Incel Violence Against Women Reminds Floridians of the Need to Protect Women with an Expanded Hate Crime Statute

March 27, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

In October 2021, members of the Florida Hate Crime Coalition traveled to Tallahassee to show their support for Senate Bill 308, a bill that sought to expand hate crime protections in Florida. Its companion bill, House Bill 111, sought similar goals, specifically the addition of gender, gender identity, and physical disability to the hate crime statute. With these proposals dead in the water and violence against women on the rise, law enforcement agencies, and other groups grow nervous for a dark future ahead where those who target women for violent crimes specifically receive no enhanced penalties.

To learn more about SB 308/HB 111 visit our blog post here.

The Hate Crime Statute

Florida Statute Section 775.085 Florida Statute Section 775.085 states that:

The penalty for any felony or misdemeanor shall be reclassified as provided in this subsection if the commission of such felony or misdemeanor evidences prejudice based on the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, or advanced age of the victim:

1. A misdemeanor of the second degree is reclassified to a misdemeanor of the first degree.

2. A misdemeanor of the first degree is reclassified to a felony of the third degree.

3. A felony of the third degree is reclassified to a felony of the second degree.

4. A felony of the second degree is reclassified to a felony of the first degree.

5. A felony of the first degree is reclassified to a life felony.

To learn more about Florida’s hate crime statute, visit our blog post here.

The Issue

The National Threat Assessment Center issued a report this month spotlighting misogynistic extremism from “incels” or “involuntary celibate” men. These types of men go by several names, like male supremacists, anti-feminists, meninists, etc. Some don’t use any labels. The common denominator is the extreme hatred of women and the increased threat of violence against women.

The tragic stories of Maura Binkley and Nancy Van Vessem illustrate a horrifying picture. Binkley, a student at Florida State University, and Van Vessem, a member of faculty at Florida State University, were shot and killed during a 2018 attack on a yoga studio in Tallahassee. A man, consumed with hatred and resentment towards women because of their gender and gender alone, shot and killed these women, injured four others, and then killed himself. The shooter had planned and researched this insane act of violence before committing it, and his computer revealed his motivation: hatred towards women.

For years, he had been posting violent and hateful content on a personal website. Additionally, he had been banned from establishments due to his foul treatment of women, had a history of sexually grabbing women without consent, and had been fired from his teaching position in Florida due to inappropriate behavior with female students. He openly admired Adolf Hitler and was a proud and self-described misogynist.

The Statute is Insufficient to Protect Women

Proposals to expand Florida’s hate crime statute to protect women have crashed and burned. SB 308 and HB 111 didn’t even get hearings. And this is important because, under the current statute, if the yoga studio shooter didn’t kill himself after terrorizing those women, he would not have been charged with a hate crime. Even though there was immense evidence showing his hatred towards women and the motivation behind his crime, women are not included in the statute so he would not have faced any enhanced penalties for targeting women specifically.

A Bleak Future Ahead

With SB 308 and HB 111 stalled and not progressing, law enforcement agencies grow nervous of the growing threat regarding violence against women. It’s a national problem, but Florida can be doing more to ensure that those who target women will face enhanced penalties. Many groups are focusing on this issue. Hopefully, the legislators remember that they represent all Floridians, including female Floridians.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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