PITTSBURGH — Officials are investigating after an inmate at the Allegheny County Jail, charged with rape, posted more than a dozen videos to YouTube, including one calling out his alleged victim and sharing her name and address.
“Making information public can be very, very easy, and it can be extraordinarily damaging to a survivor,” said Nicole Molinaro, the President & CEO of the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
Advocates like Molinaro say in today’s era of social media, it is extremely difficult to protect victims from their abusers. Adding that often a perpetrator will use those platforms to publicly shame or directly attack.
“You have been selected as America’s jury in my criminal trial. I’m James T. Byrd and I am currently on trial for rape,” announced James Byrd in one of his posted YouTube postings.
Forty-four-year-old James Byrd, an inmate at the Allegheny County Jail, is charged with raping an unconscious victim with whom he had a relationship.
But in his recording, which now has nearly 700 views on YouTube, he argues they had consensual sex.
“These acts involve lap dances, dominos for sexual favors, hide and go get it, date nights, and more,” he said during the recording.
Byrd also said his alleged victim’s full name and address before going on a more than 20 minute rant, repeatedly sharing a private conversation and explicitly detailing sexual encounters.
“So oftentimes those who use abuse really take advantage of the fact that the victim probably won’t be believed,” explained Molinaro.
Victim advocates say abusers are often manipulative and charming.
According to court documents, Byrd had petitioned to represent himself in court, which gave him access to electronic devices for legal work. But despite the jail’s policy that all devices be screened, disc and thumb drives are prohibited, and cameras must be disabled, Byrd used the devices to post 15 videos to YouTube detailing his case.
“They have all sorts of different pieces of information about the survivor that can be used against them if they choose to do so as part of a pattern of ongoing power and control,” Molinaro shared.
As a result of Byrd’s actions, his access to electronic devices was immediately suspended and he is no longer able to represent himself in court. His new attorneys wouldn’t comment on this case but said they believe they have a strong defense.
If you are seeking safety, a supportive community or hope, you can reach the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh at 412-687-8005.
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