What Do You Think Of The Rutgers Verdict?

I know I’ve been talking a lot lately about online bullying and teenagers who commit suicide as a result of bullying.  Maybe it’s because it recently hit so close to home. Or that a significant amount of bullying is focused on individuals within the GLBT community. Or that I find the trend so disturbing. Or that so much of online bullying results in tragic consequences.

The sentence was handed down today in the Rutgers case. Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail. A very light sentence compared to what he could have received. I have to admit that I’m disappointed with the verdict and I don’t really understand the leniency of it. The jury found him guilty of bias crimes. And more than one. So, I don’t understand how he only ended up with 30 days in jail. Any lawyers want to weigh in?

I watched part of the trial on In Session.  I saw lots of testimony. I read lots of the tweets and facebook posts Dharun Ravi posted about his roommate, Tyler Clementi.  Nearly all of which were tainted with anti-gay and homophobic comments. Not to mention that he videotaped Tyler in his dorm room with a man while he was engaged in a sexual encounter.  A few days after a bullying incident, Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge.

I’m disappointed. I was hoping that the judge would use this to set a precedent against online bullying and specifically bullying targeting individuals who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. It was a chance to say we take this seriously and we will not tolerate hate. Instead, it was a slap on the wrist and stern warning not to do it again.

Throughout the trial Ravi’s parents stood by his side claiming he wasn’t homophobic. But, hate almost always starts at home. And even though his dad continually professed Ravi was accepting and not homophobic despite the fact he was convicted of a bias crime, I find him hard to believe. Mainly because of the way his dad speaks about it.

For example, his dad says, “Dharun was not raised to hate gays.”

Look at this sentence again.  There is no individuality in the response. Who are these “gays” of which he speaks? As if gay represents some type of separate people. Even in his defense of his son, the unconscious bias seeps in. There is a clear us versus other in this response.

Again, I go back to hate starts at home. Let’s take a look at our own homes.  Are there any areas where we’ve let bias creep in? What messages are we teaching our children about other people? Are we teaching our children to love and to respect differences?

I’m taking a look in my home. How about you?


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16 Responses to What Do You Think Of The Rutgers Verdict?

  1. Rach says:

    Honestly? I was STUNNED his sentence was so light. Stunned. Did Tyler’s life mean so little? :(

    I didn’t watch the trial or read much of the coverage, and I know the media is able to twist and spin info any which way they choose, but still. That’s it??

    We’ve come so far and yet still have so far to go.

  2. Willow says:

    I was absolutely shocked and dismayed to hear of the sentence he received… I heard the word guilty so many times.. how did that equal only 30 days? Not nearly enough..

  3. I agree that hate begins at home. Thank you for the reminder to look at my own bias and intolerance. Great post!

  4. Amber says:

    I am very disappointed by the sentence as this was not only an act of bullying, but a clear invasion of privacy. Homophobia aside, I would be mortified if someone secretly taped my husband and me having sex. I am disgusted by Ravi and his (seemingly) lack of remorse.

  5. Heather says:

    I’ll preface this with the fact that I knew Tyler Clementi. Not very well, but I play violin in the community orchestra that he participated in while a high school student. When they say he was a talented violinist, they are not just saying that out of respect for his memory. He was AMAZING. Had he chosen to pursue music performance as a career, he would have had a future in it. He did not, actually, intend to do so — which reminded me of myself (Not because I was that talented, but because I was determined to keep music in my life as a purely recreational activity — I didn’t want it to become a job since the world of professional music is intensely competitive and unforgiving). Tyler was incredibly shy, but really sweet. I sat with him a few times in rehearsal and teased him that he was making me feel old because he was practicing pieces I had played 10+ years ago in high school and college, at at level MUCH higher than I had ever reached.

    We were all really shocked when we heard what happened. It was really surreal to watch it become national news, with celebrities and news anchors mentioning his name and showing his picture. So I know what you mean about it feeling close to home.

    In terms of what happened, I obviously wasn’t there, but I don’t think the act of recording Tyler and invading his privacy was an act of homophobia or a hate crime. It sounds like the crime of an horrible, nasty, entitled spoiled brat who would have ridiculed his roommate just as easily had he been fat than had he been gay. Do I believe he should face consequences for the heinous invasion of privacy? YES. But he did not take Tyler’s life, nor do I believe he had specific anti-gay motives. I think his motives were to ridicule and embarrass another human being to make himself feel superior. I find people like that disgusting.

    I agree that hate begins at home. But I don’t think Ravi’s problem was as much about being taught to hate as much as not being taught how to treat another human being with respect and dignity. Even when you don’t like them. The notion of hate crimes makes me uneasy sometimes, because hurting/killing another human being is just as wrong if it is done for reasons we deem as “hate”. The damage is still done, lives are still lost, and families still mourn. Recording/broadcasting a gay roomate’s sexual encounter is no more wrong than recording/broadcasting a heterosexual roomate’s encounter, IMO.

    So yeah, I’m disappointed. I would have imagined that this level of invasion of privacy would have alone carried bigger consequences. But I’m most disappointed that we won’t know what kind of great things Tyler could have accomplished. He deserved better. Things would have DEFINITELY gotten better for him.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Heather. You always bring such interesting perspectives to the discussion and I appreciate it. Your line “hurting/killing another person is just as wrong if it is done for reasons we deem as hate.” It did strike a cord with me. I had a rather a-ha moment. Because to kill anyone, you certainly have to have hate in your heart. However, I think the designation of a hate crime is when the specific reason for committing a crime is because a person was/is a certain way. And I have to respectfully disagree with you in that I don’t think Ravi would have ridiculed or tormented a roommate who heterosexual. Every act of ridicule or torment that he inflicted upon Tyler made reference to his homosexuality. I’m sure he still would have been an A-hole to another roommate, but I think his motives were to to ridicule Tyler for being gay. I certainly agree with you, though, that Rav is disgusting. And you are absolutely right in that the world will never get to witness the contribution Tyler would have made to it which is the ultimate tragedy in all of this.

      • Heather says:

        I tend to think that the gay part was the low-hanging-fruit, like he needed some kind of “shock value”. It didn’t strike me as deep-seeded hatred, but I don’t think any of us can know for sure. And that’s precisely why I don’t like the idea of hate crimes — it’s very subjective and RARELY that simple.

        I guess what I’m saying is — would the story have been less tragic if the victim was taunted for being overweight, for having “ginger” hair, for liking a certain kind of music, for being a “nerd”, or something less hot-button than race or sexuality? Does Tyler’s story only have meaning to us if he was tormented because he was gay?

        Don’t get me wrong — it is important to teach our children not to hate or discriminate based on color, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion – all the big stuff. But we also need to teach them that ridiculing another person, no matter how petty the reason, is NOT ok. Ravi found pleasure and humor out of ridiculing and humiliating another human being, and invaded his privacy to do it. His feelings on gay people, IMO, doesn’t make it any more or less okay.

        • Mommy Psychologist says:

          This is a really key point. A person is a person. Well said. Thank you for broadening my perspective on this.

        • Stefanie says:

          I agree with the general perception that Ravi would’ve ridiculed his roommate for being fat or ginger. To me, the difference between “hate” crimes and others are that the group/person being attacked has an immutable characteristic that creates a disadvantage for them in a number of other ways also e.g. socially, politically, or even in access to justice. That pre-existing disadvantage usually means that the hate crime has a more drastic impact for the victim. I agree that the charge of hate crime here is ambiguous, I don’t think that hate crimes are usually this subjective. There’s nothing ambiguous about burning a cross on someone’s lawn or yelling “fag” while dragging someone behind your truck. These crimes do still happen. That’s the kind of behavior that hate crimes should punish. Of course, there’s a large gray area… In this case, I think the “hate crime” label is being stretched to its limits when it is applied to this moronic, intolerant teenager, who didn’t think about the consequences of his behavior… But to say that all crimes are the same, I disagree. Some are more reprehensible because they disturb the social order by making some citizens feel unsafe because of characteristics they can’t control.

  6. sara says:

    Just hate reading these type of opinions so I would like to express why I think the exact opposite. Although, I am not surprised since the media keeps telling the same false story over and over again. Here are the facts: The media keeps saying he videotaped his roommate (with his 30 something online teenage predator) having sex, not true he set up a webcam (yes he was wrong, but not ten years in prison wrong) but when he and Molly watched what was on the webcam in Molly Wei’s room, they saw the men kiss and Molly and Ravi immediately turned it off knowing it was wrong. Media keeps stating that he set up the camera a second time in a friend’s room, ok, but it was proven in court that Ravi’s friend wanted to see what was going on there , which didn’t work anyway because Tyler saw the camera and turned it off. Did Ravi feel peer pressure from his friend to turn it on, maybe, but does that warrant ten years in prison??It never worked! If he was that curious to watch the two men kissing , he would have watched it the first time, but no he felt too uncomfortable. And why wasn’t Dharun’s friend charged? He too should take some blame. During the trial, the 30 something online teenage predator stated that he saw the camera pointing at him, but didn’t say anything or do anything…maybe he liked the idea of possibly being taped or watched, he had to be a pervert by showing up at a dorm and having sex with a young teenage freshman anyway. Also, Why was MB the 30 something online teenage predator protected from being seen and portrayed as a victim? Had Tyler been only one year younger, this 30 something online teenage predator would be charged with statutory rape. He has no business being there at the college dorm. Another important fact that hasn’t been raised enough, since the media keeps portraying Ravi as the devil, is that Tyler’s mother rejected Tyler when he told her he was gay several days before college started. She was clearly devastated as proven by Tyler’s own words online. He was close to his mother and wanted her to be ok with it, and she wasn’t . That must have been very painful to him. Also, there was the evidence that was not allowed in trial, such as a suicide note. I would bet a lot that his mother was mentioned and Ravi wasn’t even an issue. This case amazes me more and more because the media has made up a story that just didn’t happen. There was no videotape, there was no filming , there was no party to watch! It was teenagers being stupid, saying stupid things and showing off like teenagers do. Yes, there was a lot of electronic messaging with horrible prejudice, but if every teenager’s text messages were read to the public like these were, then the majority of teens would be in big trouble. Unfortunately kids make fun of other kids and behind their backs. It was wrong, but not criminal. I only hope more and more media outlets explain what happened, what the trial was really about, then Ravi would be able to move on and have a normal life. He screwed up, but he doesn’t deserve the media making up lies about him while the whole world believes it.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I appreciate your taking the time to comment. However, I completely disagree.

      • sara says:

        I respectfully understand, but I just wish everyone would research the facts….there was no video, or the intent to tape. It was proven in the trial that he turned it immediately off when he saw the men kissing. so many mislead comments, not just here, but in other forums as well. Thanks for allowing me to express my opinion even though I am the minority here, but I hope you understand my frustration when I read the anger towards him for something that never occurred, The media just blew it up and ran with it. Thanks

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