Suicide victim's family fight cyberbullying
New Brunswick, N.J. – — Tyler Clementi's family could have stayed silent after he killed himself.
It could have, understandably, hid from the spotlight and attention thrust upon it when he jumped from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate's webcam captured him kissing another man inside their Rutgers University dorm room. But four years after his death, the Clementis have used the pain they still feel every day to encourage acceptance and eradicate bullying.
"We could have retreated," said Clementi's father, Joseph, who with his family founded the Tyler Clementi Foundation. "We didn't want to see this kind of thing happen to other kids and have it affect other families the way it affected ours."
Just weeks into his freshman year, Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, served 20 days in jail after being convicted of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and other crimes.
The Clementi foundation raises awareness of bullying and cyberbullying, particularly in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Its initiatives include building support for LGBT and vulnerable youth through partnerships and legislative advocacy, as well as having family members speak to different organizations and groups to encourage more "inclusive environments."
One of its key initiatives is turning bystanders into "upstanders." Too often, Joseph Clementi said, people witness bullying but don't do anything about it. Using his son's case an example, he said that if just one person had stood up and said something, it could have made a difference.
"Nobody actually stepped up and supported Tyler in his time of need," said Tyler Clementi's brother, James.