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 week, Judge 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.