Mom says daughter was abused with paddle, forced to eat rotten food in sorority hazing

Elise Solé

A mother claims her daughter was hit with a paddle and forced to eat rotten food as part of a sorority hazing ritual.

On Wednesday, speaking out for the first time, Sue Levy Giles said while her daughter Alexandria was pledging to the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha at the University of Pittsburgh in February, she and eleven other pledges were physically attacked in a dark basement. “She had been kicked, pushed, punched, and slapped. She had been forced to ingest rotten food,” Levy Giles told CBS Philly, adding that her daughter broke a tooth during the incident.

Levy Giles and the university’s dean of students did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

However, Leona Dotson, communications chairman of the sorority sent Yahoo Lifestyle the following statement: “Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing in our sorority and we take any allegations of this nature very seriously. We were appalled to learn of hazing allegations against a suspended member who is no longer a student at the University of Pittsburgh. We believe that all existing and prospective members have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We ensure members’ rights by disciplining those who violate Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s policies and procedures.” Dotson added that AKA educates incoming members about hazing and provides an anonymous system for reporting abuse.

In February, the sorority made national headlines when all 12 pledges filed a police report after a mother noticed a bruise on her daughter’s arm while visiting her on campus.

At the time, Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton told NBC, “During the course of this, they were maybe hit with a paddle of some sort,” Burton said. “We’ve got a lot of girls who don’t want to talk about it. If they don’t want to be victims there’s not a heck of a lot we can do with that.” The sorority is currently under suspension.

Levy Giles — also a member of AKA — says Alexandria has always wanted to join the ranks of the organization, founded in 1908 for African-American women. “She would wear pink and green. Her room at one point was pink and green. She always looked forward to becoming a member of the sorority,” she told CBS Philly. “As a mom, I’m sorry but I wish I could have protected her but I entrusted her to the university. I entrusted her to my sorority.”

Despite classic research that shows more women than men believe Greek pledging should be a positive experience, there’s no shortage of sorority horror stories.

In 2010, a woman named Joanne (who used a pseudonym for security reasons), told ABC News that while pledging at an unnamed sorority at Penn State Altoona in 2008, she and other women endured verbal abuse while standing on their heads against concrete walls. If a pledge moved, a sorority sister would repeatedly bang their heads into the wall.

Other tasks included cleaning the floor with her fingernails, being pressured into drinking black water, and attending 2 a.m. group meetings.

The treatment caused Joanne to switch campuses but that didn’t stop the harassment. “All the sisters and pledges turned on me,” she told ABC News. “My car was keyed. I was getting threatening text messages every day. The second semester I couldn’t sleep because I would have nightmares.”

In 2012, Britteny Starling, a Zeta Phi Beta pledge at UC Berkeley filed a lawsuit against the sorority for beating her on the head until she recited the history of the group, forcing her to clean juice from the floor using her back, removing her shirt, and not allowing her to sleep at night or use the bathroom.

A former Dartmouth University student named Ravital Segal wrote in the Huffington Post that her experience pledging for Kappa Kappa Gamma included being blindfolded and force-fed alcohol in a car. As a result, she woke up intubated in the intensive care unit of a hospital cut and bloodied with broken teeth. “The doctor informed me that I had entered the hospital with a .399 blood alcohol content,” she wrote. “I soon learned that a .4 BAC is coma and death. I was literally one sip of alcohol away from dying.”

Why do pledges tolerate the abuse? Research shows that hazing triggers a disturbing cycle: The harsh treatment harms one’s self-esteem and people who undergo these induction rituals feel needier and more dependent on their peers as a result.

Joanne told ABC News that while she refused to drink the black water and left, “I ended up coming back [to carry out a different punishment] because they called me and yelled at me. I didn’t know what else to do.” 

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