Claire thought that last night had just been another innocent hook up. It was the second semester of her freshman year of college, and her sorority had a bit of a reputation for partying that, combined with her legacy mother insisting, had lead her to choose that one. She didn't consider herself loose but if the guy looked cute and was being nice she just might be game. And if he didn't call her again after that night that was OK too. With long natural blonde hair, tan skin, an ample chest and a runner's body she was a fish in a lot of seas. When she walked into her sorority house mildly hungover, though, she was met with a large, angry group of sisters.
"Claire Elizabeth Chapman," Lacey, the president of the sorority, said from the front, sounding very official and important, "can you confirm where you were last night?" She rubbed her eyes. Was this for real?
"I won't lie. I met a guy last night. He was cute and I spent the night in his room."
"And where was that room," she was asked by a very serious looking treasury secretary.
Shit, she thought. She knew what this was about. The guy had been a brother at Epsilon Delta. She knew that she'd been warned severely not to associate with guys from there but couldn't remember why.
"At his fraternity house." Her voice was a little quieter.
"Cut the shit," the president said. "We know that you were at the ED house last night. Do you not remember anything from your orientation or your pledging? Do you not care about your sisters at all?"
"I ... I guess I just forgot. I didn't remember when he said where he was from." She felt like the crowd was closing in on her but they hadn't even moved.
"Forgot!" It was the secretary again. "Let me remind you then! Two years ago several members of ED had a large party where they roofied several girls, including some in this room right now, and took advantage of them. Since then Sigma Gamma Gamma and other sororities have been trying to get them kicked off campus. Whoring yourself around in their house doesn't help us make them feel unwelcome, does it?"
"I'm sorry," she said, softly. "I just forgot."
"Go to your room and pack your things," Lacey said calmly. Claire started to panic. Her mother would die if her daughter got kicked out of the sorority she'd loved so much. She was even in her mom's old room in the house. How could she explain the reasoning?
"Sisters, please," she said, looking up with tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry, so, so sorry. I'll do anything to make this up to you all..." Her bottom lip was quivering. Lacey looked at a couple of the other upperclassmen girls and they nodded.
"There is a way that you could stay a part of this sisterhood," said said, still calm. "It will involve you walking a mile in the shoes of the sisters you so blatantly disrespected last night. Several miles in fact, to ensure you don't 'forget' again. Are you willing to make that sacrifice?" Claire nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks. "You will need to pack your things anyway. You may not occupy a place of honor in this house while stained as you are. You may sleep on the couch and put your things in storage." As a unit the girls turned away and left the house.
Fighting back tears Claire began to pack her things. Luckily she didn't have a whole lot; she shared the room with another sister and it was small to begin with. Partway through her roommate came in with two coffees, wearing her ridiculous big circular glasses that made her tiny body look even more out of place.
"It's going to be ok," Lilly said, handing her one. It was from her favorite coffee shop. Lilly and Claire had been best friends since meeting during the sororities rushing parties. Lilly was more of a book worm and most nights Claire was out getting in trouble Lilly was either sleeping or studying, but they always had each others back.
"I hope so," she replied, fighting back tears. "I don't know what they meant by walk a mile in their shoes."
"Me either. I know they discussed it this morning but I wasn't a part of it." Lilly started to help her put her clothing away in boxes. "I hope they don't make sleep on the couch for long, they're being ridiculous."
"It's my fault, they warned us about the ED house." Claire packed away the smiling pictures of her with her parents from the day they'd dropped her off at college. "I was drunk and stupid." Lilly stopped and rubbed her shoulders.
"They're overreacting. Just tough it out for a few days, they'll come to their senses."
"Thanks," Claire said gratefully. "You're the best sister I could ever ask for." The girls embraced and carried the last of her things out to the storage garage. When they got back there was a note on the door requesting Claire's presence in the Ball Room at 9:00 PM, not a moment sooner or a moment later.
The Ball Room as it was affectionately known was the basement of the house. Over the years many parties, ranging from elegant to disorderly, had been held in the nearly soundproof and large room. Since parties in the house were completely against the sorority charter a few decades ago someone had helpfully engraved and mounted a sign over the stairs stating: "You are now exiting the Sigma Gamma Gamma House and entering the ball room. Keep it classy." It was the openest open secret on campus.
Claire sat nervously in the living room and tried to work on homework. The stream of sisters walking in started around 8:30 and picked up the closer she got to her designated time. Some gave her looks of disdain, some of pity, but none made her feel any better. She lost count, but there had to have been at least thirty of the chapter's sixty sisters down there. When the clock hit 8:59 she walked to the top of the stairs. Gabby, her big, was waiting for her.
"I can't protect you from this," she said firmly. "You brought this on yourself. There's like one golden rule in this sorority and you broke it."
"I know," Claire said, looking down. Disappointing Gabby might have been the hardest part of this so far.
"I was part of the conversation they had about your ... reeducation. Claire, I'm telling you this as a friend, not as a member of this sorority. Get your things and leave. The things they have planned for you ... You should just leave." She was standing in the doorway, blocking Claire's entrance.
"I can't," Claire said pitifully, starting to cry again. "My mom was a sister here along with three of her bridesmaids. Two of my aunts were sisters here. They'd be so disappointed ... And I love it here! I can't imagine going to school and not being a part of this!"
"Claire, they're going to take everything from you. Your dignity, your self respect, everything. Please, please turn around and go."
"I'm doing this. I can get those things back. There's only one DGG." She pushed her way past Gabby and walked down the unfinished stairs. The room was dark and the girls were sitting in neatly arranged folding chairs.
"I'm glad you decided to join us," Lacey said. She was standing in front of the crowd. Claire walked up and stood in front of her. She heard Gabby walk down the stairs and take a seat.
"We've avoided rehashing the story of what happened on that night in the ED house out of respect for the victims, but you've made it obvious that some people cannot learn without having history explained to them very clearly." Lacey turned Claire to face the crowd and stood next to her, a picture of composure next to the shaking and sobbing Claire.
"On the morning after the attacks thirteen girls were found nude in the living room of the ED house. Five of them were sisters of this sorority, and two of those five are in the room tonight. I would never name names but they have volunteered to identify themselves. Ladies."
Two sisters, Dillon and Ashley, stood up. Both had strong, resolute looks on their faces. They remained standing as there was a short round of clapping for them.
"These sisters are not angry with you. I am not angry with you. I am disappointed in you, but you've shown willingness to atone for your horrific mistake. The period of atonement will be three days. During these three days we will attempt to make you feel just one small portion of how these two sisters, and eleven more, felt during and after the attacks. The shame of being found nude in a fraternity house by other brothers, who instead of helping took pictures and liberties with them. The pain of being violated. The fear of not knowing what will happen next. Because our acts come from a place of love, and not hate, we cannot truly make you feel how those sisters felt, but we will come as close as we can. Do you agree to this?"
Claire nodded. Tears were running down her face now. She'd known who the girls were that were involved in the ED fiasco; it was the worst kept secret in the greek community. If you really looked for them you could even find the pictures of the girls, some piled up, still unconscious on the floor. Seeing them admit to it and hearing the story again made it so much more real though.
"As I stated, the girls were found nude on the floor of the fraternity house, their dignity taken away. Claire, as the first step in tonight's exercise you will now strip and present your body to us."
.... There is more of this story ...