a good student with a 3.7 GPA.

"These were people that were supposed to be his friends," she said. "It's wrong."

Though most Greek councils frown on branding -- some even denounce it as violent hazing -- Ross said it has largely been seen as a voluntary way to proudly show ones' allegiance.

Omega Psi Phi is the fraternity most associated with branding even though the national council has come out against it. NBA superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan both were branded as Omegas, he said.

Brands are most commonly found, he said, on the biceps, the pectoral areas or calves -- anywhere they can be shown off. While many use a simple hot coat hanger as in Chance Carter's case, many fraternities go all out with a professional branding iron.

As for Carter, Ross questioned whether the marks on the TCU student's backside fell in line with the tradition of brotherhood and pride.

"I think this kid has a case of assault rather than hazing," he said.

Breckenridge Police Department spokeswoman Kim Green told ABCNews.com that police there have tried to contact the Carter family about the incident, but have not heard back from them.

"We are not conducting an investigation until we get more facts," she said.

Though violating anyone while they are asleep or unconscious constitutes an assault, Green said officials heard Chance Carter consented to at least some branding before he passed out, which could be a factor in deciding whether anyone should be charged.

Fraternity Branding: Assault or Rite of Passage?

Pete Smithhisler, president and CEO of the Indiana-based North-American Interfraternity Conference, told ABCNews.com in an e-mail that he considers branding to be "one of the most egregious forms of hazing."

"The NIC in no way, shape, or form condones any type of hazing, and this applies to branding in the strongest possible terms," he wrote. "These behaviors contradict centuries of tradition, heritage and customs that represent what is best about American higher education."

Yet the Internet abounds with pictures of proud fraternity brothers showing off their brands, usually on their legs, upper arms or back.

A YouTube video posted in December of a young man getting the Sigma symbol burned into his upper arm shows him sitting in a kitchen, grimacing as the hot metal is pushed into his arm.

After a few moments, the pain evident on his face, he turns and grins for someone taking a picture of his new brand.

Ross said there has been criticism of branding from within the black community, even dividing some fraternity members.

"For African-Americans, there's a legacy of branding that goes back to slavery," he said, when masters used to brand their slaves like cattle to mark them as property.

But the difference now, Ross said, is that it's voluntary. He even reported seeing a rise in branding in sororities.

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