With college students heading back to campus, a rite of passage for many young women begins: rush week at sororities.
Some young women will do anything to prove the can fit in with a sorority, a desperation that leads to sometimes deadly consequences. Hazing is rampant throughout universities (fraternities are certainly guilty as well), and is both physically and psychological perverse.
Little by little, hazing chips away at a young woman's psyche. It tells her she needs to blindly obey to fit into a group. It tells the perpetrators they can treat people as scum. It's so engrained in some sororities that members turn a blind eye to everything from forced drinking to extreme racism.
Turning on the Whistleblower
Six sisters from Sigma Gamma Rho at Rutgers University were arrested in 2010 on charges they severely injured a pledge with paddling. But the university Greek community wasn't upset with the charges as much as the arrests.
"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," a friend of the sorority sisters told ABC News.
Sexual Abuse at a Small College
It's not just the sprawling universities with historic sorority systems that haze their pledges. A tiny Georgia school, Young Harris College, reportedly had rampant hazing violations that were overlooked.
Pledges were forced to stand naked to be appraised by fraternity members, simulate sex in front of men, stand in pools filled with feces of sorority members and other dehumanizing rituals, Jezebel reports. A sorority even reportedly resorted to that stereotypical hazing, circling pledges' fat with a Sharpie.
Apart from the historically black sororities, minority young women are often rejected outright. Take the huge University of Alabama system with its 8,600 members. Only one black woman ever was offered a bid to join the sorority system, Marie Claire reports.
"We were told we do not take black girls, because it would be bad for our chapter -- our reputation and our status," a member of Alpha Omicron Pi told the magazine.
A (now former) Chi Omega member even celebrated her sorority's all-white make-up, sending a Snapchat that "Chi O aint' got no n-----."
The black women who do dare rush sororities are usually dropped after the first round, in a wink, wink process that offers every excuse why except for the real one: their skin color.
"One Sip Away From Dying"
A Dartmouth undergrad almost didn't make it out of the pledging period for Kappa Kappa Gamma. Ravital Segal recounts her extreme hazing of being blindfolded, forced to chug alcoholic punch and down vodka shots. She was abandoned by the side of the road
Segal woke up in the ICU, so intoxicated that her blood alcohol level was .001 away from .4 -- the level that causes comas and death.
"I was literally one sip of alcohol away from dying," she writes.
Death From Hazing
An East Carolina University pledge was so sleep deprived when she got behind the wheel that she allegedly fell asleep and crashed a car carrying three other students. Two of the women died in the crash.
The driver had just come off of Delta Sigma Theta's "Hell Week." She had been up all night with her fellow pledges participating in practice for "probate death march," an event sanctioned by Delta alumnae and advisors.
The tragic cycle of hazing is that it encourages victims to become perpetrators. It's likely all of the hazing instigators mentioned here had faced similar rituals in their desperate attempt for sisterhood. But they're more than willing to cause the same humiliation, turmoil and abuse.
One sorority alumna even wrote a piece in Cosmopolitan about why hazing was "weirdly worth it." After outlining the psychological abuse, sleepness nights, endless crying and more abuse, Tess Koman recalls actively participating in hazing herself.
Every time hazing kills another college students, talk of laws, restrictions and bans surfaces. But just for a time before it's forgotten again. It's time to put meaningful measures into place that tells college students in no uncertain terms that hazing is criminal and criminally stupid -- both doing it and subjecting yourself to it.
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