- Associated Press - Thursday, September 30, 2010

PISCATAWAY, N.J. | The death of a Rutgers University freshman stirred outrage and remorse on campus from classmates who said they wished they could have stopped the teen from jumping off a bridge last week after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with a man was broadcast online.

“Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened,” said Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren. “He wouldn’t have been outed via an online broadcast, and his privacy would have been respected, and he might still have his life.”

Gay rights groups say Tyler Clementi’s suicide makes him a national example of a problem they are working increasingly to combat: young people killing themselves after being tormented over their sexuality.

A lawyer for Mr. Clementi’s family confirmed Wednesday that he had jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Mr. Clementi‘s.

The lawyer has not responded to requests for comment on whether Mr. Clementi was open about his sexual orientation.

Mr. Clementi’s roommate, Dhraun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Mr. Clementi’s privacy. Middlesex County prosecutors say the pair used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a live image of Mr. Clementi having sex on Sept. 19 and that Mr. Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.

A lawyer for Mr. Ravi, of Plainsboro, did not return a message seeking comment. It was not clear whether Miss Wei, of Princeton, had retained a lawyer.

Collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years.

ABC News and the Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Mr. Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.

Even if the young violinist from Ridgewood was not well-known at his new school, his death stirred outrage.

“The notion that video of Tyler doing what he was doing can be considered a spectacle is just heinous,” said Jordan Gochman, 19, of Jackson, who didn’t know Mr. Clementi. “It’s intolerant, it’s upsetting, it makes it seem that being gay is something that is wrong and can be considered laughable.”

Other students who did know Mr. Clementi were upset that they didn’t do more to help him. “I wish I could have been more of an ally,” said Georges Richa, a freshman from New Brunswick.

About 100 people gathered Wednesday night for a vigil on campus. They lay on the ground and chanted slogans like, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going home.”

Several gay rights groups linked Mr. Clementi’s death to the troubling phenomenon of young people committing suicide after being harassed over their sexuality.

On Tuesday, a 13-year-old California boy died nine days after classmates found him hanging from a tree. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy, Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, for being gay.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said his group considers Mr. Clementi’s death a hate crime.

“We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind,” Mr. Goldstein said. “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.”

Last week, Dan Savage, a columnist at the Seattle weekly newspaper the Stranger, launched the latest of several efforts to try to stem the problem: the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel where gay, lesbian and bisexual adults share the turmoil they experienced when they were younger — and that their lives are better now.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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