Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

What to Know About Sorority Hazing

For many young women, joining a sorority is a highly anticipated opportunity. However, sorority hazing can turn college life into a traumatic experience when sorority hazing happens. These incidents cause long-lasting damage to victims. Helping Survivors provides the resources to help you understand your rights and options to hold liable parties and institutions accountable.

Survivor Advocate

Sororities are an integral part of college life for many young women. These institutions stand as bastions of sisterhood and camaraderie. However, behind the veil of unity, some sorority members may face the dark reality of sorority hazing.

Students have the right to feel safe while on and off campus. When schools fail to protect students, it may be time to take legal action over these incidents.

What Is Sorority Hazing?

A sorority is more than a group of college-age women. Sororities are seen as a place where young women can find friendship, support, and a sense of belonging. They offer an opportunity to join a community with the same values and ideals. The bonds formed within a sorority often extend beyond graduation — they create lifelong connections that enrich not only the college years but the rest of a woman’s life.

However, when hazing becomes part of the initiation process, it can take a troubling turn. Hazing is a ritual during which a group demands a recruit to engage in specified activities to gain approval from or admittance to the group. According to the Hazing Prevention Network, about 55 percent of college students involved in clubs or sports have reported being hazed at some point.

Hazing can involve a range of activities, from harmless rituals to more sinister forms of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The bond of sisterhood is overshadowed when hazing becomes a part of the sorority experience.

Sorority hazing is a concern on many college campuses. Not only does it tarnish the sanctity of these groups, it can inflict immediate damage that leaves lasting scars on the well-being and trust of those affected.

The consequences of hazing can be immense. Hazing undermines the essence of sisterhood and friendship that sororities are meant to encourage. Fear, intimidation, and humiliation create a toxic environment on the college’s campus. Along with that, the pressure to conform to these rituals can be overwhelming. Many young women feel they have no choice but to go along with it.

Hazing is never acceptable under any circumstances. When these incidents occur, it is the responsibility of the university or college to take appropriate actions. Often, officials will revoke the sorority’s charter and expel the students who engaged in these actions.

Sorority Hazing Examples

Hazing often occurs as part of the sorority’s pledge process. During this time, young women contend for an opportunity to join the sorority. While some pledges may have to perform community service or participate in a harmless activity, some pledging activities have a darker side. A few sorority hazing examples include:

  • Sorority humiliation including degrading rituals that are meant to humiliate or embarrass the student
  • Coerced actions forcing individuals to engage in unwanted activities including drinking alcohol or consuming substances
  • Physical and non-physical Behaviors that result in sexual harassment and/or sexual assault

These examples show the reality faced by some individuals within sororities. Instead of focusing on tradition and sisterhood, these incidents deviate into distressing and abusive scenarios. Sorority hazing can occur at initiation or what is known as sorority pledging. But, it can also occur any time after that point as well, including when attending sorority events, volunteering, or if you live in a sorority house. 

Sorority hazing is often committed by older individuals in the sorority, including sorority leaders. There may be an attitude that since they experienced sorority hazing, they believe the young new members should as well. Additionally, sorority hazing has evolved in the digital age and may involve the internet and social media as well.    

Last Date Modified
May 15, 2024

What Are the Effects of Sorority Hazing?

Sorority hazing can have long-term effects on individuals. Some potential issues may include:

  • Emotional trauma: Hazing can lead to emotional trauma, causing anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Trust issues: Individuals who have undergone hazing may struggle to build meaningful connections or trust others.
  • Negative mental health impacts: Hazing can affect self-esteem and self-worth. Survivors may wrestle with feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy.
  • Academic consequences: Concentration, focus, and motivation may become compromised, impacting educational achievements.
  • Isolation and alienation: Survivors of hazing may experience feelings of isolation or alienation.
  • Impact on relationships: Hazing can strain personal relationships, as survivors may find it challenging to open up about their experiences.

What Victims of Sorority Hazing Can Do To Get Help

If you or someone you know has experienced hazing within a sorority, you need to take action. You can contact a trusted individual, such as a campus faculty member, housing resident, or even a loved one.

Many individuals feel that reporting these instances could lead to expulsion from the sorority or college. However, university officials should be the first notified of any incident. Whether you have been subjected to abuse or witnessed an event, contact the college’s Greek life office for advice about the next steps. The sorority’s national headquarters is another resource that can assist during this time.

Sometimes, school officials may ignore complaints, allowing the sorority to continue its activities. At this stage, you may need to report the incident, especially if it involves sexual or physical abuse, to local law enforcement. When a crime has been committed, they can intervene and launch an investigation into the society’s activities.

If you still feel that these actions have not resulted in an acceptable outcome or a hazing incident has injured you, consider legal action.

Hazing is not a harmless tradition. Sororities and other organizations need to be proactive in preventing hazing from occurring. When these institutions have failed to protect their students, they may be liable for the actions of these sorority members.

Are Universities Protecting Students From Hazing?

Universities have made strides in combating hazing through anti-hazing policies, awareness campaigns, and educational programs. These awareness initiatives educate students about the dangers of hazing and encourage reporting.

However, challenges persist due to the secretive nature of hazing incidents and victims’ reluctance to come forward. Many of these attacks on female students go unreported.

Aside from colleges taking a proactive approach, some states have created their own legislation. Unfortunately, only 44 states have anti-hazing laws on their books.

On the national level, the REACH Act is one type of federal legislative effort requiring universities to release statistics on hazing incidents on their campus and provide educational resources to prevent these acts.

Sorority Hazing: Reporting Rights and Options

Sorority members who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, or harassment within the sorority or in association with the university have the option to pursue legal action. Here is how you can start the process:

Report the Incident

The lawsuit’s starting point involves reporting the incident. Each school has different reporting policies regarding sororities, so a good place to understand the specific process at your university is the Title IX office. You may be able to make an anonymous request for information regarding reporting sorority hazing prior to actually filing a report. 

 If you have any tangible evidence of the incident, such as videos, photos, emails, or even social media posts of the incident, it should be given to the investigators.

Consider Criminal Charges or a Civil Case

If you believe the sorority hazing escalated to the point of a crime, you have the right to report to law enforcement. 

You should understand the full process of reporting to law enforcement so you can make an informed decision. It is not required to file a police report to pursue a Title IX claim or file a civil lawsuit for sorority hazing. 

Here is more information about the criminal justice process of pressing charges.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Sorority Hazing

Victims of hazing can pursue civil lawsuits against the college, sorority, and individuals who engaged in these practices. Compensation may cover a range of damages, such as:

  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses
  • Therapy costs
  • Loss of income
  • Punitive damages
Keep in mind that each state dictates its own statute of limitations. Recent legal amendments have extended these limits, offering survivors an extended window to seek justice even when years have elapsed. However, you will want to act promptly to preserve all evidence and adhere to legal deadlines.

Want To Speak With A Lawyer?

Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.