Roommate Indicted For Hate Crime for Acts Leading to Gay Student Tyler Clementi’s Suicide

Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers roommate who allegedly broadcast Tyler Clementi’s love life over the internet for the purposes of mocking him, has been indicted on 15 different charges and if convicted, faces 5 to 10 years in prison.

In particular, just some of the 15 counts against Mr. Ravi included “invasion of privacy, witness and evidence tampering, and other charges stemming from the suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi in September.” The charges do not explicitly link Mr. Ravi’s actions with Clementi’s suicide, but the charges do include the language “hate crime.” Molly Wei, the friend who was accused of invasion of privacy along with Mr. Ravi back in September, does not appear to have been indicted for anything.

Although the charges are ostensibly about privacy and tampering of evidence (ex. deleting tweets that implied he had invaded Clementi’s privacy), it’s generally understood that this is really about the epidemic of gay bullying and its connections to teen suicide; about whether or not we’re going to commit to a level of accountability for that. Here’s the statement of Garden State Equality, the group largely behind New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law:

Garden State Equality commends Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan and the grand jury for its 15-count indictment of Dharun Ravi. Without question, the indictment is in the best interests of justice and in the best interests of students across New Jersey, for their potential bullies will now think harder before demolishing another student’s life.

As Garden State Equality has said all along, Mr. Ravi’s grotesque violation of Tyler Clementi’s invasion of privacy, based on Mr. Ravi’s perception of Tyler’s sexual orientation, presents the clearest-cut violation of New Jersey law. You could not ask for a clearer case.

To those who say that Mr. Ravi’s conduct was merely a prank that students are apt to pull – and that somehow he should not receive a tough sentence – we say that’s nonsense. That heinous philosophy has tragically done so much to create a bullying epidemic in our state and nation in the first place.

Today’s indictment, when combined with the recently enacted anti-bullying law which Garden State Equality steered to enactment – widely considered the strongest anti-bullying law in the country – will have an appropriate chilling effect on bullies everywhere.

We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler Clementi deeply. Today is a day of justice.

Of course, this ruling is particularly timely in light of the study published this week on the scientifically confirmed correlation between inhospitable and anti-gay environments and teen suicide. It felt more than coincidental: a legal confirmation that making life worse for gay people is tantamount to encouraging them to leave it, the same week that the scientific community made a similar statement. If he’s convicted of the most serious of these charges, Dharun Ravi may end up being the first, most public person to live with the consequences of those conclusions. Whether this is the best way to respond to the findings of that study is something to be determined over time. For more on the findings of the Oregon study in question, here’s an expert talking about it on MSNBC:

Nothing that Dharun Ravi ever does or has done to him will ever bring Tyler Clementi back. No amount of punishment can make this okay. But it can signify a step in our culture’s slowly coming to understand that gay kids and teens are in danger, and that they are responsible for and accountable for both that danger and its solution. Hopefully that is what happened today, and will keep happening every day after that.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. Ravi didn’t try to hide that he was video-recording another person’s home life. He didn’t care about the humiliation of broadcasting, to the universe, another person’s ostensibly private existence. I think government should defend my right to assume that I’m not being observed. What kind of American would disagree?

  2. “To those who say that Mr. Ravi’s conduct was merely a prank that students are apt to pull – and that somehow he should not receive a tough sentence – we say that’s nonsense. That heinous philosophy has tragically done so much to create a bullying epidemic in our state and nation in the first place.”

    This. So eloquent and clear – I hope this message gets across to the people who say that it was just a prank.

  3. I think it’s great that the college prank argument isn’t flying in this case. It seems like bigots use the whole ‘harmless banter’ or ‘just having a laugh’ or ‘college prank’ defence to dodge responsibility for identity-based bullying all the time… and sadly get away with it. But this sends a clear message that illegal is illegal, end of story.

  4. How can it be that most people don’t know this book: “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation”

    Because it clearly, perfectly, masterfully explains what is the nature of the beast

    People never think in terms of microaggressions, yet that’s what it’s all about: microaggressions, silent and effective killers

    That book should be required reading in every compulsory school

    If I only had time to live instead of working, I could review it for Autostraddle.

    • That guy wrote the textbook for a class I’m taking on multicultural counseling. I think microaggressions are just a chapter in my textbook though and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the discussion on sexual orientation. maybe what he says in this book is better.

      • From what I know this book is A LOT better than its previouos ones and there’s a chapter entirely devoted to sexual orientation.

        The concept of microaggression is KEY to understanding why gay people are generally less happy, less healthy, less rich, and kill themselves more often than straight people.

        BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY MICRO-ATTACKED ON A DAILY BASIS and eventually this takes a toll on our well-being, as it does for other groups who are micro-attacked (blacks, women).

        This book is genius because it explains in extreme detail how this happens, the process of a microaggression and the problems it causes.

  5. In one of the articles, it mentioned Tyler had searched the room for hidden cameras because he knew Ravi had recorded it on a webcam a previous time. I thought that was interesting because despite all the coverage of the suicide and what Ravi did, it was never entirely clear how much Tyler knew of what he was doing. Tyler had even complained to the university and they said they did all they could do about it. What bullshit. What did they even do? Isn’t that illegal or against some sort of university policy to do what Ravi was doing? If the university isn’t being sued yet by Tyler’s family, just give it a little time. Rutgers will deserve it, quite honestly.

  6. I’m really glad that there will be some consequences for this heinous behavior. For a long time, I doubted that anything would happen other than the general shaking of heads and tsking, but I’m pleasantly surprised that action has been taken. It’s not going to fix what happened, but it’s sending a message that this bullshit is not okay, a message that is desperately needed.

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