Every August, groups of parents prepare to take their daughters to college with hopes for their success, prayers for their safety, and fears for their well-being. In most cases, their fears are unfounded and the proud parents see their daughters flourish in college. But what happens when those fears are justified and their daughter finds herself the victim of sorority hazing? Once on campus, young women often find themselves looking for acceptance from groups women who identify themselves by a combination of Greek letters; wear various color combinations; project chants and are bonded by sisterhood, scholarship, and community service. In other words: Sororities.
The membership requirements of each sorority vary and are available to the public on the organization’s websites. Unfortunately, far too often, there are some “requirements” and “activities” that are not authorized by the national organizations, local chapters, colleges, or universities. These unofficial requirements and acts may be considered a form of hazing.
HazingPresention.org describes acts of hazing as:
Please understand that hazing can be in many forms. Whether your daughter has experienced any acts previously listed or has been forced to participate in something not listed, it can still be considered hazing. If you believe your daughter is being hazed, the best practice is to talk to her and encourage her to report what happened. No matter the situation, these acts are not required to become a member in any of the amazing sororities throughout the United States.
If you are unsure of the laws in your state, you should research to be aware. In Illinois hazing is defined as:
(a) A person commits hazing when she knowingly requires the performance of any act by a student or other person in a school, college, university, or other educational institution of this State, for purpose of induction or admission into any group, organization, or society associated or connected with that institution, if:
(1) the act is not sanctioned or authorized by that educational institution; and
(2) the act results in bodily harm to any person. (720 ILCS 5/12C-50)
Google can easily inform you about the horror stories but identifying whether your daughter is the victim of hazing may not be that easy to determine, especially if your daughter does not feel comfortable expressing the issue.
Signs of hazing can look like the following:
If you notice any of the above signs in your daughter, you should report your concerns to an official with the organization and/or your daughter’s school.
It is important to talk to your daughter and use your parental instinct to determine whether your daughter is being hazed. If your parental intuition will not rest, it is better to report your suspicions to individuals who can assist, instead of leaving those concerns unresolved.
Notify any of the following individuals of any suspicion or actual knowledge of hazing:
All of these individuals have a duty to ensure the continued safety of your daughter while she is affiliated with their organization, university, or college. They must report hazing and failure to do so may result in criminal arrest and a Class B misdemeanor. 750 5/12C-50.1.
Illinois provides criminal and civil remedies for hazing.
In Illinois, an individual may be criminally charged with hazing if the hazing results in great bodily harm or death. The sentence may vary from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony.
Illinois also provides a civil remedy for those affected by hazing and those who perpetuate the hazing culture.
In order to bring a civil lawsuit against an individual, organization, or university for your daughter’s hazing:
For example, a mother brought a wrongful death lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois, United States District Court against the national sorority, two regional chapters, and nine individuals for which her daughter joined as a member. It was alleged that the hazing incidents that occurred during the daughter’s pledging process caused the daughter severe anxiety and depression, which resulted in her unfortunate suicide. This lawsuit is still pending.
If you believe your daughter has been the victim of sorority hazing please call our office at 313-223-1700 to discuss the specifics. Your daughter does have legal remedies under Illinois law. Our consultations are free and confidential.