The Experts Weigh In
Dr. Phil introduces Parry Aftab, executive director and founder of StopCyberbullying.org; Loni Coombs, host, news anchor and legal correspondent, and Charles Robbins, executive director and CEO of The Trevor Project, a leading organization focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ teens.
 
Dr. Phil turns to Parry. "What in the world is going on here?" he asks.
 
"I keep saying, ‘Never again,' and it happens again, and it has to stop," she replies. "Unless we stop the bystanders from standing by, we're going to be seeing a lot more of this."
 
[AD]Dr. Phil underscores Parry's point. "I've said that many, many times. If you're standing by watching somebody be bullied, if you know what's going on, you're as guilty as the person doing it," he says.
 
Turning to Loni, Dr. Phil discusses the charges against Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, classmates of Tyler's who allegedly secretly streamed live his intimate encounter with another man. "We all know they have been charged with invasion of privacy, correct?" he asks.
 
"That's correct," she replies.
"Is this going to get more serious, and should it get more serious?" Dr. Phil asks Loni.
 
"It very well could get more serious, and I think, right now, the prosecutors are looking at the evidence to decide what they can prove," Loni answers. "As you stated, they've both been charged with invasion of privacy. Anytime you collect, or look at or record someone who is nude or engaged in sexual conduct, that's a crime, and then if you distribute it, that's another crime." Loni adds that the prosecutor is also looking into whether Tyler's death can be considered a hate crime.
 
"Should these kids be prosecuted for what they did, or should they also be held accountable for what Tyler did?" Dr. Phil asks.
 
Hear Loni's response.
 
Dr. Phil highlights several disturbing statistics. "Kids who have been cyber bullied who are gay are two to four times more likely to attempt suicide than kids than have not been in that situation and circumstance. That means it's somewhat foreseeable. Eighty-six percent of kids in one study who are gay said they had been verbally harassed in the 30 days preceding the study, and they hear an average of 26 slurs a day. They're getting pounded," he says.

Addressing Charles, Dr. Phil asks, "Is this foreseeable?" referring to Ravi and Wei, and the danger which a reasonable person should anticipate as the result of his or her actions. 

 
"It is foreseeable. Unfortunately, is it an old problem, and it's nothing new, other than the fact that the media has all of a sudden recognized that it is a problem," Charles answers. "We know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth are up to four times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers, and when they're getting bullied two to three more times than their heterosexual peers, the chances for having some mental health issues and some consequences of that are greater."
 
Dr. Phil inquires whether heavier charges beyond invasion of privacy should be levied against the alleged perpetrators.
 
"Absolutely. There's something else that we're dealing with here. This is a public outing," Charles observes. "To be, without your permission, outed in a public forum like that and bullied, something has to happen."
 
[AD]"Parry, how do we square this with First Amendment laws?" Dr. Phil asks.
 
"You're not allowed to record somebody in a private setting without their permission, unless you are part of it," she explains. "In the Phoebe Prince case, the prosecutor looked at civil rights claims, and indicted under civil rights. I think we need to look at it here."

  

If a friend or loved one is talking about or planning to take his or her life, reach out for help now. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).