The cable news channels are full of the sad story of Tyler Clementi. Tyler was a freshman at Rutgers University and committed suicide last week by jumping off a bridge to his death in the Hudson River. What caused this young man to go to such drastic measures to end his life?
Tyler had a sexual encounter in his dorm room. Apparently he asked for the room until midnight. Unbeknownst to him, the roommate left his computer open and the web cam streamed the entire episode onto the Internet. The roommate and a friend tweeted the information. Tyler’s encounter was with another man.
One has to ask what kind of monsters would do something like this? Recording this young man’s personal sexual encounter was just another form of bullying. Bullying goes on all the time. In fact, there is an epidemic going on in this country and it isn’t just against gays. Phoebe Prince of Massachusetts wasn’t gay. She was basically tortured to death by her peers, who have been charged in her death. Tyler’s bullies, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, have been charged with invasion of privacy. They can receive punishment of up to five years in prison.
People don’t send their children to public school or to college to have them bullied by others to the point they take their own lives. Suicide with gay youth is 4 times that of straight kids. Yet, is bullying just a phenomena with young people or can it happen with any group? Does it happen at the office, in the neighborhood, in our political dealings, on the blogs? Bullying can and does happen everywhere.
We all need to look to see if our behavior involves bullying. We also need to watch for bullying behavior with our kids. Some of the most serious bullying starts with older siblings. However, experts say that today’s technology allows bullying to be carried to new levels. No longer are kids just beaten up on the playground or jumped on the way home and their lunch money stolen like in the good old days. Now people can sit behind a computer, such as happened with Tyler Clementi, and create situations that make someone’s life no longer worth living. Some folks survive and laugh at their tormentors. Others, like Tyler, decide to end it all.