Tyler Clementi’s suicide, which was apparently triggered by the Rutgers University freshman’s roommate allegedly posting a video of Clementi being intimate with another man online, has set off a national debate on the dangers of cyberbullying and the struggles of young gays and lesbians who are taunted by their peers.
On September 22, the 18-year-old announced on his Facebook page that he was going to jump off the George Washington Bridge in New York. Authorities have identified a body they found floating in the Hudson River on Wednesday (September 29) as Clementi’s, according to the Wall Street Journal. A spokesperson for the New York City Medical Examiner’s office said the death had been ruled a suicide, with the causes listed as drowning and blunt impact injuries from the fall.
Clementi’s roommate, Dharan Ravi, and Ravi’s childhood friend, Molly Wei, have both been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy by allegedly taping him while he was engaged in sexual activities with another man. Prosecutors are now considering whether to add bias intimidation charges as well, which would be tied to the invasion of privacy charges and could double the amount of potential prison time served by Ravi and Wei to 10 years.
Clementi is one of many gay teens who appear to have taken their own lives recently after suffering bullying or intimidation at their schools.
On Thursday, MTV News spoke to celebrity blogger Perez Hilton , who said he was devastated by Clementi’s story. “I’m just beyond sad — I’m crushed,” Hilton told MTV News. “And also compelled to acting by the recent rash of young people killing themselves because of gay bullying and being harassed in school because people might think that they’re gay.”
Hilton stressed that distraught teens do have somewhere to go for proof that suicide is not the solution to their problems, and pointed to “Savage Love” columnist Dan Savage’s target="_blank">“It Gets Better” project.
Savage told MTV that the project was spurred by the suicide of 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Indiana, who took his life after being taunted by classmates for being gay. “I posted something to my blog about Billy Lucas — who might not have even been gay, he wasn’t out if he was gay, and not all kids who experience anti-gay bullying are gay — but he was bullied for being gay. … And I was reading about him and about Justin Aaberg [another teenager who committed suicide after being bullied at school] in Minnesota, and the reaction as an openly gay adult, always, when you read these stories is, ‘I wish I could’ve talked to this kid for five minutes, so I could’ve told him it gets better.’ ”
Hilton and Savage aren’t the only ones speaking out on the topic. Former MTV VJ La La Vazquez teamed up with R&B star Ciara for a YouTube video offering support to young people affected by bullying. Jay Manuel from “America’s Next Top Model” also made a video telling teens that regardless of their current situation, the future is bright. Also weighing in on the subject through Twitter and video were Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, “One Tree Hill” actress Sophia Bush and openly gay talk show host target="_blank">Ellen DeGeneres.