Rutgers U. Student’s Cry for Help Before Suicide
The Rutgers freshman who leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge may have been seeking help just before his suicide, news sources report, according to a Sept. 30 article posted at Gawker.
Postings begun on Sept. 21 at JustUsBoys.com seem to describe a situation very similar to the one 18-year-old Tyler Clementi faced in the final days of his life. The posting talks about how the author’s college roommate was trying to record his activities using a web cam, and describes having asked for the exclusive use of the shared dormitory room on a Sunday night. The postings also say that the author noticed that the roommate seemed to have pointed his web cam at the author’s bed, and described how this "set off" the posting’s author, who then searched his room for any additional cameras.
"so the other night i had a guy over," the initial Sept. 21 posting, made under the name cit2mo, begins. "I had talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy."
This description of events is the same as that provided in media stories that report on how Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, had been asked to stay out of the room until midnight, and had activated his computer’s web cam remotely. Davi tweeted on what he said he observed via the video link: "I went into molly’s [sic] room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
The images captured by Ravi’s web cam were sent out for all to see. Ravi later attempted to spy on Clementi once again: a Sept. 21 message from Ravi invited readers to tune in once more: "I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12," Ravi sent out. "Yes, it’s happening again."
Ravi and another student, Molly Wei, also 18, face invasion of privacy charges in the case, and the possibility remains that they may face additional charges under New Jersey hate crimes statues, the Associated Press reported on Oct. 1.
"so my question is what next?" the JustUsBoys posting continued. "I feel like the only thing the school might do is find me another roommate, probably with me moving out...and i’d probably just end up with somebody worse than him....I mean aside from being an asshole from time to time, he’s a pretty decent roommate...
"the other thing is I that don’t wanna report him and then end up with nothing happening except him getting pissed at me," cit2mo added.
In a subsequent posting that same day, cit2mo wrote, "I guess what he was doing was...he was in another person’s room, with other people... and so I feel like it was ’look at what a fag my roommate is’--other people have commented on his profile with things like ’how did you manage to go back in there?’ ’are you ok?’."
Cit2mo continued, "and the fact that the people he was with saw my making out with a guy [w]as the scandal whereas i mean come on...he was SPYING ON ME....do they see nothing wrong with this? unsettling to say the least...."
Cit2mo and others swapped ideas over the course of the thread on how cit2mo might respond, with cit2mo saying at one point that he would talk to the dorm’s resident advisor and contemplating possible ways to get back at his roommate. But, "revenge never ends well for me, as much as I would love to pour pink paint all over his stuff.....that would just let him win," cit2mo wrote.
On Sept. 22, cit2mo posted further descriptions of events that seemed to match those that the media said Clementi had endured. "so I wanted to have the guy over again," the posting read. "I texted roomie around 7 asking for the room later tonight and he said it was fine."
But, cit2mo continued, "when I got back to the room I instantly noticed he had turned the webcam toward my bed. And he had posted online again....saying....’anyone want a free show just video chat me tonight’...or something similar to that...."
Cit2mo wrote that he informed the dorm’s resident advisor of this apparent attempt at violating his privacy a second time. "I haven’t even seen my roommate since sunday when i was asking for the room the first time...and him doing it again just set me off....so talking to him just didn’t seem like an option," cit2mo wrote. "meanwhile I turned off and unplugged his computer, went crazy looking for other hidden cams....and then had a great time."
In his final post on the thread, on Sept. 22, cit2mo wrote about having provided his dorm’s resident advisor with a written description of events. "he seemed to take it seriously," cit2mo wrote. "he asked me to email him a written paragraph about what exactly happened... I emailed it to him, and to two people above him...." Clementi jumped that same day, after posting a message at his Facebook page that read, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."
As others continued to discuss the situation at JustUsBoys.com, cit2mo fell silent. On Sept. 29, one chat participant wrote, "Ok... I seriously hope this just a coincidence... but I just saw this story on reddit and remembered this post." The message included a link to a Gawker story on Clementi’s suicide.
The wider debate on the blogosphere has come to include defenders of Ravi and Wei, the Associated Press reported, going on to say that the online discussion has been "emotional and sometimes vitriolic. Some postings call the suspects ’sickos’ and ’cold-blooded killers’ while others display homophobia and racism (both suspects are minorities), even thanking the suspects for their possible role in a gay man’s death."
Clementi’s suicide took place in the midst of a cluster of youths who killed themselves. Not all of the suicide victims were gay, but all had endured anti-gay harassment and bullying by schoolmates. A gay sophomore at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island killed himself subsequent to Clementi’s death. A Sept. 30 story at PerezHilton.com reported that 19-year-old Raymond Chase died Sept. 29. The story said that Chase was "believed to have [hanged] himself in his dormitory, but did not offer details as to Chase’s motive.
But Clementi’s death seemed to resonate more than the deaths of the other teens, receiving widespread attention in the mainstream press and galvanizing discussion on the subject of bullying. Talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres recorded a Sept. 30 message talking about the deaths. Speaking from her talk show set, DeGeneres called the rash of suicides "a crisis," and said, "This needs to be a wakeup call to everyone that teenage bullying and teasing is an epidemic ion this country, and the death rate is climbing."
"These kids needed us," DeGeneres said, "and we have an obligation to change this. There are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting, and we have to make it stop. We can’t let intolerance and ignorance take another kid’s life."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.