Labels: William Friedkin
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 12:23 PM
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.
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.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.
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.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said in a statement that his group considers Clementi's death a hate crime.
"We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind," Goldstein said. "And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."
Last week, Dan Savage, a columnist at the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, launched the latest of several efforts to try to stem the problem: the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel where gay, lesbian and bisexual adults share the turmoil they experienced when they were younger - and that their lives are better now.
In response to Clementi's death and other incidents, the group Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays said it would issue a "call to action" on the subject on Thursday.
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.
Meanwhile, for some of Clementi's new classmates, the first time they learned much about him was when they got word of his death.
"I guess the only person I haven't talked to is Tyler 'cause he's like really quiet and shy," said Justin Lee, a freshman from Princeton who lives on Clementi's hall.
© The Washington Post
DeFalco reported from Ridgewood. Associated Press writers Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, Colleen Long in New York and David Porter in Newark contributed to this report.