Communities should remain aware of misogynistic extremism and seek prevention methods to identify and intervene with individuals who pose a risk of violence, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) warns in a new case study.
Hot Yoga Tallahassee: A Case Study of Misogynistic Extremism, released by NTAC, is a case study that examines the 2018 shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida. On November 2, 2018, a 40-year-old gunman opened fire inside Hot Yoga Tallahassee, killing two women and injuring four more before committing suicide. The attacker was motivated to carry out violence by his inability to develop or maintain relationships with women and his perception of women’s societal power over men. For decades prior, he engaged in numerous instances of inappropriate and criminal behavior directed toward women and girls. These behaviors resulted in him losing several jobs, being barred from public locations, and having multiple contacts with law enforcement, some of which resulted in arrest.
While the attacker had previously pursued higher education, served in the military, and held highly regarded professional positions of trust, his behavior had caused alarm among his parents, siblings, friends, roommates, coworkers, workplace managers, school officials, students, law enforcement, the online community, neighbors, and other community members. The attacker’s behavioral history not only demonstrates several of the behavioral threat assessment themes identified through years of U.S. Secret Service research examining targeted violence, but also highlights the specific threat posed by misogynistic extremism.
The gender-based ideology, sometimes referred to as “male supremacy,” has received increased attention in recent years from researchers, government agencies, and advocacy groups due to its association with high-profile incidents of mass violence. Some of these attacks were perpetrated by individuals who espoused specific types of misogynistic extremism, including “anti-feminists” and “involuntary celibates.” Although these labels and their origins vary, they all have proponents who have called for violence against women. While the Hot Yoga Tallahassee attacker did not appear to adopt any of these specific ideological labels, his behavior and beliefs aligned with many who do.
In addition, the case study closely examines the specific threat posed by misogynistic extremism, while stressing that an individual’s behavior should remain the primary focus of violence prevention efforts, regardless of whether or not the individual subscribes to a specific extremist ideology or self-affixes a label to their extremist beliefs.
Misogynistic violence is not restricted to high-profile incidents of mass violence — misogyny frequently appears in more prevalent acts of violence, including stalking and domestic abuse, the NTAC says. Responding to this safety and security threat posed by these beliefs requires collaboration across a number of community systems, including law enforcement, courts, mental health providers, and domestic violence and hate crime advocacy groups.
A multidisciplinary threat assessment program established at the community level may also reduce the risk of future tragedies if the appropriate systems are in place to identify warning signs, assess an individual’s risk of violence, and apply the appropriate community resources. Such proactive safety programs have been established by workplaces, universities, local police departments, and other organizations with a role in public safety.