It’s not often that I am reduced to tears by a news story but the latest tragic tale of a Rutgers University student killing himself after fellow students outed him on the Internet makes me sick enough to cry.
As a human, it makes me wonder what sort of children we are raising that two college students would think it a funny prank to ridicule another person’s sexuality in public. And as a mother, I feel a massive responsibility to ensure that my children would never think to treat another like this, and to protect them from ever being bullied.
Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22 after learning that his roommate and another student had used a webcam to film a sexual encounter between Clementi and another man and posted it not once, but twice on the Internet . The two 18-year-old freshmen Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei are charged with invasion of privacy, with the most serious charges carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison. Of course, nothing will bring back Clementi or any of the other young people who have taken their lives after repeated bullying.
What really gets to me, besides obviously the length Clementi felt he had to go to in order to flee the public humiliation inflicted by his perverted roommate, but just why anyone would think it okay, let alone funny, to target a boy for being gay. I realise this is naive of me, but I really thought we had come far enough that young adults – especially once at college-age – didn’t have to hide their sexual preference.
Back in the old days when I was at school, I’m sure there were mean girls. I remember being teased for having Greek heritage (unlike some of the pristine WASPS I schooled with), oh and for wearing glasses, and being on the debating team but it was harmless stuff back then. I don’t remember ever feeling shut out by it, and certainly not suicidal. What has happened to make kids so extraordinarily horrible to their peers?
Apparently while technology has made leaps and bounds, allowing social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to broadcast exploits far and wide and encroach on privacy all around, kids today are dragging their knuckles on the ground and getting thrills from belittling anyone different to themselves.
Bullying is alive and well, and with more terrifying consequences than ever.