Breaking News
More () »

Women aren't protected by hate crime legislation in Florida

Scholars say that protecting women in the legal system will help end a culture of misogyny and sexism.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There have been incredible strides made in the fight for gender and gender identity equality, but there is still so much work left to be done.

Women face a number of obstacles today, ranging from pay inequity to unequal parenting expectations. One other hurdle to overcome is legal protection for crimes against women.

"If you don't acknowledge the problem, if you don't call it by what it is, you can't understand its impact," explained Yael Hershfield, the interim director of the Anti-Defamation League of Florida. The problem she's talking about is a modern culture of sexism and misogyny. 

"Sexism refers to biases, stereotyping we may hold about another sex. Many times they are implicit in nature and that person may not be aware of them. When we talk about misogyny, we are talking about a profound, deep-seated prejudice against women," Hershfield said. 

She says to overcome sexism and misogyny, a lot of changes need to be made, but we can start by offering women legal protection.

Hershfield uses the example of a 2018 shooting in Tallahassee. A man entered a yoga studio and shot six women, killing two of them and injuring one man before killing himself. Police say the man targeted the studio because he knew women would be there and had a deep hatred of women, which he shared openly online. 

"Had he survived that shooting, he wouldn't have been prosecuted for hate crimes," explained Hershfield. That's because in Florida gender, gender identity and disability are not included in the state's hate crime legislation.

The Anti-Defamation League of Florida has been pushing legislators to make the change for five years, with no success yet. Hershfield says when lawmakers don't support legislation that protects women, it makes women feel dismissed and that should never happen, "We need to make sure every Floridian is protected in the eyes of the law."

Federally, the House of Representatives renewed the Violence Against Women Act. It was first adopted in 1994 and provides resources and protects survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. It passed 244-172. It will now move to the Senate.

What other people are reading right now:

►Breaking news and weather alerts: Get the free 10 Tampa Bay app

Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Brightside Blend Newsletter

Before You Leave, Check This Out