Rash of Youth Suicides Spurs Outrage, Response
Asher Brown, aged 13. Seth Walsh, also 13. Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg, both 15. And now 18-year-old college student Tyler Clementi, who attended Rutgers University, in Central New Jersey until his Sept. 22 jump from the the George Washington Bridge, which connects Northern New Jersey with New York City. All five killed themselves after suffering anti-gay harassment. Aaberg, Brown, Lucas, and Walsh had endured bullying at school for years; Clementi’s roommate secretly recorded him having a sexual encounter with another man, and then posted the images online.
GLBT equality groups responded with outrage, citing not only Clementi’s suicide, but also those of the others. "Today, as we heard news of the fourth apparent teenage suicide in recent weeks, following antigay bullying and harassment, we felt overwhelming grief and anger," a statement from Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg read. The statement was emailed to recipients on Sept. 29.
"Losing one young person because of bigotry and hate is too much," Gorenberg’s statement continued, "but two, three, four? Each person and story is unique and tragic, but taken together, they deliver a powerful and painful message: We must act urgently and do everything in our power to end the prejudice and protect our youth.
"Our hearts and sympathies are with the families and loved ones of the four young people who took their lives," added Gorenberg. "Seth Walsh, 13 years old, of Tehachapi CA, who hanged himself; Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Indiana, who also hanged himself; Asher Brown, 13, of Houston, who shot himself in the head; and Tyler Clementi, a college freshman in New Jersey who apparently jumped off the George Washington Bridge after classmates allegedly violated his privacy and web cast live images of him in a sexual encounter.
"But sympathy is not enough--we all have a responsibility to take action, and to keep working until all young people are safe and respected, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity," Gorenberg added. "We must push for laws on the federal level and in every state that prohibit bullying and discrimination. We must hold people accountable, and use the courts when necessary. And most importantly, we must love and teach all our children to be their best selves and to respect and support others to do the same."
Garden State Equality chair Steve Goldstein called Clementi’s suicide "one of the most unconscionable, hate-related deaths of a student in the history of the State of New Jersey." Goldstein went on to state, "There are no words sufficient to express our range of feelings today. We are outraged at the perpetrators. We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind. And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others’ lives as a sport."
"Roommate asked for the room till midnight," a Sept. 19 tweet from Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, read. "I went into molly’s [sic] room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."