The wave of social media-based outrage that’s engulfed the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case crashed onto a disc jockey for a University of Toledo-affiliated radio station this week, after the DJ seemed to blame the victim.
Jimmy Momenee, 25, a DJ for 88.3 FM WXUT, UT’s student-run station, suspended his Monday night radio show after a flood of criticism, shock, and anger on social media for comments he made on Twitter about the high-profile rape convictions on Sunday of two Steubenville high school football players.
The backlash against the comments was just the latest in a case that was sparked and fed by posts, pictures, and statements online, and has lived as much on social media as it has in the courtroom. On Monday, authorities arrested two girls suspected of threatening the victim’s well-being in Facebook and Twitter comments.
Mr. Momenee, who graduated from UT in May with a dual major in communications and political science, first posted Sunday about the convictions, and then had a string of further posts after Twitter users reacted. Most of those tweets were deleted, and Mr. Momenee’s once active Twitter account is now silent.
“Disgusting outcome on #Steubenville trial. Remember kids, if you’re drunk/slutty at a party, and embarrassed later, just say you got raped!” he wrote Sunday, sparking the backlash.
Disc jockeys at WXUT are volunteers, and most are students. The station, which is overseen by the university, is not a prominent one in Toledo. But its small stature didn’t dampen the size of the reaction.
Comments criticizing Mr. Momenee continued at a high pace on Tuesday. Many responses were vile in their own right, expressing hope that Mr. Momenee either die or be raped himself.
Many others, however, lashed out on Mr. Momenee’s assertion that a rape had not occurred, because the woman was drunk.
“Everyone is open to their opinion of your opinion. Your opinion is ignorant & uninformed. Rape IS rape. Drunk doesn’t=yes,” user @SusanMileyWV posted.
Attempts to contact Mr. Momenee on Tuesday were unsuccessful. A radio station manager deferred comment on the matter to UT administrators. The station distanced itself from Mr. Momenee, tweeting that the DJ’s views were his own.
Mr. Momenee said in a post that he was “on Twitter vacation indefinitely,” citing what he called death threats and evil wishes. He later said that his wording was poor and that he was not “advocating rape or rapists or assault.”
Mr. Momenee has been a DJ at WXUT for several years. His show, “The Quarry with Jimmy” on WXUT, normally runs late Monday nights.
University officials called the outrage online justified.
“The recent remarks of one of UT’s alums, Jimmy Momenee, lamenting the guilty verdict of two Steubenville teens convicted of rape were revolting and directly contradict the values of The University of Toledo,” UT spokesman Tobin Klinger said in a statement. “The only victim in this case is the young woman assaulted. On his Twitter page, Mr. Momenee has expressed regret and apologized for the comments and rightly so.”
Mr. Klinger said the radio show’s return will be considered at a later date. Mr. Momenee, he said, was “learning a difficult lesson about the power of social media and the consequences that come with the words we choose.”
Dee Drummond, an associate lecturer of communication at UT and a former Blade reporter, taught Mr. Momenee, and said she remembered him as a good kid, who had done a “foolish, insensitive thing.”
Ms. Drummond plans to use the case to show students how what’s put out on social media can spread rapidly.
Social media, as much as driving the Steubenville case, has also served as an megaphone for users’ rawest views. What concerns Ms. Drummond is how many other young people have similar views as expressed in Mr. Momenee’s tweets. She brought the Steubenville case up in her class, and what she heard was distressing.
“The sense that I got was that, for some of them, they didn’t see this as rape,” Ms. Drummond said, “and that’s much more frightening.”
That’s upsetting, but not surprising, to Lynn Jacquot, director of the YWCA’s Battered Women’s Shelter.
“[There’s] a very basic misunderstanding of what rape is, what sexual violence is, and what domestic violence is,” she said.
Survivors of sexual assault are often blamed for the way they’re dressed, for drinking too much, or for other actions that some perceive as giving them culpability. And most rapes are perpetrated by acquaintances, not strangers.
Ma’lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, were found guilty Sunday in Steubenville of the juvenile charge equal to rape, for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl during alcohol-fueled parties in August. But the larger crime, Ms. Jacquot said, was committed by the many who saw or knew of the events but did nothing. That’s a communitywide failure, she said.
“I guess it’s easier to blame a victim, rather than look at your own culpability,” she said.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.