The Last Thing I’m Ever Gonna Write About Dharun Ravi

I seem to recall, at some point in recent history, having a series of strong or definitive emotions about Dharun Ravi, but those emotions seem half-baked in retrospect. I mean, I’ve always felt like he’s exactly the kind of guy I would’ve hated in college, the kind of guy who would’ve contributed to the sexist shit-talking that made me loathe living in the dorms and wonder why guys like him were somehow immune to the criticism they so eagerly piled upon their female and gay male classmates. In other words: I’ve always felt like Dharun Ravi totally sucks.

But I’ve also felt conflicted about the fact that I can’t seem to muster up enough fury to condemn him to a public hanging in the town square, as many of my colleagues have. When Ravi was sentenced last week, I was relieved because I thought that meant his story was over, and at last we could move forward and talk about ways to make life better for kids like Tyler Clementi, rather than focusing so much energy on making life worse for one kid named Dharun Ravi.

Ravi made the news again two days ago, though, when his people released an “apology” to the media — and he made the news again, today, but I’ll get to that in a minute. So, when Ravi was sentenced last weekJudge Glenn Berman had said to him: “I heard this jury say, ‘guilty’ 288 times — 24 questions, 12 jurors. That’s the multiplication. And I haven’t heard you apologize once.” Ravi had insisted that any apology would sound “rehearsed and empty.”

Turns out that was a pretty good call. I present to you Ravi’s rehearsed and empty apology (via):

Last Monday, I was sentenced to 3 years probation, 300 hours of community service, a fine of more than $10,000.00, and 30 days in jail. Since the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office appealed that sentence, the sentence does not have to start until the appeal is decided. Nevertheless, I decided to accept and hopefully complete the sentence as soon as possible. It’s the only way I can go on with my life.

I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on September 19, 2010 and September 21, 2010. My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions. I apologize to everyone affected by those choices. I am surrendering myself to the Middlesex County Correctional Facility on Thursday, May 31, 2012, to start my 30-day period of imprisonment.

Yup, leave it to Ravi to present an apology that didn’t actually involve apologizing! He owes Tyler an apology, and maybe Tyler’s family too — though honestly I feel weird about the latter because Tyler had come out to his parents shortly before his suicide, and reported to a friend that “its a good thing dad is ok w/it or i would be in serious trouble… mom has basically completely rejected me…she seems very dismissive.” His mother told the police that Clementi had revealed some “disturbing information” to her three weeks before the suicide.

Regardless, I wasn’t inspired by this non-apology to demand Ravi be sentenced to additional jail time, as many others have been. I do think his sentence was too lenient, but only because it doesn’t include 30,000 hours of volunteer work for The Trevor Project and a $50,000 donation to Rutgers’ mental health services department.  On Rachel’s post last week about Ravi’s sentence, commenter Remich, who I believe is a law student or lawyer of some kind, presented an apt breakdown of why, when looking at the “four principles that justify criminal punishment” — rehabilitation, deterrence, incapacitation and retribution — Ravi’s appropriated jail time seems adequate.

Today, Ravi began his jail sentence, and the Clementi family “rejected” his apology:

As to the so-called ‘apology,’ it was, of course, no apology at all, but a public relations piece produced by Mr. Ravi’s advisers only after Judge Berman scolded Mr. Ravi in open court for his failure to have expressed a word of remorse or apology.

A sincere apology is personal. Many people convicted of crimes address the victims and their families in court. Mr. Ravi was given that opportunity but chose to say nothing. His press release did not mention Tyler or our family, and it included no words of sincere remorse, compassion or responsibility for the pain he caused.

I’ve written here, in the past, about how blaming Ravi for Tyler Clementi’s suicide does us all a disservice, because it glosses over Clementi’s potential depression and social anxiety problems and the myriad of other issues that led him to the bridge that night. I’ve written about how strange it is that what Ravi did to Clementi is done by college boys to college girls every day in this country and nobody does anything about it, and how anybody who’s been there probably isn’t that shocked that Ravi saw his behavior as somehow acceptable or normal within the surprisingly primal environment of undergraduate co-habitation. I’d like to mention, again, because this fact is often overlooked, that only maybe five people actually saw the video feed of Clementi and they saw it for about thirty seconds. There is no permanent recording of either incident, and the second “viewing” Ravi announced on twitter never happened. It’s Ravi’s perceived intent (as announced on twitter) that we’re pissed about, not what actually transpired. Regardless of what we believe/assume to be true, nobody actually knows why Clementi killed himself, there is no definitive evidence, only speculation.

But — enough. Enough with Dharun Ravi. I have run out of fucks to give about Dharun Ravi. I have no fucking idea what’s going on in that kid’s head. Maybe he’s so fundamentally pissed about essentially being accused of murder and branded a homophobe for life that he can’t seem to muster up any genuine remorse, or maybe he’s just a dick who never gave a shit about Tyler and never will. Maybe he’s a jackass homophobe sociopath. Whatever. I give up on this loser. I’m not interested in his appeal, or his apology, or ever having to look at his stupid face again. The fact that a Queerty commenter responded to Ravi’s non-apology with “HE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN THE FULL TEN YEARS!!!!!!!” really surprised me. I mean, we all realize that the bullies who literally told Jamey Rodemeyer to kill himself got off scot-free, right? That story got dropped like it was hot. Does all this anger towards Ravi specifically simply exist because is an adult, so we can release his name and photograph, because we have a face to point at and hate? Is any racism at play here, too?

Or is it just easier to talk about Dharun Ravi than it is to talk about bigger issues that require cultural change and institutional change?

For starters, the stigma around men and mental illness — we know men are far less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues such as depression. We know that gay men are more likely than straight men to delay or not get needed medical help or prescription drugs and we also know that LGB adults are more likely to need medication for emotional health issues than straight people (22% vs. 10%). 35% of LGB youth, versus 10% of straight youth, report suicide attempts. Furthermore, young men between the ages of 17-19 are five times as likely to commit suicide than women of the same age.

On top of that, the fact remains that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students specifically. From Suicide.org:

And the number one cause of suicide for college student suicides (and all suicides) is untreated depression.

Going to college can be a difficult transition period in which students may feel lost, lonely, confused, anxious, inadequate, and stressed. And these problems may lead to depression. And again, untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.

Studies indicate that college students who are suicidal are quiet, reserved, depressed, and socially isolated, and thus it is up to all of us to try to identify the suicide warning signs and get help for them.

Additionally, a survey indicates that one in five college students believe that their depression level is higher than it should be, yet only 6% say that they would seek help.

In a 2009 report from the University of Texas-Austin, “New Data on the Nature of Suicidal Crisis in College Students,” researchers noted that only 26% of students are aware of their college’s counseling services, but that those who seek counseling are less likely to attempt suicide. Here’s the clincher, of course: “even if it were possible to to increase the sensitivity and accuracy of existing referral systems so that the majority of students at risk of committing suicide were seen at their college counseling centers, meeting the needs of these students would be extremely costly and could require up to a 75% increase in counseling staff.”

Lacking those financial resources, researchers suggest “the incidence of suicidal ideation may be greatly reduced by a population-oriented preventive approach that seeks to improve social support networks and engineer a more connected, caring environment.” Relatedly, they reported that loneliness is a major factor in suicidal ideation, and having a peer to confide in is a major factor in preventing actual suicide.

Tyler was lonely. He had no peers to confide in. “I need some people in my life, just not as much as other people do,” Tyler told a cyber-buddy a few days before his death. “I would love to have like 3 close friends… I NEED conversation, it’s just that I can’t DO it.”  

By default, a lot of socially anxious college freshmen end up clinging to their roommate for the first few weeks, no matter how different they are from one another, until they get on their feet and feel ready to branch out and explore more complementary social waters. Unfortunately, it seems Rutgers doesn’t  try to match roommates strategically and therefore Tyler ended up living with his polar opposite who also turned out to be a stupid asshole.

Tyler died not having made a single friend at school. Maybe that, ultimately, is Ravi’s gravest failure as a human being — Tyler needed a friend, somebody to eat lunch with, and Ravi turned out to be anything but.

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Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1784 articles for us.

26 Comments

  1. Thumb up 12

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    Thank you for this. So much of the commentary surrounding Clementi’s death seems very reductive and hateful towards Ravi rather than mature discussion of the issues.

    As an Australian law student, it’s a bit of a surreal experience looking at American jail sentences because they tend to be much longer custodial sentences than are given here. I can’t understand why a court would allocate a custodial sentence in a scenario like this under Australian principles of sentencing — it’s a chance for reflection, but the state paying for 30 days of gaol is immensely expensive. Surely it would be easier (and more helpful) to mandate community service? Hanging out around queers helping to prevent suicide is cheap for the government and seems more likely to make him change his behaviour.

    What I wanted to say with that rant was that I don’t understand why someone looks at 30 days of gaol time and thinks it’s massively too short. Cultural differences maybe.

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      Annie, I had the exact same thoughts. I’m a law student in Canada, and we study a fair amount of cases from around the Commonwealth, but each time we read an American case it seems there are higher punitive damages in civil cases than would ever be awarded here, and longer jail sentences (often served consecutively rather than concurrently for offences where the elements are related). I’m not sure how much of it is cultural differences, and how much is the impact of a semi-elected judiciary in the US, but when we were discussing the Ravi case in one of my classes as a potential source for a new common law tort of privacy to be applied, there was not a single person who could imagine a custodial sentence longer than 30 days, at least not one who spoke up. This is at an incredibly queer-positive law school in a country with limitations on free speech to punish hate speech, and specific tribunals set up to deal with discriminatory issues. Its one of the reasons I had a difficult time understanding a lot of the commentary surrounding the Ravi case. Good to know I wasn’t alone in that!

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    This was a really good article, I appreciate the fact that you don’t just jump on the bandwagons and let other people decide your emotions about issues like this for you. I feel like he’s probably just a homophobic asshole and not an evil, conniving person, which really worries me because homophobic assholes are everywhere.

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    “Nevertheless, I decided to accept and hopefully complete the sentence as soon as possible. It’s the only way I can go on with my life.”

    THAT makes me see red. Your former roommate can’t go on with his life, you stupid pig.

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    As someone who has been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts four times – I have no idea why there is all this fury at Ravi.

    I don’t get it, at all.

    Someone can’t be driven to suicide. No one individual event or individual person can make someone kill themselves. It requires being in an EXTREMELY altered state of mind. You are not thinking rationally, you’re in another world where logic doesn’t make sense, where you are worthless, where there is no hope.

    It is a scary place to be, but there is no blame. It’s a disease. Most doctors believe that you can’t be suicidal without having a mental illness. It’s an automatic assumption. And I think it’s pretty clear in this case that the person was mentally ill.

    I feel sorry for Ravi and bewildered at people’s anger towards him. What he did wasn’t good, I don’t endorse it, it was shitty, but he is NOT a murderer.

    That’s just not the way suicide works.

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    I live here in NJ. I’m on or around the Rutgers campus frequently. I can’t get away from this fucking story. He’s on the front page of every paper, local and national. I can’t stop and buy a fucking cup of coffee without hearing someone talk about him, or how they feel about the case, the verdict, the *apology*. I’m glad you’re done writing about this fucktard, because here in NJ they won’t be done for awhile. So I will once again seek asylum here on AS happy in the knowledge that for a little while at least, I can read some interesting, thought provoking and entertaining articles without having to see that fucktards face.

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    Riese, your article is brilliant again! I only wish that half the population could be a quarter as inteligent as you are. The world would be zillions times better. Thank you for your work! Doc

  7. Thumb up 1

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    Great article, Riese. I always love your perspective on issues of bullying/depression/suicide. You seem to be able to turn everything into a beautifully flowing story, peppered with bits of your own opinions backed up by numerical data.
    I think you are a talented writer. I know people have said it before, but you really need to write a book. I would buy at least two copies! You were born to write!

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    I believe that is exactly what Ravi said in his interview that he wished he could have gotten thru to Tyler. He said that he tried talking to him but Tyler was pretty unresponsive/shy. It seems like Tyler was only interested in hooking up with the old stranger.

    You all would not have liked Ravi’s apology no matter what. You would have found something or someone that he left out.

    I think the Clementi’s need to apologize to Ravi. Their son ruined Ravi’s life. Would anyone really want their son or daughter to room with a person that would bring 30 year old strangers to the room met on the internet? To me, that is worse than the webcam. Extremely dangerous even tho not illegal.

    Something just doesn’t match up. Shy, quite, sweet, etc. but not to shy to bring a 30 year old stranger in a dorm room.

    Yes, kids hook up with other kids in college all the time. If anyone knows of anyone who has ever brought a 30 year old to the dorm for sex, let me know.

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    ‘I think the Clementi’s need to apologize to Ravi. Their son ruined Ravi’s life. Would anyone really want their son or daughter to room with a person that would bring 30 year old strangers to the room met on the internet? To me, that is worse than the webcam. Extremely dangerous even tho not illegal. ‘

    Are you just trolling or do you really mean that? Really? Clementi doing that ‘ruined Ravi’s life’? Oh, so his parents losing their son is so not as bad as Ravi’s roommate bringing a 30 yr old stranger into their dorm? Wow. What a strange outlook you have.

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    Losing their son is indeed very sad, tragic and bad but he did this at his own hands. Tyler and the Clementis are not automatically right because he is dead. We still don’t know why he jumped. Perhaps he could not deal with the reality of his actions after he lived his fantasy dream. What started this chain of events? What we do know, as testified, was that Tyler & MB had planned these meetings for sometime. Yes, I think inviting that stranger into the room was morally wrong. Not because he was GAY but because he was 1)a stranger and 2)beyond the reasonable age group for the environment. The Clementis knew something was wrong with their son. Perhaps his older brothers (relatable gay) knew. Warn people. Again, would you really want your son or daughter to share a room with anyone that would invite someone met on the internet into the room? In these days & times?

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    BTW, it is likely that they would have become friends or respectable roommates to each other. But this thing happened in the first 3 weeks. Most are walking a straight line (until they learn the lay of the land) the first few weeks (months) of college. Again, Tyler had this plan to meet MB before he ever got to the school. That was his focus. That was his concentration. He had his friend.

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    I made my point. Don’t want to join your club. If either of you, Leanne or Cassandra, remember the time when you or your friend, or your friend’s friend, or when you heard about someone that brought a 30 year old stranger into the dorm for sex and how that was handled, let me know. I don’t need names.

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    Stella, I agree with you in two ways.

    One, as an 18 year old surrounded by other 18 year olds in a college dorm, it is strange to see an older (30 year old) man or woman in the dorms in a sexual context. I remember once, in freshman year, an older alumni followed some drunk female dorm-mates to our house, tried to hangout, was tolerated for a few hours, then, literally, kicked out when the creep-factor exceeded a certain threshold. 30 year older men in an undergraduate setting are generally professors and treated like demi-gods/parental figures. It would have been strange to see a man that age in a different context. I think Ravi did what he did in some state of out-of-control, juvenile, hysteria when he was not able to cope with the sexual context of the older man, his room-mate and the concept of homosexuality in general to which he probably had no real exposure.

    Two: The hostility toward Ravi fulfills the need of the news consumer/crime follower in that it is an easy way to be right, morally and absolutely, an opportunity seldom there for us in our own lives. Sympathy for Clementi, true sorrow at his death, is his parent’s and friends. It is a cheap and easy sympathy to give from the outside, a sorrow akin to crying over the death of children in a foreign country. The anger at Ravi is also easy and cathartic. A socially permissible opportunity to vent hatred without expecting to be called to task, almost as a right.

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