The Dahrun Ravi Trial: Was It Hate Or Was It Stupid?

By Meri Ulrich
Mar. 8, 2012

I have been watching the Dahrun Ravi trial on "In Session" on Tru TV and trying to figure out if he committed a hate crime against Tyler Clementi.

As some of you may know, Tyler and Dahrun shared a dorm room at Rutgers College and Dahrun used his webcam to spy on Tyler having an intimate encounter with another man. Afterward, Dahrun made sure that some of his friends were aware of the incidents (there were two) and "dared" his friends to watch the two men together.

A few days after Tyler discovered that he had been spied on and that his sexual preference was outed too his fellow students he jumped off of the George Washington Bridge and died.

First, let me say that I believe that Tyler had more problems than simply being observed on a webcam or being outed at his school to cause him to commit suicide. Also, I am not sure if Dahrun Ravi was simply a stupid college kid being extremely insensitive or a hateful bigot.

The testimony and evidence thus far has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that Ravi is guilty of invasion of privacy, one of the many charges against him but the bias charge which constitutes hate for homosexuals is a lot harder to prove.

Even though Ravi exposed Tyler and his lover and spied on them he didn't express any hatred or distain for homosexuals prior to the incidents in least not that anyone is admitting too.He did tell one of his friends that he needed to "get the gays out" of his room at one point but what does that really mean? As an eighteen year old college freshman and a straight male, did he feel uncomfortable knowing that the man he shared a room with was gay? Was he worried that Tyler would hit on him or somehow tarnish his own reputation among his fellow students or was he simply a stupid kid doing what stupid kids do?

There isn't a whole lot of maturity present in the freshman dorms of many colleges and elsewhere and it is apparent just from reading social media that kids today aren't as sensitive or kind as they might be. I see language that no one would have dared speak during my youth and a lot of bullying going on among young people. I see a total lack of understanding for any consequences that might occur when someone blatantly exposes the behavior of others when those behaviors are meant to be private.

Tyler Clementi asked for privacy and instead he got exposure and ridicule. He took his own life for whatever reasons and left behind a grieving family and a lot of unanswered questions as to why he didn't want to live anymore. Could it have been a momentary shame that could somehow have been overcome with time? Who knows. Kids often take that very final step without thinking about the fact that things change and people change and that there is a solution for most problems. Was the thought that his fellow students knew he was a gay man enough to want to kill himself? I don't know and neither does anyone else since Tyler's only note on his Face Book page read, "Jumping off the GW Bridge...sorry".

I do believe that Dahrun Ravi should be punished for the terrible thing that he did and I don't see a whole lot of remorse in his words and attitude since the incident occurred. In his interview with police right after the incidents he lied a lot and came up with lots of excuses for what he did and why he did it. He even tampered with a witness and texted her while she was being interviewed by the police telling her what to say. That is another charge against him that he is obviously guilty of.

Dahrun Ravi was offered a plea deal by the State of New Jersey which would have involved no jail time but he refused it stating through his lawyers that he was "not guilty". That was absurd since he certainly was guilty of many of the charges against him. Lawyers often say that they wish that could say, "Roll the video tape" when it comes to proving a crime in the courtroom and the prosecutors in this case actually can roll the video tape to prove the crime so why is this boy saying that he's not guilty of anything? Just the fact that he refuses to take responsibility for what he obviously did makes me want to see him punished.

But, this brings me back to my original question; is he guilty of hating Tyler Clementi because he was gay? I know so many kids who carelessly throw around the F word regarding gays and I know that they don't necessarily hate those people but want to seem cool to their friends. They want to prove that they themselves are straight. I think that some of them use the F word in a derogatory fashion because it's easy and is a quick way to put someone down whether they are homosexual or not. Does that really mean that they hate gays?

I suspect that most people who make fun of gays or use language in a derogatory way toward them are uncomfortable or fearful of what being gay means. Maybe they are afraid that they will be perceived that way or they simply don't understand what being gay is all about. I'm not sure that all people who use slang or nasty words to denigrate homosexuals actually hate them. I'm not sure that Dahrun Ravi hated gays or is guilty of committing a hate crime.

I am positive that he invaded a person's privacy and was an ass. I am positive that he was a liar and an immature guy who gave no thought to how his roommate would feel when he discovered how he had been outed and ridiculed on campus. I believe that Dahrun Ravi is arrogant and insecure. I also believe that he definitely should be punished severely for what he did.

What I am not positive of is whether or not he is a hateful person who wanted to see homosexuals destroyed in some way.

It will be interesting to see what the jury comes up with and if they reach a decision that is somehow connected to the the huge amount of media exposure that this case has stirred up. It will be interesting to see if the recent rash of gay bashing and bullying in this country and the exposure that it exists will play a part in their final decision. Will they go by the evidence or will the vote their emotions when deciding Ravi's fate?

What do you think? What does it take to constitute a hate crime against another person or group of people? Have you ever used the F word in a conversation and if so, do you actually hate that particular group of people?

It makes one think and perhaps that's the most important thing to come out during this case.


About the author: Meri Ulrich has a Medical/Legal background and is a former forensic researcher specializing in psychological profiling.

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