Posted tagged ‘fear of being filmed secretly’

The Unseen Eye – Tyler Clementi

September 29, 2010

The Unseen Eye

A few years ago, living alone with my tween/teenage daughters in an old apartment building in Greenwich Village, I got a phone call from a man who said he had just moved into the apartment above.  He told me with great concern and even seeming embarrassment that, after moving in, he had discovered a hole in his bathroom floor through which a tiny camera had been inserted.  The hole peered into our own downstairs bathroom.  He’d found a bunch of videos too, he said: in fact, it turned out that the prior tenant had been filming us through this hole for a very long time.

I really am dense.  (“Naive” is too sophisticated a word.)  I let the guy go on for some while, only breaking in to question him about how this was possible, whether my children had been filmed too, all the while staring in terror and disbelief at our intact but cracked=at-the- edges-and-heat pipe bathroom ceiling.  It was only when he started describing activities that took place in our all-female apartment on a monthly basis that I began to understand that this was not a concerned new neighbor.

I hung up in a panic.  Had I heard a chortle at the end?  My shaking fingers called the police.  The officer, with a kind, but knowing, New York accent, explained to me that it was a crank call and that it was almost certain that no one had filmed me or my daughters.

A further examination of my ceiling supported the truth of what the policeman said.   But I just wanted to grab my kids and run.  I felt exposed, terrified, a failure as a mother.  The fact that I knew I was over-reacting only made me feel more stupid, more exposed.

The policeman thought the call was probably random.   Still, I felt watched, not so much by a hidden camera, but by my crank caller.  I tried hopelessly to recreate the conversation.   Was I the one to bring up the fact that I had children?  Had he mentioned the address?  The apartment number?  Nothing felt safe, and I felt myself to be idiotic.

And I was an adult.  Who hadn’t in fact been filmed.  And who had had no actual contact with the caller.

I think back to this now when reading about Tyler Clementi, the young Rutgers University student who recently committed suicide after being secretly and illegally filmed during an intimate encounter.  I think of it especially after reading the readers’ comments concerning the story.  Most are sympathetic to Clementi, though some say that the boy must have had self-esteem issues to begin with.  (Others argue for life sentences for the filmers.)

I know nothing about Clementi, or his tormenters, beyond what’s been reported;  I’m sure the full story will have further complexities, cruelties, stupidities.  But it’s easy enough to imagine a young man, a college freshman, feeling horribly and irretrievably exposed, and plunging into despair.   Easy too to imagine the callow, attention-craving, stupidity of the exposers.

So very sad.