By now people should know about Tyler Clementi’s suicide. Clementi killed himself after his roommate and another girl secretly recorded his sexual encounter with another guy:
On the evening of September 19, Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi is believed to have sent a message by Twitter about his roommate, Tyler Clementi.
“Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, New Jersey, surreptitiously placed the camera in their dorm room and broadcast video of Clementi’s sexual encounter on the internet, the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office said. Ravi tried to use the webcam again on two days later, on September 21.
“Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again,” Ravi is believed to have tweeted.
The next day, Clementi was dead.
Authorities said the 18-year-old freshman committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York. A law enforcement source told CNN that Clementi’s wallet and cell phone were found on the bridge.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office said Thursday that a body recovered a day earlier from the Hudson River is Clementi’s.
Ravi and Molly Wei both face two counts of invasion of privacy. Ravi faces two more counts for trying to record another encounter Clementi had. Both have been released, Wei on her on recognizance, and Ravi on $25,000 bail.
The initial reports were vague. There was no information about how Clementi discovered what happened or what he did before he decided to take his life. According to article, Clementi shared what happened on a web forum before he killed himself:
A user dubbed cit2mo on September 21, a day before Clementi jumped from the bridge, wrote, “so the other night i had a guy over. I had talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy. given the angle of the webcam I can be confident that that was all he could have.”
Cit2mo asked readers what he should do, including whether to get another roommate. Cit2mo also said he didn’t want to report his roommate and “then end up with nothing happening except him getting pissed at me….”
Several people who responded to cit2mo’s post expressed outrage and said the webcam was an invasion of privacy. Cit2mo said he might talk with a resident assistance in the dorm.
Cit2mo later responded that he had reported the incident.
“He [the resident assistant] seemed to take it seriously… he asked me to email him a written paragraph about what exactly happened… I emailed it to him, and to two people above him….”
That post came at 6:17 a.m. on the day that Clementi disappeared.
Clementi’s sexuality was at best undetermined. According to some of the people who knew him he never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend. However, Clementi’s posts were from a website for gay men, so he likely was gay and identified as such even though he may not have publicly come out.
Not that any of that matters. What Wei and Ravi did was completely stupid and cruel. They may have thought it was funny, but it is clear that they failed to think about the impact it would have on Clementi.
Now, as wrong as what they did is, it is also wrong for people to draw conclusions about their motives. It has not taken long for various gay organizations to tout this as an example of anti-gay sentiments. We do not know that was Ravi’s intent. He could have done this as a joke or just to embarrass Clementi. He could have done it to out Clementi without any overt or covert hatred of his former roommate.
This sort of thing is not uncommon, and that is not just in reference to how gay men are treated. It is not uncommon for people to violate their roommates’ privacy by secretly recording them and sharing the video. So before everyone starts calling Ravi and Wei homophobes, people should wait until all the facts come out. They may not have done this out of malice, and it would unfair to paint them with that broad brush out of anger.