I have mixed feelings about the sentence handed down on Monday in the Rutgers webcam spying case. While I was satisfied with the decision at first, I became less sure of it when I saw and heard the Ravis (the defendant’s parents) plead for leniency on their son’s behalf. Never once in their impassioned speeches did they attempt to reach out to the Clementis to express remorse to them for their loss. Did the defendant physically push his late roommate to his death off the George Washington Bridge? No. Did he intimidate and bully an emotionally fragile young man because of his sexuality? The jurors, the judge, and many others are convinced; I am too.
I know bullies, because I have family members, former classmates and former friends who share this dubious distinction. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I had to be around any of them as a child, because they seemed to enjoy making me feel worse than I already did about myself. I was never a victim of cyber bullying, but I do recall having unflattering comments about me spread like wildfire. When all eyes were on me due to ridicule, I remember feeling that I wanted to be anyone else but me at those moments. Yet no matter how bad it got for me, I never wanted to end my life as a result. I also remember those who were bullied far worse than I ever was. Memories of what happened to these individuals still haunt me.
I wonder about families of bullies, like the Ravis, who see their child and themselves as misunderstood victims. Insincere apologies are worse than no apologies at all, at least I think so. Still, it is troubling that the defendant has never expressed sympathy to his late roommate’s family for his passing. Perhaps the years will open his eyes to the consequences of his actions; perhaps they won’t. Even though the sentence in this case is lenient, I still believe the bullies are losing in the war against them and their actions. It is about time.