The Last Days of Gay Rutgers Student Tyler Clementi: New Questions, Some Answers

If you, like me, found the first few weeks of college to be an unfathomably petrifying social experience, then you, like me, will understand a little better what it felt like to be Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old gay Rutgers freshman who jumped off The George Washington Bridge to his death in September 2010.

Clementi moved in to his dormitory — Davidson Hall “C” on the Busch Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey — on August 28th, 2010. Although he hadn’t met his roommate, Dharun Ravi, until that day, both boys had already done a great deal of internet research on each other prior to move-in.

Davidson Hall "C"

On move-in day Clementi thought Ravi might be a shy loner like him because Ravi spent most of that day hooking up his complicated computer situation and wireless router. But in the days that followed, Clementi quickly learned that Ravi wasn’t really anything like him at all. They were opposites, really.

See — Ravi had friends. Lots of friends. His old friend Molly Wei, from high school, lived right across the hall. Ravi went out “partying” every night “’til 5am” and was rarely in his room. He was confident and gregarious. Clementi, on the other hand, rarely left his room. Clementi didn’t even drink, really, let alone party, and he didn’t want to, either — or, at least, that’s what he told his friends.

Clementi told an online friend that Ravi knew Clementi was gay and had “tweeted about it.” Furthermore, Clementi said, Ravi “changes his pants inside of his closet… it’s like the most awk thing you’ve ever seen” but that otherwise Ravi was “pretty fine all around. a lil bit messy, but so far so good.”

As the days trudged on and Ravi became increasingly comfortable at Rutgers, Clementi hadn’t made much social progress and although he’d come to Rutgers partially to play violin in their Orchestra, told his friend “it feels so awk to practice violin in the room. I feel like everyone can hear me.”

Tyler Clementi playing violin with the Ridgewood High School Orchestra in 2009

Clementi’s friend “Sam” advised him to get off the computer and go make friends, but Clementi said:

“I can’t talk… it’s like I’m not capable of conversation… i NEED conversation, it’s just that I can’t DO it.”

Clementi said he only needed “3 hrs of socialization a day” and preferred a few close friends to large groups of other friends:

“I don’t like to be around people for that long… and most other people like to be around people for long times… whereas I really need to be alone and so then they just view me as always wanting to be alone, but that’s not true. I need  some people in my life, just not as much as other people do.”

After Clementi’s suicide on September 22nd, 2010, CBS News reported:

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.”

For some of Clementi’s other new classmates, though, the first time they learned much about him was when Dharun Ravi put Clementi’s private gay hookup on his public webcam.

Was it this video — a sort of high-tech vehicle for gay bullying — that drove Clementi to suicide? We may never know one way or the other, and it’s likely that if it is, it’s still only one of many factors.  Dharun Ravi, unsurprisingly, says none of those factors are his fault.

Dharun Ravi in court with his lawyer, Steve Altman

Dharun Ravi has been indicted on 15 counts which include invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and trying to mislead investigators. His lawyer Steve Altman submitted hundreds of pages of “revelations and uncensored witness testimony” to the Superior Court in New Brunswick this week, along with a motion to dismiss all charges against Ravi. The information in this post, unless otherwise noted, is from those documents, which you can access here.

I spent all day Saturday reading those documents, which add a little bit more depth to the Clementi case, a case which retroactively marked the beginning of a string of gay suicides paid attention to by the press last fall: 13-year old Asher Brown, 13-year-old Seth Walsh, 19-year-old Raymond Chase, 19-year-old Zach Harrington, 14-year-old Brandon Bitner, 21-year old Jeanine Blanchette and 17-year-old Chanel Dube — the list goes on. Not all of those suicides were directly linked to gay bullying, but all of those kids were gay or perceived to be gay and for one reason or another, chose to leave this world.

I admit I’ve always found it interesting that Clementi’s case has been the most visible of those suicides, as technically an absolute link between Clementi’s roommate spying on his gay sexual encounter and Clementi’s decision to kill himself has never been established . Also, unlike many other victims who’d been openly taunted by homophobic bullies, I’m not sure that Ravi and his friends were necessarily homophobic — it seems like they were just assholes.

Will that link ever be established? According to Ravi’s attorney – no.  From the brief:

The evidence presented to the Grand Jury was insufficient to establish the elements of any of the crimes charged. Although courts ought to be reluctant to second guess a grand jury panel, this is a rare case where the evidence simply does not support the indictment. 

Basically, Ravi’s lawyer is saying that key evidence was either not presented or was misrepresented to The Grand Jury in order to indict his client. For example, an apology text from Ravi to Clementi wasn’t shown to the Grand Jury and longer nuanced conversations were inaccurately summarized to the Grand Jury. Some of these claims seem valid and some don’t.

Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei

Altman also claims Ravi only turned on his webcam to protect his belongings. Specifically, he wanted to ensure Clementi’s friend wouldn’t steal his iPad, which is honestly the stupidest defense ever because if Ravi was so f-cking concerned about his iPad, I hear that shit is hella portable.

Besides, Ravi has a long history of lying his pants off. In Molly Wei’s testimony from April 15, 2011, she says she and Ravi were friends in middle school but had a falling out in high school related to lies Ravi told Wei and didn’t speak for three years — only reconciling eventually because they were in the same hall at Rutgers.

In 9th grade, Ravi told Wei he was the captain of an all-black basketball team going to “Nationals,” that he was “famous in India” and “on billboards in India” and he was “famous in Canada for snowboarding.” Molly Wei:

I think the point where I cut things off with him is on my birthday when he sent me an audio file he said that he was really popular at his old school and that since his band, choir and orchestra owed him a favor for him getting them to play at his basketball game he got them all together to record a soundtrack for me. It was really weird… so I just stopped talking to him. “

Regardless of the validity of Ravi’s case, however, the information released in the court papers serves to give us a much fuller picture of Clementi’s life and death though it’s ultimately, still, not enough.

 

As aforementioned, Ravi researched Clementi online extensively that summer. Initially he found a different gay “Tyler C” online who he thought was his roommate — a man who apparently was “MAD MAD MAD GAY….” and inspired Ravi (“goodyearsoles”) to exclaim “WTF THIS IS MY ROOMMMATE” :

bigeaglefan75: [the fact that that guy is your roommate] blows
goodyearsoles: He blows
bigeaglefan75: LOL
bigaeaglefan75: he’ll blow you in your sleep
goodyearsoles: I’m pretty sure he’s majoring in theatre.

But then the real Tyler Clementi emailed Ravi, and it turned out, much to Ravi’s relief, that The Real Tyler Clementi was “also gay but regular gay.”

In the motion to dismiss, the defendant points out that Clementi also made some disparaging remarks about Ravi’s race, saying to a friend that Ravi’s family seemed “soooo indian/first gen americanish,” “having way too much fun playing with the internet… his ‘rents def own a dunkin.” The defense says, however, that it’s unlikely Clementi was racist or that Ravi was homophobic. They were just two teenagers evaluating each other based on “superficial characteristics.”

Ravi, or "goodyearsoles," doesn't think it would be awkward to share a room with a gay guy

Shortly after arriving at school, Tyler told a friend online that he’d come out to his family before leaving for school, a fact which the defense suggests has been overlooked as a possible trigger.

Tyler told his friend that his older brother who is also gay already knew, his other brother was “unphazed by it,” Dad was “actually very accepting of it” and as for his mother:

“then…we get to mom…hehe…lets just say…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.”

This is in line with Clementi’s mother’s feelings as recorded in the police report from Clementi’s suicide:

“[Ms.Clementi] stated that the only medical issue that tyler had was that he had Asthma and takes Albuterol. However, she added that he may be depressed. Mrs.Clementi stated that three weeks ago, her son revealed ‘some disturbing information’ to her and that they have not talked about the issue since. She advised Dispatcher Screathings that she talked to Tyler at approximately 11:30AM this morning, and she advised that Taylor appeared Happy and in a good mood.”

Although Clementi hadn’t made many friends on-campus, he’d met a 25-year-old guy, “MB,” on the internet who he wanted to hook up with. Clementi considered a $35 hotel room because  he was worried Ravi might walk in… “that would be so awk tho lol… him walking in while i’m getting fucked…” but decided against it.

Their first hookup, according to “MB,” took place without Ravi’s knowledge on the 16th.

texts between ravi and wei after wei had been called in for questioning

Clementi asked Ravi for permission for MB’s September 19th visit, however, which is when Ravi set up the infamous webcam, which he accessed via iChat in Molly Wei’s room. The pages of witness interviews on how/why exactly the camera was set up are exhausting and totally confusing, which the prosecution claims is because Ravi asked his friends to lie for him. Molly’s testimony in particular — Part I and Part II — are a mess of contradictions and “i don’t remember”s. That’s a theme across everybody’s testimony — nobody seems to remember anything.

Here’s a sample exchange between the police and Alissa Agarwal, another Rutgers resident and friend of Ravi’s:

Q: Did you know that [Ravi’s] roommate was gay?
A: I don’t think I did.
Q: You didn’t know?
A: Yeah, I don’t think I did.
Q: So through all this conversation that he was bragging about this camera and —
A: During all this I knew that he was gay. But like, before the 19th I’m saying I don’t remember if I knew whether or not he was gay.
Q: So on the 19th, that’s when you found out?
A: Come the 19th, because of the tweet, yeah. I might have known he was gay before but I really don’t remember. Dharun really didn’t talk about Tyler that much.
Q: Did he ever make derogatory comments about anyone of — is homosexual?
A: Nothing vibrant in my memory.
Q: Did he ever express his views about homosexuality in general?
A: No.
Q: How he felt about it?
A: No.
Q: No?
A: He was pretty open to it.
Q: Umhmm.
A: I’m pretty sure.
Q: About —
A: Because he, himself, has like gay friends.
Q: How did you know that?
A: I think word of mouth, like people, like we have like a group and like people told me.
Q: So Dharun never told you that he had friends that were homosexual?
A: I don’t think so. I don’t remember.
Q: You don’t remember if he told you that?
A: Yeah. I don’t remember.
Q: You’re telling us you think you found out through —
A: Yeah, I’m not sure though. Because he and I didn’t really talk about the homosexual community that much.
Q: Okay. So did you talk about it just a little then?
A: I don’t remember. He and I talked about a wide variety of things.
Q: Okay. But this was not one of them or was?
A: It might have been, but nothing that’s vibrant in my memory again.
Q: Okay. Are you have — are you on any type of medication for memory issues?
A: No.
Q: Have you ever gone to a doctor in reference to having memory issues?
A: No.

The day after MB’s visit, Tyler told his friend “HY” on chat that he saw the green light turn on the webcam while MB was over, but that it had turned off by the time Tyler went to turn it off himself. Also, Tyler was aware of what Ravi had done from reading twitter:

Tyler: but it’s not like he left the cam on or recorded or anything, he just like took a five sec peep lol
HY: um i think he got too scared after 5min hehe
HY: hahahaha
HY: but wow, idk
Tyler: yah, i know
HY: i would feel seriously violated
Tyler: like wtf did he think was gonna happen… oh yah i gotcha, when i first read the tweet i defs felt violated but then when i remembered what actually happened… idk
HY: um
Tyler: doesn’t seem soooo bad lol
HY: dude!
Tyler: hahaha
HY: not only did he peep, he told the entire world about it
Tyler: yah
HY: you ok with that?
Tyler: the telling the entire world thing? i mean, nothing i can do
HY: all of it together
Tyler: hahaha, well i mean next time i’ll turn the cam around first lol
HY: next time you should be like – dharun, what’s up, you came back for more? you know next time you could just ask me, i’ve always avail. :-P
Tyler: haha but at the same time i kinda don’t really want him to know that i’m reading his twitter…ya kno? like.. if he’s reminded that i’m reading t, then he’ll probably block me out

The defense says this chat proves Tyler didn’t care at all.

"sam" encourages tyler("keyb0wvi0") to meet people at school

But in my totally personal and perhaps entirely irrelevant opinion as another person with social anxiety — Tyler cared. Tyler just didn’t have the guts to do anything about it, so he downplayed his reaction. Had Tyler told his friend that he felt violated, his friend would’ve told him to take action, and then Tyler would’ve had to explain why he’d rather have his privacy violated than initiate an uncomfortable conversation with a relative stranger, a concept foreign to most people without social anxiety. Socially comfortable people don’t have much patience for that, no matter how much they love or accept you. In a more general way, Tyler’s overall tone might not suggest complacency as much as it does shame — he was probably a lot sadder than he let on, and it can be embarrassing to admit to other people that you aren’t adjusting well, especially when those other people are doing just fine at their new schools.

Tyler told HY he hadn’t spoken more than ten words to Ravi, and when HY started giving Tyler social tips — like to ask people questions about themselves — Tyler cut her off:

“yah yah yah, I’ve googled it like a million times, I kno all the ‘rules.'” 

In a conversation from the first week of school, you see that Tyler was afraid to even ask his roommate to open his curtains:

Tyler: I wonder if Dharun would open his curtains, but gah, I’ll never ask… hehe this is gonna b fun lolz
HY: Why not?
Tyler: idk. to much confrontation i guess
HY: try, ‘hey, by any chance would you mind opening the shades on your window? or would that mean too much glare?’
Tyler: hehehe that’s too funny, your giving me scripted conversations lol
HY: hehehe oops
Tyler: like the screenplay writer for my life
HY: yaY!!! my first job!!
Tyler: But naw… not gonna do it.

However, later after doing some research, Clementi found that Ravi’s webcamming may have been in violation of The Rutgers Code of Conduct. This meant Clementi could take action without confronting Ravi directly. He’d just have to talk to an RA — these kinds of “official” conversations are much easier — the RA has a job to do so their reactions are predictable and therefore less anxiety-inducing than a casual social encounter. At this point Tyler changed his tune, but still gave no indication to Ravi that he knew what was gong on.

On September 21st, Clementi texted Ravi to ask if he could use the room again. Ravi posted to twitter: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.”

Clementi saw the tweet, unplugged Ravi’s computer, reported Ravi’s behavior to the RA and requested a room change. The RA offered Clementi another place to sleep ’til the change went through but Clementi insisted it would be fine — probably he didn’t want to risk alerting Ravi or miss his date that night with MB.

 

via luelles.tumblr.com

On the afternoon of September 22nd, Ravi was approached by the RA, Raahi Grover, and informed that Clementi had complained about the webcam. Grover said Ravi appeared “upset and confused, and then tried to explain himself, but Grover cut him off.”

That evening Clementi was last seen at 6:30 PM. He sent a text message to HY at 7:15 PM.

At 8:42 PM on September 22nd, Clementi updated his status to say “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.” Witnesses saw a man jumping off the George Washington Bridge around that time.

At 8:46 PM, Ravi sent the following text message to Clementi, allegedly in reaction to his earlier confrontation with the RA:

“I want to explain what happened . Sunday night when you requested to have someone over I didn’t realize you wanted the room in private . I went to Mollys room and I was showing her how I set up my computer so I can access it from anywhere . I turned on my camera and saw you in the corner of the screen and I immediately closed it. I felt uncomfortable and guilty of what happened. Obviously I told people what occurred so they could give me advice. Then Tuesday when you requested the room again I wanted to make sure what happened Sunday wouldn’t happen again and not to video chat me from 930 to 12. Just in case, I turned my camera away and put my computer to sleep so even if anyone tried it wouldn’t work. I wanted to make amends for Sunday night. I’m sorry if you heard something distorted and disturbing but I assure you all my actions were good natured.”

At 8:56 PM, another text from Ravi:

“I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it. In fact, one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship . I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic . I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, it’s adding to my guilt. You have to right to move if you wish, but I don’t want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation.

Ravi claims he hadn’t seen Clementi’s facebook status when he sent the texts. The texts make Ravi sound at least slightly full of shit, in my opinion, but Ravi insists they’re genuine, and there’s something to be said for his desire to send those texts at all. He did care, in some way, and felt bad, in some way.

Nobody knows if Clementi got the texts before he died.

Clementi’s cell phone was recovered at the scene.

the george washington bridge

Regardless, the defense is arguing that Clementi’s troubles took place “far from Busch campus.” The Defense would like the jury to see the documents on Clementi’s computer which the state has not disclosed the contents of, despite suggestive titles like “Why does it have to be so painful .docx.” (june 20,2010), “sorry.docx” (july 28, 2010) and “Gah .docx.” (sep 2,2010).

Tyler with a friend in high school

 

So after engaging with these documents, are we any closer to understanding what happened to Tyler Clementi?

One theory: some psychiatrists believe in the existence of something they call “impulsive suicide” — in which the interval between deciding to kill oneself and actually doing it is incredibly small and for which certain barricades could’ve easily prevented the suicide — described by Scott Anderson in a 2008 New York Times article, The Urge to End it All. Basically the article asks — if someone can make the decision to kill someone else without premeditation, could they make the same decision about killing themselves without premeditation?

In an article about the suicide of Dalton teenager Teddy Graubard, New York Magazine described “impulsive suicide” as “sudden, unrehearsed” and “thus especially common among young people, who are naturally impulsive to begin with… as one psychiatrist put it, [those patients] did not truly want to die but sought a physical solution to a temporary spiritual agony.” 

Was Tyler Clementi an “impulsive suicide”? What was Tyler Clementi thinking on his way to The George Washington Bridge? Was he worried that his chances of making friends at school, already diminished by his shyness, were now further diminished by his new reputation as the gay guy who had sex in Ravi’s room? It’s hard to be socially anxious, and doubly so when in addition to feeling like you don’t fit in, you actually really don’t fit in according to standard definitions you’re gay, they’re straight, and your gayness was their party game.

Was he imagining getting up the next day and walking down the hall, wondering as each person passed him if they knew, or what they knew, or what they said about him as he exited earshot? Was he nervous about explaining to his intolerant mother why he’d switched rooms? Or is there something in those withheld documents that might wipe out all these theories and replace them with more clearly defined answers?

Maybe we’ll never get answers, though. Because maybe the only person who really understood why Tyler Clementi jumped off that bridge is Tyler Clementi.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. 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 Nylon, Queerty, 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! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2754 articles for us.

51 Comments

  1. This was very well-written. I’m conflicted about Ravi’s direct involvement, seeing things from all sides – but Tyler wouldn’t have seen it from all sides, so who knows.

    Hopefully answers can be found to console his family.

  2. Ah, this is just sad. I mean, having social anxiety myself, I feel like I can really understand what he went through, and why he decided to just end it all. Couple of days ago I felt really, really sad, and had the urge to end everything. The urge was so strong I felt like I was really gonna do it. But anyways.

    When I read the bottom part of your article (the part about impulsive suicide), it really made sense to me, especially the part about “… as one psychiatrist put it, [those patients] did not truly want to die but sought a physical solution to a temporary spiritual agony.” I also learned about it in school, but only when I felt really sad did I understand what it really meant.

    So, I wish/hope that people would be more compassionate and think about what they’re going to do especially if it’s going to affect someone, as the consequence cannot be undone.

    Also great article and thank you so much for your insight, Riese. <3

  3. This is a really great, insightful article. It’s interesting to read it from the point of view of someone who has social anxiety, since I think it can offer a different perspective for those who don’t. Also, it helps to shed some light on how Tyler may have been feeling, what he thought about confronting Ravi, etc.

    Thank you for writing this, Riese.

    • I am a pretty social anxious/shy person. I have felt that… not being comfortable in your own living space and avoiding awkward interaction, let alone any sort of confrontation. It’s easy to say Tyler could’ve and should’ve dealt with it differently, but I really don’t think it’s because he didn’t care. The school year had just started. Tyler probably felt trapped. He can’t talk to his roommate, he can’t talk to anyone on campus, he can’t talk to his family. I can’t wrap my brain around committing suicide over it though. Guess that’s a level of trapped feeling I can’t even imagine.

      • As someone who has seriously considered suicide on more than one occasion, I think I can understand what Tyler might have been feeling. When you are miserable you just want the feeling to STOP. When you feel you have no skills with which to manage an uncomfortable situation, you just want to FLEE. I wish Tyler had chosen to move to a different room — maybe that would have given him the space he needed to process all the crap that was flying around his life. But he didn’t and he apparently felt that he could no longer deal with everything that was going on. So he took the only action he could identify to escape. Many people will say “but he should have considered other options.” When you feel hopeless it is hard to identify other options. Add that on to being a teenager and I definitely get why he might have jumped.

        • Thanks for sharing. It’s tremendously sad. I was never at the point of suicide because that’s just not something I’d ever do, but definitely remember being absolutely miserable as a teenager and convinced I would feel that way forever. Serious, crippling depression. That’s why the It Gets Better campaign hits the nail on the head. It’s absolute truth. It’s sad Tyler didn’t stick around to see how much better it gets, but hopefully we can make sure gay kids will get it from now on.

  4. thanks for this thorough piece. it’s scary and interesting to see his own voice in the chat conversations in particular… the OMG and LOL’s and hahhahaha’s of the person who can only be comfortable on the internet (at this point in his life). so heartbreaking.

  5. Thanks for this article; it’s incredibly thorough and well-written. And I had the same thoughts reading through the evidence you’ve assembled here re: social anxiety– for someone who has anxiety issues, Tyler seems so incredibly recognizable. It’s crazy to me that anyone would not be able to see “it”– the fear of confrontation, the overcompensation, the nervous joking– because it’s like a mirror image of me my freshman year of college. The whole situation is just indescribably sad… not only because of the immense tragedy of Tyler’s, but because the others’ mean-spirited bullying was probably never meant to contribute to someone’s death. I hope those involved have learnt a lesson from this, but no one should have to learn a lesson that way.

    • i went into reading all those chats and papers totally unaware of what i might read, having no knowledge of tyler being especially socially awkward or anxious or shy or ravi being the opposite of that — but I recognized Tyler’s emotional state immediately because i know it so well. i think the first year of college is especially hard b/c 75% of the student body is having THE BEST TIME EVER and i still to this day don’t know how they all made friends w/each other so quickly and were out having the best time ever at their frat parties which made me feel like an alien. and you’re trapped. sigh.

      • Exactly. I remember having conversations with my friends at other schools almost EXACTLY like Tyler’s– jokingly downplaying how hard it was when in reality I was on the verge of a breakdown. I didn’t make friends until about November, which in retrospect doesn’t sound that long but it made me feel like some other breed of human or something.

  6. Pingback: Autostraddle — The Last Days of Gay Rutgers Student Tyler Clementi … | MyGaySpot

  7. “Q: Okay. Are you have — are you on any type of medication for memory issues?”

    When the police officer asks if you have memory issues, you might want to consider being a bit clearer…

    Thank you for the thought-provoking article, Riese. It was rather sad to read and it must have been even harder to research.

  8. Interesting read. Thanks for sharing your research.

    It’s so easy to forget that things you do affect other people and you don’t know what anyone else is going through. Sometimes I’m a dick and then I realize that maybe my behavior really hurt someone else for no reason. I know I’ve been on the other end — people being assholes and not realizing that it really upsets me. It’s human nature to be inconsiderate, I guess.

    As for whether Ravi was homophobic or targeted Tyler because he’s gay, it’s hard to say. I agree Ravi is probably just an asshole and being gay just happened to be a vulnerability of Tyler’s. I’m not sure Ravi should be charged with a hate crime or anything like that, but he did violate his roommates privacy in a fucked up way and then had the audacity to lie to everyone about it. His tweets make him seem like a real winner, ugh.

  9. Really fantastic journalism as always, Riese. I feel like I’ve read about this story many times over but you offer a very complete picture.

    I do feel slightly weird about all his chats going public now… someone who was so introverted and shy and socially anxious, didn’t want any attention on him and now the world is looking into his private conversations and speculating over everything he said.

    Anyway. I agree that Ravi is an asshole who seems very narcissistic (his friend talking about his compulsive lying makes me wonder about Narcissistic Personality Disorder or something similar), who probably enjoyed the attention that he thought having a ‘gay roommate’ would bring him. Did he mean to viciously torment him because of deep-seated homophobia?… Probably not. (But who knows). In college people looooove to bitch and moan about their roommates. Especially gossip about hookups. This guy saw Tyler’s situation not as something that needed tolerance (excuse that stupid word) and compassion, but instead as something to exploit for fun. Really horrible thing and if Tyler hadn’t been suicidal, I wonder what disciplinary action the school would have taken against him.

  10. This article is really great. I totally relate to what you said about a person with social anxiety being afraid to confront someone. That’s how I read his messages to his friend the first time I saw them. I think he was definitely affected by what happened the first time but was afraid to really talk about it because of what would be expected of him. I know I’ve been there in my life.

    This whole situation is so sad. Whether or not Ravi was the sole reason for Clementi’s suicide and whatever his intentions were, what he did had to have scarred Tyler in some pretty deep ways.

  11. I think this one of the best articles I’ve read on this subject. I can def relate to being socially awkward, and at least for me, being watched on the webcam by my room mate would be horrifically embarrassing, and a lot of times embarrassment like that haunts you. If Tyler was as shy as his peers claimed he was, being violated like that had to have had an effect on him, no matter how much he brushed it off.

    But yeah, this is a really great article Riese.

    • I can relate so much too. I would be haunted for years if my roommate watched me on a webcam and I have no doubt that it would make me suicidal. You can act like you’ve brushed it off, but in your head it’s a constant battle to try and get past it.

  12. Thank you for writing this article Riese. As someone who has had social anxiety what he went through sounds awfully familiar, the not wanting contact but at the same time needing it, the fear of confrontation, the constant thoughts of suicide; that coupled with the fact that he didn’t have the support of friends, family, or the school, he probably felt utterly alone. Also what Ravi said sounds like bull. Sadly I feel like all of this could’ve been avoided if Tyler had saw someone for his anxiety :'(.. worked for me

  13. The giveaway is that Ravi often lied about himself in an attempt to present himself as “cooler” than he really was. There is a great deal of insecurity there. It seems as if that insecurity not only pushed Ravi to lie about himself but to prop up himself by disparaging others. Ravi can say whatever he wants, such as the tired “some of my best friends are gay” nonsense, but the reality is he used Tyler’s homosexuality as a way to make himself appear cooler. What kind of people would find a person betraying their roommate’s confidence cool? The kind of people who, themselves, want to be one of the in crowd. Ravi betrayed Tyler solely to make himself look cool just as he has lied about himself in the past.

    Ravi’s apology texts come across as insincere and, to be blunt, bs. They are the texts of a bully scared he will be expelled with Tyler having gone to an RA. The defense’s job is, of course, to act as if Ravi’s behavior had nothing to do with Tyler’s death. Maybe they will get some anti-gay members on the jury or some truly stupid people on the jury. How could Ravi possibly get away with such blatant disrespect and cruelty? It is imply because people don’t understand bullying. They see it as some sort of explicit beating or verbal abuse. The worst thing about bullying is that it feels like one is being stripped of their dignity in front of so many other people. Ravi is a bully. If justice is done, maybe 10 to 20 can cure him of his problem.

  14. I don’t want to make this off-topic but I totally understand when Tyler wrote that he liked being alone but people then think your weird/a loner/lonely. My mom told me yesterday that she was ‘concerned about [my] loneliness’. I reminded her that loneliness is an emotional state of being, and being alone and being lonely are two separate things. I like having time to myself just to think. And I also have a small, core group of friends and other than acquaintances, I personally don’t need more than that. I’m not awkward in social situations at all. I can talk people’s ears off but I also highly value my alone time. I’ve read that Aquarius (my sign) are a sign who are sometimes thought to be loners by others but really just value alone time, so yeah, IDK. And yeah, that Ravi apology text…*Sigh* I guess we’ll never know, will we.

      • yeah, i’m the same way. in a way though that’s part of what made college so hard at first — i actually was fine hanging out alone, i do it most of the time and have been into alone time since i was a kid. but i felt like what i knew was alone-time came off to other people as “wow she’s a loser with no friends” and it sucks at college ’cause your whereabouts are pretty much on display in that sense.

      • “i felt like what i knew was alone-time came off to other people as “wow she’s a loser with no friends”

        I know what you mean. I think that sometimes people incorrectly interchange the words lonely and alone.

  15. Frankly reading this made me more disgusted by this scumbag.

    Riese says at one point

    “The texts make Ravi sound at least slightly full of shit, in my opinion, but Ravi insists they’re genuine, and there’s something to be said for his desire to send those texts at all. He did care, in some way, and felt bad, in some way.”

    While I like the article, I have to disagree with Riese on some of that. His texts don’t show he cares or feels bad, imo. It shows someone that knows he is in deep trouble which he was. An RA had been contacted and there was already, based on what he had done, a chance he was facing severe punishment. At the least, once it went to the dean of housing, he would have probably been kicked out of his hall and told he needs to find residence somewhere else.

    That he did not try to cover his butt until confronted by the RA and the attempt to rationalize his behavior does not show contrition, imo. He reminds me of an incident involving a friend of mine when I was in the 7th grade. My friend was badly beat up by a bully for fun. Later that night when it was starting to get dark, the bully shows up at my friend’s house and apologizes to my friend and my friend’s parents for his behavior. He said he was wrong and felt awful about what he did. My friend was stunned. My friend’s parents gave him a lecture and the bully said he was horrified by what he had done.

    Just a few days later, a person who knew the bully told me what had happened. The bully was told how my friend’s uncle was a police officer and how my friend would probably tell his uncle. The bully freaked out and decided the only way to keep my friend from going to his uncle was to do an apology in advance.

    Reading Ravi’s texts, one can see someone getting worried he has screwed himself over. His worry was not Tyler’s feelings.

    • yeah, you’re right. i think i was afraid to come out strongly one way or the other because it was all projection, but in my heart of hearts do feel like you’re right in your assessment of his texts. sometimes i can’t decide if i’m crazy or not to think what i think, and so i write it down and then i see how other people interpret the situation in places where i’m not telling them what to think and then, from there, form some kind of absolute opinion. so even one other person thinking they were all bullshit pushes me towards that conclusion.

      and honestly there’s no doubt in my mind that ravi saw tyler’s facebook post — i mean the texts were sent 20 minutes after that facebook post went up. I think he wanted to cover his ass, like you said.

        • On 8:42 PM on September 22nd, Clementi updated his status to say “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.”

          At 8:46 PM, Ravi sent the following text message to Clementi allegedly in reaction to his earlier confrontation with the RA

          seems like ravi sent the message only 4 mins after and not 20??

          • oh sorry — some places said 8:23 PM for Tyler’s post, some say 8:42. I never figured out which one was correct and got them mixed up in my head.

            But even 4 minutes wouldn’t surprise me, for real

      • What I find so strange is WHY did Ravi not apologize immediately to Tyler when Tyler came back to the room? He says they were together for about an hour. Hell, I would have been scared by the RA, worried about being kicked out of school, worried that Tyler found out and was really hurt (ok, that assumes Ravi has some empathy which IS questionable but I will cut him a break as to his last message (text or email)). I would be apologizing my ass off. I would want to be able to say “Tyler and I talked about it and we are cool now”. But he did NOTHING. I have said a cynic would say he was following Tyler’s facebook because he was worried and say the post about jumping. I sure hope not. STILL, it does not answer why he did not deal immediately with the complaint.

  16. I agree he is an asshole but I would still say Ravi was a little, unnaturally consumed with his gay room mate…the amount of headspace/texts about Tyler’s homosexuality is just weird.

    Also if I was Molly Wei, I would be so angry at myself. She knew Ravi was off in high-school…with his weird ‘I’m famous in india…my friends made you a song’ antics.

    But she obviously ignored it.

    And look at the fucking mess she is in now.

    And wait until his lawyer has at her. Oh vey.

  17. Riese, you are so wonderful. This is really great. I remember sitting in my dorm room on Saturday nights by myself feeling completely alone and sad and out of place and confused for the better part of my Freshman and Sophomore years in college. I didn’t drink, I didn’t understand my sexuality, I didn’t like anyone I was meeting…. even after a few months my friends were few and far between and I had never had trouble making friends before or struggled with social anxiety. Being thrust into a situation where you are forced to live with people who may not understand you is one of hardest things to get through in life. The bright side is… Autostraddle.com is here to be your new roommate. :)

    • I can relate to your comment a lot. Like you I never drank, never understood myself or my sexuality and never seemed to click with anybody I met, which makes you think “am I really that bad?”and puts your in a dark state of mind. Luckily it’s all over and I’m stable and happy but it took a long, long while.

    • I think you’re wonderful too, Robin!

      I think another thing that was hard about being a college freshman when we were college freshmen was NO INTERNET — I didn’t even have a cell phone. i mean there was internet, and I had AIM, but GMail didn’t exist yet and I don’t know if i got high speed internet in my room, I feel like I had to go to a computer lab.

      In some ways I think maybe that was good for me, i imagine with internet I maybe never would’ve met anyone at all, but at least it would have given me some kind of social contact with people who could remind me that i was likable (as you siaid susi)

      ALSO! I didn’t drink then either, like at all, like ever.

  18. This was a really good article. Thanks for putting it together Riese.

    Going to go out on a limb and say they’ll have a hard time getting the indictment dismissed. A grand jury has a lot of leeway in its decision to issue an indictment and judges are often very reluctant to second guess such a decision. Better to let the trial play out, so the thinking usually goes.

  19. Okay, so I absolutely agree that Ravi is ignorant and mean and should be held for invasion of privacy, intimidation, etc.

    But I feel like saying that this is a hate crime isn’t right.

    Clementi was confused and anxious and had a lot of other things going on other than a homophobic jerk of a roommate. Scientists still haven’t pinned down what makes a person suicidal, but I think it is safe to say that it isn’t completely dependent on external conditions.

    BUT, if external conditions (about being gay) did play a role in Clementi’s tragic choice, I think that pointing at one individual is making Ravi a scapegoat for a problem that an entire society created. Because if Ravi is accountable then everyone else who preaches or votes or says things in a way that suggests that gays are less than are not accountable. Everyone should feel guilt for these suicides that seem to be involved with gay bullying, because everywhere are affirmations that being gay is not okay. If there weren’t politicians fighting to denounce the legitimacy of gay relationships, churches condemning homosexuality and no-homo jokes everywhere we look, one asshole bully wouldn’t make a person feel like there life had no value. So saying Ravi’s attack on Clementi’s sexuality was the “reason” a young man took his own life lets all of this institutionalized hatred off the hook.

    I know I got ranty so I hope this is understandable.

    But great article, it’s clear that you researched the hell out of this.

    • I think that what you’re saying is very true: that society and all of these social/cultural structures have created and perpetuated homophobia, especially in a lot of people. Certainly, queerness does add an intricate and heavy blanket of complications and stresses to our lives, but somehow, we handle it. Until we don’t/can’t/won’t anymore.

      While Ravi isn’t completely at fault for this perpetuation of hatred in society, he certainly should be held accountable for his actions. And he’s such a pathological liar who’s scared and trying to manipulate his way out of this. Consider the contrast between his tweets and his reported motivations as communicated in his last minute text messages. Ravi texts “Then Tuesday when you requested the room again I wanted to make sure what happened Sunday wouldn’t happen again and not to video chat me from 930 to 12.” However, in sharp contrast, his tweet reads “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.” The tone of his tweet is anything BUT considerate and good-natured; in fact, it’s seething with malice. He’s challenging, daring, asking for people to video chat him so that they can watch the “show.”

      And as for whether it is a hate crime or not: something tells me that Ravi would not have made such a huge deal out of the whole situation nor would have turned on his webcam to spy on Clementi if Clementi had been with a girl. It wouldn’t have been a “show” for everyone to be intrigued about (because of the “othering” of homosexuality), it wouldn’t have been something Ravi would’ve tweeted about (imagine a tweet reading: “I saw him making out with a girl. Yay.” Just doesn’t have the same effect, does it?), and it wouldn’t have been something with which Ravi had leverage over Clementi.

      Ravi isn’t sorry for what he did; he’s just sorry he got caught.

    • I agree. Though Ravi did invade Clementi’s privacy I don’t think it’s a hate crime. For all the reasons you mentioned. There was multiple factors playing into this so I don’t think it’s reasonable to pin it on one person. But he should get charged with the privacy thing.

  20. Regarding the prosecution:
    They will have an incredibly difficult time proving that Ravi single-handedly drove Clementi to suicide, but it is known that he filmed him having sex without his consent, which is basically sexual assault. This would have been violating enough to lay charges even if the suicide never happened.
    All kinds of factors may have contributed to the suicide and Clementi’s experiences with homophobia and social anxiety likely began long before he got to that dorm. The defense may have success deflating the argument that Ravi caused Tyler’s death but that oughtn’t prevent them from charging him with sexual assault.

  21. “I can’t talk… it’s like I’m not capable of conversation… i NEED conversation, it’s just that I can’t DO it.”

    Okay, that part broke my heart. It sounds so much like me.

    Thank you for writing this, I’ve been wondering for a while where this case has been going.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.