In Honor of Tyler Clementi: How to Protect Our Loved Ones

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

In Honor of Tyler Clementi: How to Protect Our Loved Ones

For some, the holiday season can be a difficult time as the holidays bring about a flood of memories of loved ones that are no longer here – whether it’s of grandpa who used to always sit at the head of the table for Christmas brunch, or that loving uncle who always lit the Hanukah candles, or a parent who always used to lead the family in renditions of holiday song classics.

But for Jane and Joe Clementi, the parents of Tyler Clementi –  the college freshman who jumped to his death after being the victim of cyberbullying – perhaps their memories are a bit more harrowing. 

A few weeks ago, in honor of the fact that the holidays were Tyler’s favorite time of year, Joe and Jane spoke out for the first time about their son’s untimely death and their last moments with their son. For those that may have forgotten, Tyler was an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University who, after being a victim of online bullying, decided to take his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. What led him to that tragic decision was when an intimate moment between Tyler and another male was allegedly recorded by Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, and streamed over the Internet. Ravi, 19, was charged with 15 offenses, including bias intimidation, a hate crime, but not with causing Tyler’s suicide.

Tyler’s mother told People magazine in a recent interview that, “not a minute goes by that I don’t think about [Tyler].”

According to a recent interview given by Jane, days before leaving for college, Tyler delineated during a 45-minute conversation a list of things that were on his mind including the fact that he was gay, that he was having doubts about whether there is a God and that he felt friendless.

While it was difficult for Jane to hear, she said that she thought it made Tyler feel better to finally get these sentiments off his chest.

"He left very comfortable and very relieved," she said in a recent interview. "I was very surprised, very much like someone had kicked me in the stomach." The conversation ended with hugs and "I love you's," according to the article, and when Jane heard him a bit later laughing at a "Seinfeld" rerun, she thought everything was OK.

Four weeks later, however, Tyler took his life after Ravi allegedly used his webcam to record Tyler’s intimate experience with another man.

After more than a year of being mostly silent (aside from handing some statements that were read from their lawyers), Tyler’s parents are finally coming forward to speak about Tyler in an effort to pay honor to his memory and to promote the foundation they are launching in Tyler’s honor, The Tyler Clementi Foundation – a not-for-profit foundation that works to prevent teen suicide and encourage anti-bully programs.

For most of you, I bet the holidays were particularly joyous – filled with laughter and adventure with loved ones. In the wake of the holidays, I am now going to ask you to take a moment to step back and think about how in the coming year you can continue to protect those you love as bullying does not just happen at the elementary school level.

Bullying and ostracism can happen at all ages and junctures of life and even though someone in your family may seem to have the world at his/her feet, it’s important to look for signs or any clues that he/she may be feeling out of place. Unfortunately, individuals in today’s world have gotten very good at masking self doubt – by purchasing the latest fashion trends to participating in “cool” past time activities. But this holiday season, and before the year ends, look after your loved ones and remember the Clementi’s story and realize that sadly these heartbreaking instances of suicide are not altogether unimaginable anymore.

I’m not saying to put away the Wii and scoff at the holiday season, but make sure you take the time to talk to the person holding your other Wii controller.



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