by Justin Tanis | A New Jersey jury today delivered a guilty verdict in the case against Dharun Ravi. Ravi is a former Rutgers’ student who used a webcam to film his roommate, Tyler Clementi, in a sexual encounter with another man and then publicized it through social media. He repeated this a second time, inviting others at the college to tune in. Shortly after the incident, Clementi jumped off of the George Washington Bridge and fell to his death. Clementi’s suicide was one of several that drew national attention to the issue of suicide by LGBT young people. [More details in the New York Times story]
This case is a tragic reminder of the power that words and images have to harass and to hurt. Intimidation doesn’t always rely only on fists and physical violence, especially in today’s technologically based world. Prejudice can manifest itself in many ways and, as LGBT advocates, we must speak out when harassment occurs, in whatever form.
The case was important because existing hate crimes and bias laws do not specifically address these less tangible forms of violence. But in less than 11 hours of deliberation, the jury found Ravi guilty of bias intimidation, along with invasion of privacy and a number of other charges.
As part of our efforts for workplace equality, this case reminds us to remain aware of the challenges of cyberbullying. Prejudice can manifest itself at work, school, or home through many forms, including words and images sent through social media. And it can be just as damaging as physical violence.