Family Talk: The Irretrievable Life Of Tyler Clementi

Does it matter whether Dharun Ravi committed a hate crime?

Imagine sending your young son off to college with the highest of hopes, and maybe some separation anxiety.

When Tyler Clementi's parents sent him off to Rutgers in 2010, the boy had hardly developed facial hair yet, from the looks of photos, and had baby-smooth, unworn skin.

Clementi was a talented violinist. Do any of your kids play musical instruments?

The , on charges related to Clementi's 2010 suicide has been all over the news for days. Ravi is on trial for invasion or privacy, bias intimidation as a hate crime, and a slew of other charges that include hindering apprehension. Ravi, witnesses said, and dormmates to (whose identity has been kept secret, as prosecutors contend he's a victim) have sex live on his webcam, pointed at Clementi's bed.

In a text message sent to a friend from high school, Ravi also said his webcam would "keep the gays away," according to testimony.

Shortly after finding out, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge.

With Clementi's suicide, the issue of bullying, particularly on the internet, cyberbullying, have naturally became a concern for many parents. Now we have to protect our kids not just from , but their gadgets as well.

In my judgement, the fact that Ravi went so far as to broadcast his roommate in a most private and intimate of times shows his deep desire to embarrass and violate Clementi—nevermind early claims that he set up the camera to .

Unfortunately my judgement isn't what counts in the New Jersery trial. Ravi's lawyer, Steven Altman was quoted in The Times , saying his client, “had an encounter that he wasn’t ready for, that he didn’t expect...that he didn’t know how to deal with.”

Meanwhile the prosecutor, Julia McClure stated, “He didn’t like that he had a gay roommate. He was going to use it to his advantage, to expose to other people Tyler’s sexual orientation, to allow him to be shown to be different."

Does either version really matter?

I get that this needs to be proven if Ravi is to be convincted of a hate crime. But in a cosmic sence, does it make a difference if Ravi’s act was done maliciously, or because he wasn't “ready” for that kind of exposure to a person of a different sexual orientation?

The fact that there was absolutely no respect for Clementi and his private life, whatever the motivating factor, should be on the forefront because no matter the established movitive, the effect of the act will always be the same.

Terrible, unconscionable, immutable and tragically the same.

Additional reporting by .

Jimbo March 15, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Until schools (from elementary through college) vigorously enforce anti-bullying policies instead of paying lip service to them, bullying will continue. Only when enough schools are successfully sued in court will things change for the better.
Veronica Davidovich March 15, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Bravo to you, De Jesus. This article says everything I've been thinking and saying. One of my biggest arguments about this case has to do with one clear fact: there is not one, single positive outcome that would have been feasible in what Ravi did to Clementi. Not a one. Even if Tyler hadn't killed himself, he would have led a sad life, needing intense counseling, unable to attend the college of his choice. I know *I* would skip town if this happened to me. The only reason Ravi did what he did was to satisfy morbid curiosity for himself and others, and no matter how you look at it, its only goals were to shame, hurt and dehumanize. Tyler's being gay made him an easy target, making him open to being shamed and society possibly overlooking it. It's the same as someone who beats on the homeless; perhaps they don't HATE the homeless, but they can get their jollies in hurting them because it's easier than going after a businessman on the same street. That homeless person is easier, more vulnerable and easily overlooked. Who cares, right? Who's going to come looking for him? "I'm safe, beating on this guy, because either I'll get away with it no sweat, or society will see me as a 'kid who made an awful mistake, give him a chance!'" If that's what happens in this case--the jury, the public and officials seeing Ravi as a poor kid with potential who needs to say "yea, sorry" and get on with his life, I'll need a good cry.
Tully Conleth March 15, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Ravi should not have spied on his roommate. On the other hand Ravi should have sued the school for having to endure his roommates sexcapades overnight with a disheveled older man and stranger Tyler met on the internet. Tyler committed suicide most likely he was shamed by his own actions and antisocial choices.
PS March 15, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I get this, Tully, if you are uncomfortable with your roommate's friend and asking for privacy, then you spy on them with webcam. If you were Clementi, you would be prepared to be spied on by webcam if you bring a date to your dorm. That none of this involved overnight seems to escape you. Tyler has nothing to be ashamed about, but you do.
PS March 15, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Wonderfully put, Veronica. I wish your perspective could be widely shared and appreciated. The comparison to homeless is a great one. It is exactly the same kind of social stigma that allowed Ravi to take advantage of the situation. And his lawyer seems to be shamelessly suggesting that Clementi should back off from having relations over to let Ravi have his way of bullying.


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