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Posts Tagged ‘gay teen suicide

Dharun Ravi Convicted of Hate Crime in Tyler Clementi’s Death

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This verdict is in: Dharun Ravi, GUILTY of hate crime in the Tyler Clementi case. This arrogant young man had a chance to plea out to a lesser charge, one that would’ve assured him no jail time, late last year but opted, instead, to take it to trial. Foolish mistake. Instead, Mr. Ravi was found guilty on all 15 charges against him. Sentencing is to come, and he’s looking at years. Tyler Clementi’s family was sentenced to life without him on September 22, 2010 because of Dharun Ravi’s actions. He gets off easy.

As 18-year-old first-year students at the prestigious Rutgers University, Ravi and Clementi ended up being roommates. Tyler had just come out to his family as being gay before he left for college. Once at school, and as Ravi’s roommate, he met with a man with whom he’d apparently started becoming intimate with. Dharun Ravi decided it would be cool to secretly set up a webcam and broadcast Tyler and his partner during their intimacy on his Twitter account. As a result, Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. The case made national, international!, headlines. It was also one of a flurry of LGBT teen suicides in September 2010 that included Seth Walsh and Asher Brown.

Dharun Ravi, incredibly, was offered a plea bargain December of last year that would’ve all but set him free. He would’ve received no jail time and would’ve been able to remain in this country. He declined. He wanted to argue his case. He lost. And, now, he’s facing prison time as well as deportation.

In my own opinion, the question that isn’t being explored is why was he offered a plea deal in the first place? Why was the State of New Jersey willing to offer this man much lesser charges with no consequences when his actions led directly to the suicide death of Tyler Clementi? To me, that’s almost as troublesome as Ravi’s actions. Luckily, he had the misguided notion that he could win if only he was able to have his day in court to present “his side” of the story.

“His side” of the story is irrelevant. A jury told him that today. Tyler Clementi is gone forever because of Dharun’s actions. Let’s hope that this very high-profile case of homophobic bullying, it’s tragic results, and now the consequences for the perpetrator sends a message to those who think that bullying is cool or acceptable: there will be consequences for your actions.

The Clementis suffer the consequences of your actions every single day of their lives, Mr. Ravi. Now, so will you.


EricJames Borges’ Final Words

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He was a very gifted young man.  His talent for filmmaking was made evident in the short film he made not long before his death.  People who knew him well said that EricJames had just barely scratched the surface of what would’ve been a terrific career and very rewarding life.  Scorned, demonized, abused both physically and emotionally by his parents, EricJames was left with scars from his coming out process that he couldn’t recover from.  In a perfect world, EricJames’ parents would be charged with homicide for his death.  This isn’t a perfect world, and that will never happen.  No more so than the school administrators and State officials will be held culpable in the suicides of Phillip Parker or Jacob Rogers.

Memorial services were held for EricJames this past weekend.  Hundreds attended.  They went to remember.  They went to mourn.  And, they went to celebrate a gifted young life that’s tragically, and needlessly, gone too soon.  It’s noteworthy that his parents, the two people who gave him life only to take it away, didn’t show up to the memorial services.  They were invited.

EricJames’ last words, in a copyrighted suicide note that I’m not privy to, spoke lovingly to the ones who would become his de facto family in the end:  the ones who really cared and loved him.  He spoke of Lady Gaga, leaving money to her Born This Way Foundation which benefits LGBT youth.  He also left money to several other LGBT organizations that would help LGBT teens.  As was shown in his “It Gets Better” video, recorded a month before his suicide, and in death, EricJames was passionate about helping other LGBT teens so they wouldn’t have to experience the sheer hell he was put through.

It is critical that we understand that the work that needs to be done before we can end teen-on-teen bullying pales in comparison to the work that needs to be done dealing with the adults in our society.  The kids are a mere reflection of what they’re learning from the adults.  That a parent could inflict the type of pain EricJames’ parents inflicted upon him is reprehensible, if not criminal.  No child should ever have to endure that, especially from the ones who gave him life.  Yet, it happens.  EricJames is not an isolated case.  That lawmakers can even dream of passing the type of damaging laws that a Michele Bachmann, a Stacey Campfield, or a John Ragan not only dream of but sign into law is reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous.  I’ve said it many times before, but it bears saying many more times:  the war against bullying has to start with the adults.  There’s no way around it.

“My pain is not caused because I’m gay.  My pain was caused by the way I was treated because I am gay.”  Pause to absorb that for a moment.  It can’t get more to the point than that.  Those were the words EricJames wrote to end his suicide note.

I hope you’re at peace now, EricJames.  Your family misses you.  Your real family.

New Jersey Takes the Torch

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Let’s give New Jersey a huge standing ovation for leading the nation by passing the first-ever suicide prevention law!!  As an added bonus, three Rupublicans led the way with this bill.  Fantastic!

Essentially, what the bill will do is consolidate and co-ordinate state resources and raise awareness to the issue.  Small step, maybe, but certainly a step in the right direction.  It’s believed that Tyler Clementi’s suicide in September of 2010 pushed them to action.  Whatever it takes.

What is needed, now, is for the other 49 states to follow New Jersey’s lead.  It’s time.  We’re living in a time where suicide is the third leading cause of death of those between the ages of 15-24.  That’s ridiculous.

The danger here, of course, is that people will become complacent once again, with the thinking that “everything is going to be fine…” now that a law is in place.  Not the case!  The law will help.  However, we all need to continue what has become a very strong, dedicated effort to reverse this alarming trend.  As a person who’s been trying to bring attention to this situation for well over a decade, I can tell you that what’s going on right now is genuinely heartwarming.  Around the globe, ordinary people are making extraordinary efforts to make a difference.  Slowly, but surely, it’s paying off.  Now, we all just have to keep doing what we’re doing.  Relentlessly.  Until there are no more families force to bear the burden of wondering what they could’ve done differently to save their loved one.

Thank you, New Jersey, for your leadership.

Tennessee Still Doesn’t Get It

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Ok, didn’t we just go through this with Michigan?  Following the failed lead of Michigan, Tennessee has a proposed bill that would make it ok to bully gay teens.  Or, as they self-righteously worded it: they are more interested in protecting “…those expressing religious, philosophical, or political beliefs…”  than they are in protecting gay teens.  Or, as they preposterously put it, they really DO want to protect kids from bullying, but they don’t want to “…create special classes of people who are more important than others.”  These are ELECTED officials!!  Officials that We The People put into office by virtue of our votes.

I would hope that every parent of lgbt teens in Tennessee will band together and, not only defeat this proposed bill before it even gets started,  start a grass root movement to get the person(s) responsible for even introducing such incredibly hateful, and potentially harmful, legislation in the first place.

Once again, we’re forced to look reality squarely in the eyes and acknowledge that the change that’s needed starts with the adults.  It’s an embarrassment to our “developed”, “civilized” society that we have elected officials who clearly, honestly believe that it is absolutely alright for your lgbt kids to be bullied as long as the bully is doing it in the name of God.  I don’t know about you, but it scares me in a deep place that there are people of power who believe this is a right and righteous decision.

Thank God (the loving God, that is) that there’s a huge army in place to combat madness such as this.  Collectively, we were able to get a similarly worded bill reworded in Michigan.  Now, we must focus our attention to Tennessee.  Whatever it takes, we have to make sure that this bill never even reaches the floor.  The Jacob Rogers’ of Tennessee are counting on us.

Lady Gaga Bringing Her Anti-Bullying Campaign to Maryland!!??

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Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley has invited pop icon Lady Gaga to Maryland to speak on eliminating bullying in Maryland.  So, what does that mean?  To me, it means that this issue is finally getting the attention that it’s deserved for years.  It means that people in powerful places are now taking notice and making an effort.

I can tell you this much:  If our Governor can pull this off, I will be right there in attendance when Gaga comes to Maryland.  And, if it does happen, I will be on the front line (what’s new?) attempting to rally more people to attend, take notice, and make a difference.  Either way, kudos to you, Mr. Governor, for even making the attempt.  It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

In another piece of fantastic, positive news, facebook has launched its own suicide prevention chat service!  With just over 1/10th of the world’s population being on the social networking giant, that’s potentially a massive tool!  I know from my own brief experience at this that, whereas funneling these people to the right professional so that they can get the help they desperately need, being able to have somebody to chat with it their moment of crisis has proven over and over to be so vital.  So, thank you, facebook, for stepping up your efforts.

I  want to acknowledge my very dear friend and fellow front-line warrior is this battle against bullying and to prevent teen suicide, Maureen.  Thanks for posting this information.  You’re the best!

Written by Ron Kemp

December 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Clearing the Air

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I was heartbroken to read of Jacob Rogers’ suicide.  Another young life…gone.  I was also a little more than “a little upset” to read that, in the end, Jacob felt ignored, that no one would help him, that no one “would listen and stand up for him”.  I was a little more than upset because that’s the message I’ve been trying to convey as the Jonahmania train sped away from the station.  I’ve been trying to get the point(s) across that 1.) Jonah told us 4 months again that he’s ok, and he is; and, 2.) there are millions and millions more just like him all around the world, and some most likely right in our own backyards who could use just a fraction of the outpouring of love that Jonah has received.  Jacob Rogers was very obviously one such teen.

I voiced my opinion strongly in the blog entry about Jacob.  Not everyone agreed.  I accept that.  I actually applaud that.  But, I thought it would be a good idea to backtrack a step or two and clear the air.

  • First and foremost, I don’t take anything away from Jonah Mowry.  I think he’s a remarkable young man.  And, for the record, he really is doing just fine.  He’s being a normal 14-year-old goofball.  I know because I read his tweets every day.  The original video really was 4 months ago.
  • I truly am overjoyed that Jonah has put a living face on an issue that most of us had only heard about once it was too late.  And, to be sure, that was the magnet that drew millions to him.  Bravo to you, Jonah.  The issue of bullying and its effects now have a floodlight shining on it because of you.
  • I am, in fact, worn out from the continued gushing to Jonah.  And, that has nothing to do with Jonah and EVERYTHING to do with we as a people.  Perhaps people are still gushing because on some level it helps them shed the guilt of having turned a blind eye to this not-so-new epidemic we have until his video.  Perhaps there are folks who are feeling that, by doing this tremendous act of compassion (and, it truly is just that!), they are doing their part to change that culture.  They’re not.  They’re force-feeding someone who appetite has already been sated while ignoring millions right around him who are starving to death.
  • One hundred and thirty PLUS facebook Jonah support groups (at last count, which was 24 hours ago); 7,000,000+ views to the first video, and 900,000 MORE views of a copycat release of the same video, plus too many video responses for me to bother counting at this moment; 300,000+ comments to the original videos, MILLIONS of comments to the two subsequent ones, and another 19,000 on the copycat release, and a never-ending stream of brand new “supporters” for a 14-year-old gay teen who told the world through haunting tears 4 months ago that he was hurting, he was scared, but that he was going to be alright amounts to overkill.
  • Don’t shoot the messenger:  whereas this is wholeheartedly MY opinion, his own mother has gone on national news to say the same thing…THREE days ago!
To be clear, when I watched the video for the first time, I cried.  I cried painful tears.  I was Jonah.  I was beyond Jonah.  He’s been called hurtful names.  As a 12-year-old gay kid, I was beaten to a bloody pulp.  That video touched the heart of that broken 12-year-old.  I understand the emotion of the video wholeheartedly.  And, I understand the support it received.  However, I also understand that this issue goes far, far beyond Jonah Mowry.  It’s been here long before he was born and, unless and until we start demanding change, it will be here long after he’s gone.  Jacob Rogers needed just a fraction of the support everyone rushed to give Jonah.  It would’ve kept him alive.
It would’ve kept him alive.
Apparently, Jacob came from an impoverished family who has already said that they can’t afford to have a proper funeral for him.  You can make a difference. The link at the top of this article will lead you to the original news article about Jacob’s suicide.  At the bottom of that article is information on how you can donate to help cover the cost of the funeral.  Now, THAT’S supporting the cause.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Rest In Peace Jacob Rogers 12/07/2011 (Yet ANOTHER Victim of Bullycide!!)

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This is the point I’ve been trying to get across as the world was engaging in Jonahmania.  While all of the attention and adoration is being thrust upon Jonah Mowry, there were still millions of struggling teens around the world who needed just a fraction of that attention.  Just a fraction.

Just a fraction may have saved Jacob Rogers’ life.  Today, he ended that young life because he just couldn’t deal with being bullied any more.  In fact, he’d already dropped out of his senior year of high school because it had become a nightmare for him.

According to his best friend, Jacob felt like he was ignored, that no one was helping him.  Left alone with his pain, he did what far too many young people before him has done:  he ended the torture himself.

My prayer is that we as a loving, caring people get past the Jonah mania and remember that there are millions of kids in the world who are struggling just like that 13-year-old boy who the world fell in love with over the weekend of December 2nd.  That boy is now doing just fine.  However, we just lost another one who “felt ignored” and couldn’t handle the bullying anymore.

Rest in peace, Jacob Rogers.  “If only I’d known your name…”

Written by Ron Kemp

December 8, 2011 at 5:10 am