The parents of Tyler Clementi — an 18-year-old Rutgers University student who jumped to his death last year after being humiliated online over his sexual orientation — said they learned only weeks before his suicide that their son was gay.
In an interview appearing in the Dec. 19 edition of People magazine, Jane and Joseph Clementi describe their grief over Tyler’s suicide, and said they were “completely unprepared” to learn of his sexual orientation, which they said Tyler tearfully revealed to them only days before leaving for Rutgers University.
Tyler’s family on Wednesday also announced they have established the Tyler Clementi Foundation to work to “prevent teen suicide, implement anti-bullying programs, and promote lives of peace.”
“The nationwide outpouring of compassion following Tyler’s death has been truly humbling and comforting for our family” said his father, Joseph Clementi, who is president of the Foundation.
“During that time we have become increasingly aware of the difficulties young people face due to their sexual orientation, especially in this digital age. Part of our mission is to raise awareness of cyber-bullying by promoting responsibility in our children’s personal lives and on-line presence. We want them to understand the importance of their words and actions.”
Joseph Clementi said that the Foundation will also support research into the cause and prevention of teenage suicide.
“Our family was devastated by Tyler’s death and we know that thousands of other families have experienced similar situations,” he said. “We want to do our part to help save lives and reduce the anguish of those who are tormented because of the way they look, their sexual orientation, or just for being different.”
Tyler jumped to his death from the George Washington bridge on Sept. 22, 2010, just days after a sexual encounter he had with another man was allegedly streamed online by his roommate.
Police recovered Tyler’s body a week later in the Hudson River just north of the bridge.
Earlier this year, Tyler’s roomate, Dharun Ravi, received a 15-count indictment, including a charge of the hate crime of bias intimidation, for his alleged actions that led to Tyler’s death, and for trying to cover up it up afterward.