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Roots of Violence, Seeds of Change

An Occasional Publication for Persons Interested in Violence Prevention

“In order to prevent violence, we have to understand it”
Volume 2, Number 1 May 24, 2011

Did  Something  Wrong?  

Admit  it  &  Take  the  Consequences  
By  Jane  Gilgun  


When  you  do  something  wrong,  promptly  admit  it.  You  will  be  glad  you  did.  This  
article  gives  examples  of  people  who  did  wrong  or  are  accused  of  doing    wrong.  It  
shows  the  consequences  of  admitting  and  denying  alleged  wrong-­doing.    Everyone  
makes  mistakes.  Everyone  hurts  others.  Here  are  suggestions  about  what    
to  do  about  it.  

About  the  Author  

Jane  F.  Gilgun,  Ph.D.,  LICSW,  is  a  professor,  School  of  Social  Work,  University  of  
Minnesota,  Twin  Cities,  USA.  Her  research  on  the  meanings  of  violence  to  
perpetrators  has  led  her  to  a  long-­‐term  interest  in  accountability.  The  roots  of  
unkind  deeds  are  beliefs  we  absorb  through  years  of  being  exposed  to  them.  
Fortunately,  most  of  our  beliefs  guide  us  in  good  directions.  Some  of  our  beliefs  hurt  
others  and  ourselves  when  we  act  on  them.  See  Professor  Gilgun’s  other  articles,  
books,  and  children’s  stories  on  Scribd.com,  Amazon  Kindle,  and  iBooks.  
Did  Something  Wrong?  
Admit  it  &  Take  the  Consequences  
When  you  do  something  wrong,  why  not  just  admit  it,  take  the  consequences,  and  get  on  
with  your  life?  Let  other  people  get  on  with  theirs?  Two  people  in  the  news  did  just  that.  
One  person  said  he  did  it,  he’s  sorry,  won’t  do  it  again,  and  won’t  forget  what  he  did.  This  
person  is  Joakim  Noah,  a  professional  basketball  player,  who  called  a  fan  a  “fucking  faggot”  
during  a  game.  Noah  took  responsibility  for  his  misdeed.  He  got  a  lot  of  heat  for  the  slur  and  
accepted  wide-­‐spread  disapproval.    
The  other  person  is  Molly  Wei,  19,  charged  in  crimes  related  to  the  death  of  Tyler  Clementi,  
18,  a  first  year  college  student  at  Rutgers  University  in  New  Jersey,  USA.  Mr.  Clementi  
committed  suicide  last  fall,  days  after  his  roommate,  Dharun  Ravi,  19,  posted  a  video  of  Mr.  
Clementi  making  out  with  another  man.  Ms.  Wei  struck  a  deal  with  prosecutors.    
In  exchange  for  a  guilty  plea,  300  hours  of  community  service,  successful  completion  of  
counseling,  and  truthful  testimony  in  Mr.  Ravi’s  trial,  all  charges  against  her  will  be  
dropped.  Ms.  Wei  faces  charges  of  invasion  of  privacy  because  Mr.  Ravi  was  in  her  room  
when  he  turned  on  the  webcam  to  videotape  Mr.  Clementi  and  his  date.  

Who  Me?  Never!  

Two  other  people  in  the  news  won’t  admit  what  they  did.  Under  US  law,  they  assumed  to  be  
innocent  until  they  are  proved  guilty  through  trial.  In  this  article,  I  wonder  what  would  
happen  if  they  did  what  they  were  charged  with  and  then  simply  admitted  it.  
These  two  people  are  charged  with  crimes.  One  of  them,  the  former  head  of  the  
International  Monetary  Fund  (IMF),  denied  raping  a  hotel  maid  30  years  his  junior  a  few  
weeks  ago.  This  woman  is  a  political  refugee  who  has  asylum  in  the  United  States.  She  is  
raising  a  15  year-­‐old  daughter.    
In  his  letter  of  resignation  as  director  of  the  IMF,  Dominique  Strauss-­‐Kahn,  62,  denied  “with  
the  greatest  possible  firmness  all  of  the  allegations.”  A  few  days  later,  his  lawyer  stated  in  
court,  “The  forensic  evidence,  we  believe,  is  not  consistent  with  a  forcible  encounter.”  This  
statement  implicitly  blames  the  victim.  Many  people  do.  Maybe  this  defense  will  work  for  
Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn.  
The  other  person  who  stated  he  is  not  guilty  is  Dharun  Ravi,  19,  who  is  alleged  to  have  
videotaped  his  male  roommate  making  out  with  another  man,  posted  the  video  on  the  web,  
and  then  allegedly  wrote  on  Twitter,  “Roommate  asked  for  the  room  till  midnight.  I  went  
into  Molly’s  room  and  turned  on  my  webcam.  I  saw  him  making  out  with  a  dude.  Yay.”  
Ravi  was  having  fun.  Some  of  his  friends  thought  what  he  did  was  hilarious.    
Mr.  Ravi’s  roommate.  Tyler  Clementi,  18,  jumped  to  his  death  off  the  George  Washington  
Bridge  in  New  York  City  a  few  days  later.  Mr.  Clementi  is  thought  to  have  written  a  message  
on  a  gay  website  the  day  before  he  committed  suicide.  He  said  he  told  a  resident  advisor  
about  the  posting  of  the  video.  “I  feel  like  it  was  ‘look  at  what  a  fag  my  roommate  is,’”  he  
wrote.  He  said  Ravi’s  friends  showed  more  concern  about  Ravi  having  a  gay  roommate  than  
about  Ravi’s  actions.    
Mr.  Ravi  pled  not  guilty  yesterday  in  a  Manhattan  court  to  15  counts  of  criminal  behavior.  
These  counts  included  bias  crimes,  tampering  with  witnesses,  and  tampering  with  
evidence.  Besides  the  spying,  the  posting,  the  bragging,  and  in  general  having  a  great  time,  
Mr.  Ravi  afterward  tried  to  erase  his  Twitter  message  and  asked  witnesses  to  change  their  
As  Mr.  Clementi  said,  actions  have  consequences.  This  is  what  has  resulted  from  the  actions  
of  these  four  people.  
Mr.  Noah  
The  National  Basketball  Association  (NBA)  fined  Mr.  Noah  $50,000  for  the  use  of  “a  
derogatory  and  offensive  term.”  Mr.  Noah  said,  “With  the  comment  to  the  fan,  I  just  want  to  
apologize  for  that.  I  had  just  picked  up  my  second  foul.  I  was  frustrated.  He  said  something  
that  was  disrespectful  toward  me,  and  I  lost  my  cool.  People  who  know  me  know  I’m  an  
open-­‐minded  guy.  I’m  not  here  to  hurt  anybody’s  feelings.”  
People  across  the  United  States  had  a  lot  to  say  about  Mr.  Noah’s  use  of  a  slur  against  gay  
people.  For  instance,  the  president  of  the  Human  Rights  Campaign  said,  “We  need  to  get  to  
the  point  where  you  don’t  use  an  antigay  slur  to  respond  to  events.”  A  spokesperson  for  the  
Gay  and  Lesbian  Alliance  Against  Defamation  said,  “Last  month,  the  NBA  sent  an  important  
message  about  how  such  slurs  fuel  a  climate  of  intolerance  and  are  unacceptable.”  
Last  month  the  NBA  fined  Kobe  Bryant,  another  basketball  player,  $100,000  for  using  the  
same  slur  against  a  referee.  
Mr.  Noah  seems  sincere  in  his  apology.  His  subsequent  actions  will  show  whether  he  has  
learned  to  root  out  antigay  attitudes  that  he  and  many  others  have  encoded  in  their  brains.  
Few  people  do  not.  We  are  exposed  over  our  lifetimes  to  antigay  beliefs.  
Mr.  Ravi  
Mr.  Ravi  faces  months  if  not  years  of  ordeal  that  includes  public  scrutiny  and  disgrace.  He  
could  easily  improve  his  reputation  and,  more  importantly,  his  self  respect,  if  he  admitted  
what  he  did  was  wrong  and  took  the  consequences,  if  he  did  break  laws.    
Judges  look  favorably  upon  defendants  who  do  this.  Mr.  Ravi  could  serve  some  jail  time  and  
then  probation.  Other  people  will  respect  that  he  made  some  terrible  mistakes,  but  he  has  
also  understood  the  gravity  of  what  he  did.  He  can  make  up  for  his  misdeeds  through  living  
an  exemplary  life.  Admitting  what  he  did  was  wrong  might  also  relieve  some  of  the  loss  and  
suffering  that  he  has  caused  Mr.  Clementi’s  parents,  other  family  members,  and  friends.  
Instead,  Mr.  Ravi  has  chosen  to  fight  the  charges,  continue  to  damage  his  reputation  and  
self-­‐respect,  and  risk  being  found  guilty  and  then  sentenced  to  years  in  prison.  He  has  
chosen  yet  another  self-­‐destructive  path.  Amusing  himself  at  Mr.  Clementi’s  expense,  while  
destructive  to  others,  ultimately  was  destructive  to  himself.    
Mr.  Strauss-­Kahn  
Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn  has  experienced  world-­‐wide  disgrace  and  loss  of  a  high  profile  job,  
although  many  people  in  his  native  France  believe  his  defense  and  think  his  political  
enemies  set  him  up.  Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn  was  a  probable  candidate  for  president  of  France.  His  
great  job  is  over  and  his  influential  future  may  be  in  doubt.  
Had  Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn  admitted  what  he  had  done  (if  the  charges  are  correct,  although  he  
remains  innocent  under  the  law),  the  headlines  would  not  roll  out  every  day.  He  would  not  
have  been  photographed  in  handcuffs  with  his  head  lowered  and  his  face  in  a  scowl.  The  
story  would  have  made  news,  but  it  would  be  over  by  now.  As  discussed  earlier,  judges  look  
favorably  upon  defendants  who  admit  what  they  have  done.  Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn  may  have  
served  minimal  jail  time  and  probation.    
He  would  have  earned  the  respect  of  others.  “I  made  a  mistake,”  he  could  have  said.  “I  am  
sorry.  I  will  do  whatever  I  can  to  make  up  for  what  I  did.  I  lost  my  head.”  He  also  could  have  
admitted  that  he  thought  the  woman  was  easy  pickings.  They  were  alone  in  the  hotel  room.  
He  is  far  bigger  than  her.  He  perceived  her  as  vulnerable  not  only  because  of  her  size  but  
because  of  her  dark  skin  and  implicit  “social  inferiority”  as  compared  to  his  high  social  
Had  he  admitted  what  he  did  (innocent  as  he  remains  under  the  law),  the  32  year-­‐old  hotel  
maid  might  have  felt  as  if  someone  recognized  what  she  had  gone  through,  not  only  as  a  
result  of  the  sexual  aggression  she  said  she  experienced  from  Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn,  but  also  as  
a  refugee  from  a  worn-­‐torn  country.    
She  has  not  been  public  about  the  trauma  she  experienced  in  her  country  of  origin.  Because  
she  is  a  political  refugee,  she  has  experienced  multiple  traumas.  Women  who  are  members  
of  ethnic  minority  groups  are  at  risk  for  sexual  assault  because  of  widespread  beliefs  about  
their  social  inferiority.  
If  Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn  did  act  in  sexually  aggressive  ways,  he  may  yet  restore  the  respect  of  
others  if  ,  “I  acted  like  a  pig.  I  tried  to  take  advantage  of  a  situation.  I  need  to  start  thinking  
differently  about  what  I  think  I’m  entitled  to.  I  have  had  a  life  of  privilege.  I  have  to  learn  to  
know  when  I  take  advantage  of  people.  I  have  gotten  away  with  taking  advantage  of  others  
for  a  long  time.”  I  doubt  that  Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn  has  suffered  any  pain  over  damage  to  his  
self-­‐respect.  He  could  truly  believe  he  is  not  guilty.  
Ms.  Wei  
Ms.  Wei  will  be  able  to  go  on  with  her  life.  She  may  realize  that  she  has  done  something  
wrong.  I  hope  so.  She  may  simply  have  gone  along  with  Mr.  Ravi,  whom  she  had  known  for  
several  years.  She  may  not  have  been  able  to  stand  up  to  him.    
In  the  United  States,  persons  are  presumed  innocent  until  proven  guilty.  This  is  a  bedrock  
principle.  I  have  respected  this  principle  in  this  article.  I  have  also  asserted  that  taking  
responsibility  for  doing  something  wrong  has  consequences  for  the  good.  I  have  provided  
examples  and  language  for  what  to  do  and  say  when  we  have  done  something  wrong.    
We  make  mistakes.  We  hurt  others.  The  best  course  of  action  is  to  take  responsibility,  
apologize,  and  do  what  it  takes  not  to  repeat  these  hurtful  actions.  Self-­‐respect  and  the  
respect  of  others  result.  
Like  almost  everyone  else,  Mr.  Noah  and  Mr.  Levi  have  internalized  antigay  ideologies.  In  
times  of  stress,  Mr.  Bryant  and  Mr.  Levi  let  go  of  their  common  decency  and  yelled  antigay  
slurs.  They  can  do  better.  Mr.  Noah  is  trying  to  live  up  to  his  own  values.  
If  what  Mr.  Levi  did  is  found  to  be  true,  then  Mr.  Levi  wanted  to  have  fun.  He  did.  Had  he  
thought  about  the  long-­‐term  consequences  of  his  public  joke  on  Mr.  Clementi,  he  may  not  
have  done  what  he  did.  Mr.  Levi  thought  only  of  himself.  He  wanted  to  bring  attention  to  
himself  at  the  expense  of  others.    
Mr.  Levi  is  young.  Maybe  he  will  learn  that  doing  harm  to  others  often  feels  really  good.  The  
first  step  is  to  realize  that  your  actions  are  or  could  be  harmful.  Mr.  Levi  did  not  know  this  
or  did  not  care.  So,  he  did  what  made  him  feel  good.  He  probably  feels  pretty  bad  now.  
Taking  responsibility  for  what  he  is  thought  to  have  done  may  help  him  feel  good  again.    
Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn,  if  he  did  what  the  woman  said  he  did,  has  internalized  beliefs  about  what  
he  is  entitled  to.  Many  men  throughout  the  world  have  a  sense  of  entitlement  to  sex,  
especially  sex  with  people  others  define  as  their  social  inferiors.  Mr.  Strauss-­‐Kahn  and  
others  may  have  learned  that  they  do  not  have  rights  to  sex  with  others  just  because  it  is  
what  they  want.  There  are  laws  in  countries  throughout  the  world  against  this.  Maybe  one  
day,  more  sexually  entitled  people  will  internalize  these  laws.  
As  for  Ms.  Wei,  who  pled  guilty  to  invasion  of  privacy  charges,  Joseph  Clementi,  Tyler’s  
father,  said  a  few  weeks  ago,  “Ms.  Wei’s  actions,  although  unlawful,  are  substantially  
different  in  their  nature  and  extent  than  the  actions  of  Tyler’s  former  roommate.”    
Mr.  Clementi  had  more  to  say  about  Ms.  Wei:  “Actions  have  consequences.  We  wish  that  Ms.  
Wei  will  become  a  persons  who  will  make  better  decisions,  will  help  people  and  show  
kindness  to  those  she  comes  in  contact  with.”    
There  is  no  way  of  knowing,  of  course,  how  Ms.  Wei  will  live  her  life.  Let’s  hope  she  has  
learned  what  she  needs  to  learn  to  avoid  participating  in  something  as  hurtful  as  what  has  
been  alleged.  
This Publication

Roots of Violence, Seeds of Change is an occasional publication for persons interested in

promoting individual and social well-being and in violence prevention. In order to promote well-
being and prevent violence, we have to understand both. Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is the
editor and publisher. To submit articles to this publication, Professor Gilgun cordially invites
researchers to email brief articles of three to five pages to her at jgilgun@umn.edu.

Abrams,  Johnathan  (2011).  Noah  fined  $50,000  for  using  antigay  slur.  New  York  Times,  May  
24,  B13,  B17.  
Gilgun,  Jane  F.  (2010).  Evil  feels  good:  Think  before  you  act.  Roots  of  Violence,  Seeds  of  
Change,  1  (2)  http://www.scribd.com/doc/38489251/Evil-­‐Feels-­‐Good-­‐Think-­‐Before-­‐You-­‐
Gilgun,  Jane  F.  (2010).  On  being  a  shit:  Unkind  deeds  and  cover-­‐ups  in  everyday  life.  
Molly  Wei  to  testify  against  Tyler  Clementi's  roommate  Dharun  Ravi  as  part  of  plea  deal.  
Star  Ledger,  Saturday,  May  07,  2011.  
Perez-­‐Pena,  Richard  &  Nate  Schweber  (2011).  Roommate  is  arraigned  in  suicide  case.  New  
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Rashbaum,  William  K.  (2011).  DNA  said  to  link  ex-­‐IMF  leader  and  hotel  housekeeper.  New  
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