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Fraternity Hazing: What to Know & What You Can Do

Fraternities offer students a sense of community and brotherhood during their college years. However, some fraternities have engaged in dangerous and harmful hazing, which can have long-lasting impacts on victims. If you or your loved one has been a victim of fraternity hazing, Helping Survivors is here to connect you with an attorney who can help you explore your legal options.

Fraternities have been a part of university life in the United States for over 200 years, but concerns about fraternity hazing have recently come to the forefront. This has sparked a national conversation about the safety and well-being of students involved in Greek life.

While ostensibly an initiation ritual to foster a sense of belonging, hazing often involves physical abuse, sexual activity, and other harmful behavior. Hazing endangers the well-being of students seeking a sense of community and belonging during college. In this guide from Helping Survivors, we will provide information on the definition of fraternity hazing, examples of hazing practices, and steps you can take if you or someone you love has experienced hazing.

What Is Fraternity Hazing?

Hazing is an initiation process where prospective members must undergo challenges or rituals to gain admittance to a group. However, hazing typically involves physically or emotionally harmful activities as a condition of membership. It commonly occurs in college fraternity and sorority settings, but it can happen in any context where groups come together, including college sports, clubs, workplaces, and the military.

Three Components of Hazing

Three components characterize an activity as hazing:

  1. Group context: The activity occurs in a group setting, such as a fraternity or sorority.
  2. Harm: Hazing activities humiliate, degrade, or endanger participants.
  3. Willingness or lack thereof: Many hazing victims are willing participants but suffer harm nonetheless. It may still be considered hazing even if the person consents to participation.

In many cases, hazing aims to establish a hierarchy within the organization and to test new members’ loyalty. It commonly involves a power dynamic akin to bullying because the perpetrators hold the power while the prospective member has none. Malicious intent is not necessary for an activity to be considered hazing. Even if the intent was to build camaraderie, an activity can still constitute hazing if it meets these three criteria.

Fraternity Hazing Statistics

According to StopHazing, an organization dedicated to hazing research and prevention, 73 percent of students involved in fraternities or sororities have experienced hazing. Research also suggests that fraternities and sororities are more likely to haze their members than any other type of student organization.

Despite the staggering prevalence of hazing, many victims don’t realize they’ve been hazed. In fact, 90 percent of students subjected to college hazing behavior do not consider it hazing.

Last Date Modified
March 18, 2024
Content Reviewed By:

Kathryn Kosmides
Managing Director | Helping Survivors

Fraternity Hazing Examples

Fraternity hazing can take many forms, and examples of it are not always obvious. Some of the most common fraternity hazing behaviors include:

  • Participating in drinking games or consuming extreme amounts of alcohol
  • Physical challenges that push members to their limits
  • Being woken up in the middle of the night or forced to stay awake for extended periods
  • Forced consumption of food or substances, often in excessive quantities to the point of sickness
  • Humiliating tasks or rituals, such as wearing uncomfortable clothing or performing embarrassing acts in public
  • Yelling, insults, or demeaning language directed at members
  • Restricted access to communication or outside activities
  • Sexual violence, such as sexual harassment, forced sexual acts, or forced nudity
  • Physical abuse, such as paddling, branding, or other forms of violence

These are just some examples of fraternity hazing. The list is not exhaustive. Often, hazing behaviors can escalate over time, starting with seemingly innocent activities and gradually becoming more extreme.

Fraternity Hazing Cases in the News

Fraternity hazing has resulted in injury or death for countless students in colleges and universities throughout the United States. Many of these fraternity hazing cases have made headlines due to their particularly shocking or devastating results.

One such case is that involving the 2017 death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza, a Beta Theta Pi pledge at Penn State University. Fraternity members forced Piazza to drink an excessive amount of alcohol, causing him to fall head-first down a flight of stairs and suffer fatal brain and spleen injuries.

In another fatal fraternity hazing case, 19-year-old Tucker Hipps died while pledging Clemson University’s Beta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Hipps was one of 27 pledges who went on an early-morning run with three fraternity members in September 2014. The fraternity members instructed Hipps to bring specific quantities of food to the run. Hipps did not follow the instructions and was forced to walk a bridge’s railing as punishment before he slipped and fell to his death.

More recently, 19-year-old University of Missouri student Daniel Santulli suffered a severe brain injury from hazing by the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. Fraternity members pressured Santulli to drink an entire bottle of vodka and used a tube to force-feed him beer. The toxic amount of alcohol Santulli consumed caused him to suffer a cardiac arrest and stop breathing. Santulli survived the 2021 ordeal but was left blind and unable to walk or talk.

Are There Laws Against Hazing?

There are laws against hazing in 44 of the 50 states in the U.S. The only states that currently do not have anti-hazing laws are Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The specifics of anti-hazing laws, including the definition of hazing, vary from state to state. For example, 32 states have laws that take consent into consideration, while the remaining 12 states have anti-hazing laws that do not account for the victim’s consent.

Many states’ anti-hazing laws require schools to report and investigate alleged hazing incidents. They may also establish penalties for individuals or organizations that engage in hazing.

Importantly, hazing may still constitute a criminal offense even if the state has no specific anti-hazing laws or the state’s laws do not apply to a particular situation. For example, officials may prosecute hazing as assault, battery, or even manslaughter if the activity results in serious injury or death.

How To Report Hazing to Your University

The vast majority of hazing incidents go unreported. While the idea of speaking out against hazing can feel intimidating, reporting hazing is crucial to prevent future incidents and hold those responsible accountable.

If you or someone you know has experienced fraternity or sorority hazing, it’s important to report the incident to your university. Most universities have a designated office or organization responsible for handling hazing reports. This could be the student affairs office, campus police department, student health clinic, or college president’s office. Check your school’s website or student handbook for more information on where to report hazing incidents. Follow any specific reporting procedures that your school outlines in those resources.

After you report the hazing incident to your university, it will likely launch an investigation into the matter. This process may involve interviewing witnesses, gathering evidence, and holding hearings to determine if hazing has occurred. The university may impose sanctions, such as probation, community service, expulsion, or suspending the fraternity or sorority.

Some forms of hazing shouldn’t wait for a formal reporting process and require immediate attention. If someone’s health or safety is in danger, call 911 immediately. Any illegal activity associated with hazing, such as underage drinking or drug use, should also be reported to the appropriate authorities.

For non-emergencies, you can also get help outside the university by calling the National Anti-Hazing Hotline at 1-888-NOT-HAZE (888-668-4293). The hotline accepts calls 24 hours a day and allows callers to make an anonymous report, which will be forwarded to the headquarters of the fraternity or sorority involved.

What To Know About Filing a Lawsuit for Fraternity Hazing

In addition to reporting hazing to your university, you may also consider filing a lawsuit against the parties responsible for the incident, especially if the hazing resulted in physical injuries or death.

A hazing-related personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case. Thus, any criminal charges associated with the incident would be handled separately.

The primary goal of a fraternity hazing lawsuit is to seek compensation for any physical, emotional, or financial damages resulting from the incident. This may include medical expenses, therapy costs, lost wages from missed work, pain and suffering, and more. However, a lawsuit can also achieve a sense of justice and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Responsible parties might include the fraternity or sorority’s national organization, individual members, and even the university if it failed to properly address known hazing incidents.

To pursue a lawsuit, consult a lawyer with experience representing hazing victims. They can evaluate your case, investigate, gather evidence, file a complaint, and guide you through the litigation process. In addition, they can provide the compassionate support you need to overcome the harm and move on with your life.

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