As a New Jersey native, this story about the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate filmed him in a sex act and posted it online caught my attention last night. It is a depressing story that raises questions about both morality and the invasive nature of today’s electronic toys.
I am not sure what to say except people can be cruel and that cruelty has a price. How we are raising our kids today that they would think it was funny to videotape another teen in a sexual encounter and post it for the world to see?
But, we have become a nature of voyeurs, whether it’s gawking at the poor woman caught picking her nose on camera this week or a TMZ-surprise attack on some celebrity eating an ice cream cone with his kids.
A friend of mine who threw herself a birthday bash was stunned when a guest posted photos from the party on Facebook. There was nothing indecent about the photos, but my friend was very private and didn’t want photos of her whooping it up for strangers to see. I told her that we are now all living under the constant glare of a camera, except it’s a cell phone capturing every moment of our lives, even the embarrassing ones.
I am not sure if there is a privacy zone anymore, even in dorm rooms. This is a heartbreaking story.
The death of a Rutgers University freshman stirred outrage and remorse on campus from classmates who wished they could have stopped the teen from jumping off a bridge last week after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with a man was broadcast online.
“Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened,” said Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren. “He wouldn’t have been outed via an online broadcast and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life.”
Gay rights groups say Tyler Clementi’s suicide makes him a national example of a problem they are increasingly working to combat: young people who kill themselves after being tormented over their sexuality.
A lawyer for Clementi’s family confirmed Wednesday that he had jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.
The lawyer has not responded to requests for comment on whether Clementi was open about his sexual orientation.
Clementi’s roommate, Dhraun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy. Middlesex County prosecutors say the pair used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a live image of Clementi having sex on Sept. 19 and that Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.
Collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years.
ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.
Even if the young violinist from Ridgewood was not well known at his new school, his death stirred outrage.
“The notion that video of Tyler doing what he was doing can be considered a spectacle is just heinous,” said Jordan Gochman, 19, of Jackson, who didn’t know Clementi. “It’s intolerant, it’s upsetting, it makes it seem that being gay is something that is wrong and can be considered laughable.”
Other students who did know Clement were upset that they didn’t do more to help him. “I wish I could have been more of an ally,” said Georges Richa, a freshman from New Brunswick.
About 100 people gathered Wednesday night for a vigil on campus. They lay on the ground and chanted slogans like, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going home.”
Several gay rights groups linked Clementi’s death to the troubling phenomenon of young people committing suicide after being harassed over their sexuality.
On Tuesday, a 13-year-old California boy died nine days after classmates found him hanging from a tree. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy, Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, for being gay.
Rutgers University President Richard McCormick wrote in a letter to the campus, “If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.” Coincidentally, the university on Wednesday was launching a new two-year Project Civility, designed to get students thinking about how they treat others.