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Special Report: Dying to Join

Fraternities and sororities, bands, sports teams, leadership groups, honor societies, and choirs. From college campuses down to the middle schools, hazing is happening - and it's killing our kids.
Reports of recent deaths and injuries are bringing hazing front and center, with researchers warnings the attacks are getting increasingly violent and sexual.

"All you want to do is be part of that group,” Dr. Susan Lipkins, author of Preventing Hazing said. “You're hazed. The next year you watch as others are hazed, you are a bystander, then eventually you're a senior and you do unto others what has been done to you."

Dr. Lipkins points out there are no state or federal agencies that collect statistics on hazing, or a central place to report them, but her findings show 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year and nearly 80% of NCAA athletes say they were hazed initially in high school.

Dr. Lipkins says the physical and emotional attacks intensify each year, as the hazers add their own mark.

"They add a little bit more violence, a little bit more alcohol, a little bit more humiliation," Dr. Lipkins said.

So, forcing members to wear costumes or get their head shaved graduates to pressure to choose between drinking large amounts of alcohol or facing physical, perhaps even sexual violence. Dr. Susan Lipkins, Preventing Hazing

"[At one particular school] they sodomized one another with pine cones, broom sticks and golf balls covered in icy hot,” Dr. Lipkins said.

Hazing used to be restricted to pledges, or new members, but now, anyone can be a target, according to Hank Nuwer, who's written four books on hazing.

"Hazing has become a form of cheap entertainment," Hank Nuwer, Author and Hazing Researcher said

And, something else has changed.

"We see girls hazing boys, boys hazing girls and using tremendous physical violence," Dr. Lipkins said.

Chad Meredith died during a weekend lock-in with his hazers. His father acknowledges many parents are unaware of the dangers their children are facing.

"I was guilty of this, too, before this happened, and you think well its just a bunch of horseplay,” Chad’s father said. “It's not."

He wants to see a federal law enacted. Nuwer would like that, too, but hasn't seen much progress in the decades that he's been researching hazing.

"You've got legislators who are former fraternity members who don't quite get it," Nuwer said.

So, he advises parents to take matters into their own hands.

"Before every sports season, before every semester starts, talk to your kids,” Nuwer said. “Ask them what's going on. Talk to the trainers in terms of sports teams. Trainers are the ones who see the bruises."

Meredith's brother and sister encourage parents to educate their children about their rights if they are hazed, and their responsibilities if they see hazing happening to others.

"Don't be a bystander and say 'I'm not part of it'” Gerry Meredith said. “Now that you're a bystander you are a part of it."

"There's no fraternity, club or organization that's that important that you're going to risk your life or injury for life to become a member," Chad’s father said.

There are 44 states with anti-hazing laws on the books, though they range in severity and enforcement.
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