Steve Stephens used a pistol to kill Robert Godwin Sr. on Easter Sunday. He used a cellphone and a Facebook account to weaponize the name of his estranged girlfriend in a misguided and public attempt to regain control over a woman and a life that had escaped him, reports Cleveland.com. The crime prompted a nationwide manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officers that ended yesterday morning, when Stephens shot himself as state troopers in Erie, Pa., approached his car.
Joy Lane, who Stephens described in a Facebook Live video before the Godwin shooting as “the love of my life,” would be subjected to death threats and even driven to apologize to the public, as if she, and not the gunman, is to blame. Though Stephens’ crime and videotaped manifestos shocked the world, they fell into a framework familiar to Jane Granzier of Cleveland’s Frontline Services, who argues that personal issues, perhaps untreated mental illness and a broken heart combine in a whirlwind of powerlessness to drive a man to unleash violence, blame the woman that he lost and take his own life. Also at play, Granzier said, is a societal stigma that makes people, particularly men, feel ashamed and less manly for seeking help for mental health treatment, a theory known in academic circles as “toxic masculinity.” “When you exacerbate that sense of helplessness by feeding yourself this narrative that you’re weak if you ask for help, it makes the problem worse,” she said. “On the contrary, it takes real strength to call somebody and ask for help.”