Friday, October 1, 2010

The Power and Permanence of Cyber Abuse

Last week a Rutgers freshman jumped off a bridge after footage of his sexual encounter with another man was leaked onto the internet. Tyler Clementi was secretly videotaped by his roommate, Dharun Ravi, who streamed the video live on the internet and tweeted “"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay,” and later “"I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."

The awfulness of this whole affair blows my mind. Gay Rights groups are calling for the suicide to be classified as a hate crime, and Ravi has already been charged with invasion of privacy. Let there be no mistake: Clementi was bullied into suicide, and he deserves justice, his roommate must be apprehended. But more importantly, we all need to confront why this happened.

We live in the 21st century. Rutgers is not in a particularly conservative part of the country. Some of our biggest talk show hosts and TV stars are openly gay, we have gay senators, journalists, athletes and pastors. And yet Ravi victimized his roommate for his sexuality, and Clementi felt that life would never get any better, that his future was empty.

We need to take a two-pronged approach to this tragedy. First, we need to spread awareness about sexuality. Everyone, and especially young people, need to understand that sexuality is not a choice, and, more importantly, that all forms of sexuality should be embraced and celebrated. At the risk of sounding maudlin, love is love, love is beautiful, love is gender neutral, and every university has a duty to teach that. Second, we need to reach out to people like Clementi, we need to work actively to create a world in which he can feel comfortable with himself, and feel hopeful for his future as a gay man.

How can we do that? Let’s start with the internet. We can take a cue from Dan Savage, who started It Gets Better, an online video project in which people sit down in front of a camera and share their experiences as gays, lesbians or bisexuals who have suffered, survived, and moved on to happy, full lives. Clementi’s death showed us just how powerful and permanent the internet can be, let’s harness that power to publicly announce that cyber-bullying is not okay, that homophobia is not okay, that love and life are more than okay, they are magnificent.

Check out It Gets Better Here


Colleen Lowry said...

"At the risk of sounding maudlin, love is love, love is beautiful, love is gender neutral, and every university has a duty to teach that."

I love this.

Andrea Watts said...
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