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Stop Blaming Dharun Ravi: Why We Need to Share Responsibility for the Loss of Tyler Clementi

Mary L. Gray, AAA member, is an Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research New England and Associate Professor of Communications and Culture at Indiana University. She recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post on how tragedies, such as Tyler Clementi’s death, of bullying and harassment are particularly difficult in a homophobic society. Below is an excerpt. To view the entire article, click here.

Tyler Clementi’s death on Sept. 22, 2010 was one of several highly publicized youth suicides that fall. In several cases, media coverage and political discourse connected these tragedies to cases of on- and offline harassment saturated in homophobic sentiment. Research among students suggests that these hostilely charged environments are the norm rather than the exception. But rallying to punish Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student standing trial for 15 criminal counts, including tampering with witnesses and evidence, invasion of privacy, and bias intimidation of Tyler Clementi, does not do justice to Clementi’s life, nor does it move us one step closer to preventing another young person, like him, from turning to suicide.

Since then, states and school districts have rushed to crack down on bullies. As a result, a record number of anti-bullying policies are now on the books. However, we have no concrete evidence that such top-down policies prevent or counteract bullying, particularly so-called “cyberbullying” — harassment carried out via texting and online social networks. Worse yet, some research suggests that framing the problem as “bullying” actually works against youth reporting violence or identifying themselves as targets of it.

The politics of blame are a dead end. Instead, we need to build out an ethos of shared responsibility that could make a difference, literally, between life and death for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.

Click here to read Gray’s article.

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