This fall, there has been a great deal of media attention focused towards students who are a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. These individuals are often the target of harassment and cyber bullying. The recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi as a result of privacy invasion and harassment has been an eye-opening experience for college campuses nationwide on raising awareness and promoting the acceptance of the LGBTQA community.
Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, posted on his Facebook page, “Jumping off the GW bridge sorry,” after two fellow students filmed him during a “sexual encounter” in his dorm room and streamed it online. While his body has yet to be found, a wallet containing his identification card was found on the side of the bridge.
Five other teenage boys have also committed suicide in recent months due to harrassment and bullying.
Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old middle school student from Kern County, CA, hung himself in his yard after consistant tormenting from peers. Walsh, who had informed school authorities, was put on life support for nine days before eventually being taken off.
Justin Aaberg, 15, was the fifth student at his high school to commit suicide in the last year- three of which have been due to homophobic bullying.
Raymond Chase, a 19-year-old sophomore at Johnson and Wales in RI was found dead in his dorm room.Chase was originally from New York.
Another 13-year-old, Asher Brown, shot himself, after what his parents called “constant suffering.” His mother and step-father made repeated visits to Hamilton Middle School to speak with authorities, however they claim that their calls for help went ignored.
Finally, Billy Lucas, 15, hung himself from rafters in his family’s barn in Indiana. On a Facebook memorial page for Lucas, one fellow student commented, “everyone just made fun of him.”
Harassment works in several ways, but cyber-bullying is a little more complicated. There are two kinds of cyber-bullying: direct attacks and attacks by proxy.
Direct attacks are messages sent directly to the victim from the actual harasser. These attacks range from instant/text messages, blogs, and picture messages to internet polling and malware sent to the victim to control the use of their webcams.
There are also attacks by proxy, which involves employing the help of friends to attack the victim. Attacks by proxy not only hurt the victim, but the people involved as well. The friends of the attacker do not always know that they are involved in cyber-bullying.
Campuses nationwide, including West Chester University, are taking an active role in stopping this behavior. Colleges and universities are beginning outreach programs and strengthening their support groups for LGBTQA communities and their families.
There are also websites about projects like the It Gets Better Project, in which people from all over the world post videos about their struggles in the LGBTQA community, and what they have done to overcome adversity.
The It Gets Better Project, run by the Trevor Project organization showcases both celebrities and the average citizen offering words of hope. The Trevor Project aims to help end suicide and bullying, and they offer information packets for educators to lead discussion in their classrooms, as well as other tools. They provide a 24-hour helpline, as well as a way for teens to ask anonymous questions and just have someone to talk to.
Celebrities varying from Chris Colfer, Daniel Radcliffe, and Zachary Quinto have filmed It Gets Better PSAs for the organization.
To Write Love On Her Arms, a support organization that now has been around for several years is traveling to college campuses to raise awareness of homophobic abuse, and to offer support to those who are being harassed.
West Chester University has individually come up with an online training program to stop harassment in the workplace, which is available to both students and employees at the university.
For more information on the campus outreach programs, visit the university website (www.wcupa.edu). More information can be found on nationwide support programs by visiting www.itgetsbetterproject.com, and visit the To Write Love On Her Arms organization at www.twloha.com.
In addition, October 20 has been named Spirit Day, where people are asked to wear purple to show their support towards the LGBTQA community.
According to the New York Daily News, the average age for a teenager to come out about their sexual identity has dropped from 19 to 14 over the last decade, and it’s becoming even more important for these young teens to know that there is support and allies for them, even if they aren’t getting that support at home.
While wearing purple on October 20 will send a message to people who feel as though they have no one to turn to, it is also important to remember that bullying and harrassment takes place every day of the year, and wearing purple one day won’t stop it. The community as a whole needs to be conscious of this issue every day of the year.
Carla Giorno is a student at West Chester University. She can be reached at CG633075@wcupa.edu.
Additional reporting on this article was done by Jenn Rothstein, a fourth year English education major, who can be reached at JR649299@wcupa.edu.