NEW YORK — In their first television interview, Tyler Clementi’s parents Jane and Joe Clementi talked with NBC’s Kerry Sanders on Monday, telling her that the loss they still feel is “almost like a physical pain.”
“It’s like a tightening of the chest. It’s aching of the muscles and tightening of your face and your jaw and you’re clenching, and it just physically hurts,” said Jane Clementi.
Last year their son Tyler, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey, jumped off New York City‘s George Washington Bridge days after he had experienced a romantic encounter with another man that was secretly live streamed over the internet by his roommate, 19-year-old Dharun Ravi.
Ravi faces 15 criminal counts as a result, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, which could result in a 10-year prison sentence. Ravi rejected a plea deal on Friday.
Their son’s suicide hit the family only a few weeks after he revealed to his parents he was gay, having doubts about the existence of a God, and that he felt friendless, according to the Clementis.
Tyler’s mother added, “I wish he would have come to us, but he didn’t,” she said. “I wish the RA would have encouraged him to come to us.”
Appearing live on NBC’s The Today Show, both Jane and Joe Clementi told anchor Ann Curry they are finally seeing some good come from the media attention Tyler’s death has received.
The family has previously made only limited statements to the press, mostly issued through their attorney, but told Curry that now, 15 months after their son’s death, they have decided to grant interviews in an effort to promote the foundation they’re launching in their son’s honor.
Tyler’s parents said they hope their foundation will increase acceptance of gay young people, prevent suicide and stop online bullying.
Joe Clementi told Curry he has a message for gay youth who, like his son, may find themselves in a difficult place in life. “If you feel alone, find somebody, reach out to parents, friends. get help,” he said. “Suicide is never the right answer – it’s always wrong.”