Nov. 2. Two years ago, on this date, an armed member of the misogynist incel subculture entered the Tallahassee Hot Yoga Studio and opened fire.
My daughter, Maura Binkley, and Dr. Nancy Van Vessem lost their lives. Four other women were wounded. The attack was one of targeted violence aimed at women…for no other reason than being women.
This was a vicious and cowardly crime of hate committed by a perpetrator with a history of abusive, threatening and criminal behavior toward women – behavior that went largely unchecked for over 20 years. A crime that Florida law says is not a hate crime, because the state’s Legislature chooses to ignore bills filed every year that would formally recognize crimes motivated by gender bias for what they are – hate crimes.
Nov. 2 is a date seared into the consciousness of Maura’s family and all who love her, all of the survivors and so many members of the Florida State University and Tallahassee communities — people profoundly impacted by this tragedy who have opened their hearts to us.
We will never forget your support and actions taken to honor Maura’s legacy. The sense of loss and pain associated with this date cannot be adequately described. Yet for us, it also marks a time of renewal and commitment to the principles and values by which Maura lived her life: decency, civility, care for and responsibility to others, and the recognition of all people as sisters and brothers.
Maura’s mother, Margaret, and I founded Maura’s Voice as a collective voice for victims, survivors and all who share a commitment to apply these principles to the cause of addressing hatred and violence in our society, with an emphasis on preventing violence against women and girls.
While hate and violence do not define our society, they sadly characterize an element of it that is represented all too frequently in public and private discourse —and tragically impacts too many lives day after day. As a people, we can — and must — do better.
Through the leadership of Florida State University President John Thrasher and Dean Jim Clark of the College of Social Work and participation by faculty of the Department of Criminology, the Maura’s Voice Fund for Research has several projects underway. These projects seek to enhance the understanding of proximate causes for, as well as the behaviors of, individuals and groups who promote and commit acts of hatred and violence.
The current work of MVFR includes:
- creating a comprehensive database and analysis of acts of gender-biased violence against women;
- exploring the behavioral characteristics of the incel subculture and related radicalization and incitement to violence through online platforms;
- developing training and certification protocols for behavioral health and law enforcement personnel that can be used to better identify those who pose an imminent danger to themselves and/or others;
- performing a case study on the behavior of the Tallahassee perpetrator to measure the applicability of specific Threat Assessment protocols that can be applied to potentially dangerous individual; and
- working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on a review of the application of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (“Red Flag”).
We believe this work can contribute to public awareness and effective policy based in ideas rather than ideology and supported by research rather than rhetoric.
But we are also aware that, whatever we learn and regardless of the sound policies developed, the tide of hatred and violence in our country will not be stemmed until it is unequivocally rejected and repudiated by all of our leaders and we exercise the collective will to finally make the promise of “out of many, one” a reality.
Maura’s life and legacy tells us this is possible. I can hear Maura’s voice. I hope you can too.
Jeff Binkley is the father of Maura Binkley, who was killed in the 2018 Hot Yoga Studio shooting in Tallahassee. He is the founder of Maura’s Voice. Email him at [email protected]
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