Social work

FSU College of Social Work study examines incel terrorism with an eye on violence prevention

A recent study from the College of Social Work at Florida State University examined the 2018 incel-related violence that took place at a local yoga studio, using the case study methodology to provide a more comprehensive description and a deeper understanding of the event.

“Incels represent a growing population of men who hold anti-feminist views and who rely heavily on the Internet as a medium of communication,” said Jim Clark, dean of the College of Social Work. “Research like this can help advance the needle to understanding and eliminating hate crime violence.”

The incident, which occurred a few miles from the FSU campus, fatally injured FSU alumnus Maura Binkley and faculty member Nancy Van Vessem and prompted the creation of Maura’s Voice Research Fund, an interdisciplinary FSU initiative sponsored by Jeff and Margaret Binkley who supported the study. .

The initiative focuses on analyzing policies related to hate crimes and gun violence, particularly against women, as well as supporting research that further targets understanding mass violence and prevention.

Jim Clark, Dean of the College of Social Work

Clark and doctoral student Christopher Collins’ study of the yoga studio incident, “Using the TRAP-18 to Identifier an Incel Lone-Actor Terrorist,” was recently published in the Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, a journal peer-reviewed by the American Psychological Association.

The study used the Terrorist Radicalization Assessment Protocol (TRAP-18) to examine data collected from multiple sources, including criminal investigation reports, employment records, and personal video diary entries. in line.

TRAP-18 is a threat assessment tool designed to identify eight proximal warning behaviors and 10 longer-term distal characteristics. The assessment can be used by mental health, intelligence, law enforcement and security professionals to organize data on a person of concern to plan for threat management to reduce the perpetration of violence. targeted.

With support from Clark, Collins determined that the TRAP-18 assessment was a particularly useful tool when applied to lone actor terrorism cases and was particularly important for their research, as no such tool exists. type that focuses on violent incels.

“A major theme identified in our study was the limited action of officials who were taken to hinder the abuser,” Collins said. “This was generally due to the lack of laws and policies that would facilitate prevention.”

Previous research, along with the Collins and Clark study, indicates the ability of TRAP-18 to identify risk factors in individuals prone to violent extremism.

“Although research has been done on incels and their lives online, as well as violent extremism, no study has analyzed incels from a threat assessment perspective,” Collins said. “Threat assessment, when properly implemented, has the potential to thwart acts of violent extremism. “

doctoral student Christopher Collins
PhD student Christopher Collins

Collins also sees the study as a call to action for other researchers to provide and test tools to prevent mass violence. He hopes the study will be a launching pad for other researchers to start using similar evaluations in their research on violent incels.

“People often had an image in their minds when they heard the word terrorism, but recent acts of domestic terrorism can change that image,” Collins said. “Case studies like this have the potential to impact public policy by providing documentary evidence of violence against women and girls and calibrating the need for policies to mitigate violence. “

Working nearby as a yoga teacher during the tragic event, the study holds special significance for Collins.

“For the local community and me, the incident left a wound that I felt compelled to try to heal in my own way,” he said.

Further research in this area is planned by Collins, Clark, and colleagues, particularly with the aim of studying a larger sample of violent incels using TRAP-18 to further examine its effectiveness in the lone-actor incel terrorist assessment.

“If we have learned anything from this case and similar cases, it is that violence against women continues to be a serious and important problem that we have to work harder to improve,” said Collins. “Looking ahead, we need to look at the processes of official agencies, such as law enforcement, and partner with them to develop and refine threat assessment and management protocols that are effective. “

To learn more about or support Maura’s Voice Research Fund, visit https://csw.fsu.edu/research/mauras-voice.