Social media may have helped judge Thomas Lipps find Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond guilty of raping Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio, on Sunday. But it was one woman who drew the world’s attention to the damning Tweets and Facebook messages in the first place: Alexandria Goddard, crime blogger, web analyst and former Steubenville resident, who spoke out about her part in the case this week.
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“When I first wrote about the unbelievable events that took place in this town where I lived for five years…I had NO clue the firestorm that it would cause,” she wrote in xoJane. “All I wanted was justice for Jane Doe. And now with the verdict in, I am proud to have played any small part in that.”
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Goddard was the first to expose many details of the crime through tweets and Facebook postings she found quickly (and wrote about) after the incident—something law enforcement officials will no doubt be doing more of from this point on.
“It's the wave of the future,” Harvard Law School professor and criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz told USA Today. “It’s going to change the way evidence is gathered in cases. It’s already happening.”
But while many have hailed the blogger a hero for her part in the case, Goddard's sleuthing has also brought out the ire of some. Since she began writing about the case eight months ago, she says she's been called a "slut," a "drunk," a "bitch with an agenda," a “fat sweat hog” and a "liar” whose blog resembles a “lynch mob.” Her family has been harassed. She has had a slow AIDS death wished upon her by a former friend, was sued for defamation of character by a student (it was dismissed) and has been hospitalized due to the stress of being sued.
But, she writes in her essay, “Would I do it all over again? ABSOLUTELY.”
In the piece, Goddard recounts the details of how she first became interested in the case, and in the lack of reporting on it.
“Initially,” she writes, “the media did not present a lot of information about this case and that struck me as odd because I knew from having lived in Steubenville that this was going to be a big deal.”
That’s because Steubenville, she explains both in this piece and in her subsequent series of hard-hitting posts on Prinniefied.com, was gaga for its high-school football team, Big Red. And having a couple of players accused of rape was not going to go over well.
“Having lived in Steubenville, I have personal knowledge of the football culture there. I saw it -– I experienced it and to be honest, I was creeped out by it. Men who were 20 years out of high school seemed to be still living in the moment of when the full-capacity stadium used to cheer loudly for them,” she explains. “So, when I talked about the football culture negatively in light of this case, to say it was not received well is an understatement.”
Goddard, now of Columbus, Ohio, describes how she began digging into the case back in August—by going to Steubenville High School’s football website, making a list of names and reading some local high-school forums to get familiar with who was who. Then she searched the most implicated names on Twitter to find their unprotected accounts.
“I was amazed at how much information I was able to obtain with the first two hours of searching. I had a decent idea by that time of what parties they were at, some of the names of those in attendance and knew that a photograph had been circulated,” she says, referring to the now-infamous shot of the unconscious victim being held like a slaughtered deer.
“I actually stayed up all night reading Twitter accounts,” Goddard continues. “By the time I reached party-goer Michael Nodianos’s Twitter account, I was horrified.” (Nodianos, for anyone not following the case, is the charming young man who cracked himself up in a drunk 12-minute video by laughing and joking about the rape; one of his standout tweets declared about the victim, “Some people deserve to be peed on.”)
She began saving screen shots of the tweets, as she was certain they’d soon be taken down.
“I never expected this case to take on the life that it has. I have been left weeping and filled with so much pride as I watched the Steubenville rallies and listened to the stories of other victims who were too afraid to come forward,” Goddard writes.
“I have received emails from around the world by people who have been moved by this case in some form or another. This case has created a social awareness about rape culture, and it has opened dialogues between parents and their children that it's okay to be the lone man standing as long as you STAND.”
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