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Tragedy at Rutgers echos through PSU

By Rachael Ferrenti
On October 8, 2010

On September 22, Rutgers University suffered the devastating loss of freshman Tyler Clementi, who was driven to commit suicide as the result of cyber harassment for having sex with another man.

    A few days before, Clementi's roommate Dharun Ravi posted this on his Twitter page: "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." 6:17 p.m. on Sept. 19th.

Ravi and alleged accomplice Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with planting a webcam in the dorm room of Ravi and Clementi and broadcasting the recorded footage online, thus violating a laundry list of New Jersey laws, including invasion of privacy and creation of pornography without the subjects' consent. If found guilty, both will serve up to five years in jail.

    This horrid invasion and publication of privacy was enough to urge Clementi to committ suicide. Clementi's last known words were a Facebook status, which, updated on September 22nd at 8:42 read, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." His wallet, containing his Rutgers student ID and his driver's license, was found by the George Washington Bridge later that week.

    Unfortunately, Clementi's death marked the fourth suicide by a gay teen last month in the U.S. The three other victims of gay bullying and taunting were Billy Lucas, 15, of Indiana, Asher Brown, 13, of Texas, and Seth Walsh, also 13, of California.

    Clementi's and the others' stories have touched all Americans and have urged many to take action against the cruelty that gay teens face from their peers.

    Gay columnist Dan Savage initiated a web-based project named ‘It Gets Better' – a YouTube group where gay adults can leave encouraging messages for teenagers questioning their sexuality or for those who are subjected to bullying due to their sexual orientation. When asked by ABC newscaster Jeremy Hubbard why he felt compelled to initiate the project, Savage said:

"Hearing that these kids are committing suicide, the reaction as a gay adult is always, ‘…I wish I could have just talked to them for fifteen minutes and told them it gets better.' And it occurred to me… we can talk to these kids now. We don't have to wait for an invitation."

Schools and communities across the country have been holding services and vigils in memory of Clementi and the other lives lost as a result of gay bullying. PSU's S.A.G.E. Center and Voices Against Violence held a candlelight vigil on Thursday, October 7th, to raise awareness about domestic violence and interpersonal violations and crimes.

Still, the shock of last month's tragedies is being felt across the country. In an era where diversity and identity is no longer just accepted but is instead celebrated, the devastating losses of Tyler and other gay teens have truly resonated through the hearts of students and people everywhere.


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