The far end of the sexual violence continuum is murder

8 05 2009

On May 6th, Stephen P. Morgan shot and killed Wesleyan University student Johanna Justin-Jinich in a popular bookstore right off campus.  He turned himself in last night; in the interim, Wesleyan’s campus has practically been in lock-down.  A lot of fear has stemmed from Morgan’s journals, where he discussed targeting Jews in sprees.

It’s scary enough as a college student to learn about any such violence on campuses, where we’re supposed to feel safe (granted, this murder took place off campus, but to me, that’s like having a Tufts student murdered at a Boston Ave. restaurant).  It’s also alarming to hear of continued anti-Semitism.  But what struck me the most was the following:

Authorities have said Morgan and Justin-Jinich have known each other since at least 2007, when Justin-Jinich filed a harassment complaint against him while they were enrolled in a summer class at New York University.

The continuum of sexual violence is a very wide one.  One one end are things such as rape jokes, and other social attitudes that perpetuate a culture where sexual violence is okay.  On the other end is murder (whether it’s a rape and murder, relationship abuse ending in murder, stalking ending in murder, or harassment ending in murder).  While a 2007 complaint does seem like long ago, what’s important to me is that this man had harassed this young woman in the past, to the point where she filed a complaint; clearly, there was something wrong.

And I might have just been able to leave the harassment revelation and move on, except for this:

When police confiscated Morgan’s car they found a journal in which he spelled out a plan to rape and kill Justin-Jinich before going on a campus shooting spree, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation.

This new information sounded startlingly familiar.  It reminded me of the case of Amy Boyer, who was killed by her stalker Liam Youens.  While the cases are obviously not exactly alike (although, admittedly, many details about Morgan’s journals have yet to be released), both are examples of young men planning to kill young women, with sexual violence in the picture.

I consider this crime to be a sexually violent one, although Morgan did not rape Justin-Jinich (in the same way that Youens did not rape Boyer).  It’s the incorporation of sexually violent attitudes that places these murders on the end of the sexual violence continuum, instead of off the continuum altogether.

We will update you if there any more related information from this case is publicized.

NB: I chose not to discuss the anti-Semitic issues present in this case not because I don’t consider them pertinent, but because I wanted to specifically focus on the sexual violence and related attitudes.  I’m aware of the anti-Semitic issues, and you all should be, too, but that ain’t the point of this here blog entry.



One response

8 05 2009

Just to clarify, the murder occurred on Spring Fling at Johanna’s job at the Wesleyan University Bookstore, Broad Street Books. Although the bookstore is not owned by Wesleyan, it is the official campus bookstore and is located extremely close to the campus.

Morgan was wearing a wig and mustache when the murder was committed, but changed his clothing and removed the wig and mustache directly after. He was questioned by police as one of the crowd outside the bookstore after the murder. The police took his name and phone number and let him go. It was not until later when his name came up as a suspect that police realized that they had questioned him.

Morgan’s diary indicated that he had intended to kill Wesleyan students because he thought that Wesleyan students were mostly Jewish.

This really is a tragedy. Morgan has plead “not guilty.” I’m not completely sure if he is claiming that he did not commit the murder or if he is pleading insanity.

My brother actually attends Wesleyan University, and has been directly affected by the incident so I will keep the blog updated on what happens if I find anything else out from him.

The whole situation has been terrifying and traumatic for Johanna’s friends and family, and for the Wesleyan community. It’s a terrible reminder of how hate-crimes, prejudice, and gender-based/sexual violence affect all of us, and how even our cushy college campuses really are never safe from hate and violence.

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