LOS ANGELES – Abusive initiation rites at sororities were thrust into the spotlight this week following the revelation that that newly-crowned Miss America Kira Kazantsev was forced out of her Hostra Universiry sorority over hazing concerns.
With college classes resuming across the country, it also happens to be National Hazing Prevention Week. The reason we have a special week for it? Because hazing still exists -- and it can be dangerous.
“Hazing is more prevalent than Greek groups are willing to admit,” Alexandra Robbins, author of “Pledged: The Secret Lives of Sororities” told FOX411. “The problem is that many alumni are unwilling to say that hazing is a bad thing; because they went through it and survived, they think new members should, too.”
The list of stories of humiliation is long. Young women have been branded with cigarettes and had food dumped on them when they answer trivia questions incorrectly. They have been forced to do underwear runs across campus and stand in pools of water others have defecated in. Pledges have stood unclothed on running washing machines so their “jiggly” spots can be marked, been pressured to stay awake all night while being prohibited from using the bathroom, and forced to clean floors with their fingernails.
“Then there was the ‘boob ranking,’ an activity in which pledges had to rush around examining each other topless so that they were lined up in order of chest size when the sisters called ‘time,'" Robbins said. "Then the sisters would inspect the order and tell the girls why they were wrong.”
Family therapist Dr. Sheri Meyers says it is “all about intimidation, humiliation and subjugation and seeing who will crack.”
The National PanHellenic Conference (NPC), the governing body for international women’s sororities, insisted that hazing is strongly condemned and encourages “disciplinary measures” in accordance with their own fair play procedures as well as state and federal laws to be implemented when necessary. Hazing is indeed illegal in 44 states. (Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming are without such legislation). Most universities strictly prohibit it, however problems are arising in off-campus sororities which are not subject to the school’s rules.
“In places where schools have gotten rid of the Greek system, it has formed unofficially, which is an even bigger problem because there are no controls,” Meyers said.
Many hazing victims are also afraid to speak out over fears of social ostracism or retaliation. Experts also say hazing within sororities tends to be more orientated toward psychological abuse, and gets more physical in fraternities.
Early this week, Clemson University sophomore Tucker Hipps was found dead in a lake under a bridge after having embarked on a voluntary pledge run with around 30 other pledge brothers of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. What happened next remains the source of heated speculation. According to local police, no one saw Hipps fall, but many on social media are blaming the frat.
Clemson has since suspended activities for all of its 24 fraternities. The case remains under investigation.
But even with all of the hazing horror stories, thousands of students still clamor for those Greek letters.
“It is the promise of a ‘family’ away from home, planned social events and a place to belong. But hazing remains a significant problem to Greek Life and many fraternities and sororities still refuse to take the administrative and supervisory steps necessary to lessen the problem,” says Douglas E. Fierberg, a Washington D.C-based attorney who specializes in ending school violence. “Much of the problem could be solved by eliminating the process of pledging. It is time come and gone, it is of no real purpose, despite the protestations otherwise by these organizations.”
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Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report.
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