Dharun Ravi is found guilty – what next?

Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was found guilty of invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, witness tampering and he was found guilty of one of the five bias charges leveled against him. Though he hasn’t been sentenced yet, some say he may be jailed for 10 years – possibly even deported once he serves his time. Ravi was arrested for spying on and broadcasting clips of his dorm roommate, Tyler Clementi, being intimate with another man. The tragedy of this case is that after discovering that he was being watched, he leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

Ravi wasn’t charged in connection with Clementi’s death, but it seems to hang over the proceedings as well as the reaction of the LGBT community. The response to the verdict is mixed – many feel that justice was served; others feel that the punishment may be too harsh and it will do little in curbing anti-LGBT crimes.

The sad truth is that even though Ravi (probably) did not intend or even imagine that Clementi would kill himself, his thoughtless and stupid action may have pushed Clementi. Obviously, we cannot hang the whole of the blame on Ravi’s shoulder – we will never know if Clementi would have entertained suicidal thoughts or attempted to take his own life later on.

Many have felt sympathy for Ravi, myself included. I don’t feel sympathy because I think he was given a raw deal or that because he was a victim of an overzealous jury. Instead, I feel sympathy because one tragic mistake will now mark the rest of his life. If he’s lucky enough to stay in the United States, he will have this dragging him wherever he goes – whenever he applies for a job, he will have to disclose this episode in his life. It’s fair, but it’s also very sad.

Instead of rejoicing in his misfortune, the LGBT community should continue its outreach in educating others of the dangers in bullying and harassment. Ravi may not have done this had it been a straight guy having sex in his room (because the titillation factor wouldn’t have been so high); and possibly Clementi wouldn’t feel the pressure or shame to kill himself had he been straight (because he may not have felt so exposed or shamed if he was heterosexual – in fact, if he was taped with a woman, he probably would’ve encountered praise from his peers). Even though the intent may have been harmless (though that’s debatable), the crux of this episode was Clementi’s sexuality and Ravi’s ignorance of how difficult it can be to come out. If Ravi understood the years it can sometimes take, and the toll it often takes on familial relationships, hopefully, he would’ve thought twice before airing the clips.

But he didn’t.

And now we’re left with at least two families that have (in some way) lost someone – Clementi’s family mourning the very real death of Tyler and Ravi’s family dealing with the possibility of Dharun’s decade-long incarceration and probable deportation.

So, the verdict was fair – but that doesn’t make Ravi’s situation any less tragic.


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