One night last autumn, Kim Devins, a single mother, was sitting alone at her computer trying to get some sleep. Then, an Instagram alert appeared on the screen indicating she had been tag in a photograph.
Kim closed her eyes and hoped it was a group photo or casual selfie from some distant time. It wasn’t. There, glowing in her darkened living room, was what she had long avoided seeing: the image of her 17-year-old daughter Bianca’s dead body.
” My last memory is Bianca’s full of life,” Kim states “…. To see her dying moments in pain is something that should never be seen.
For over a year, Kim’s family and friends had shielded her from the horrific photo, which was widely circulated online following Bianca Devins‘ murder in July 2019. The gruesome image, something usually reserved for homicide detectives, was taken by then-21-year-old Lyft driver Brandon Clark, whom Bianca had met on Instagram months earlier and briefly dated.
After brutally killing Bianca, Clark posted the photo on the popular gaming app Discord, before uploading additional images of Bianca’s body on social media. It spread quickly to mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Because the photos were shared repeatedly online, and because the hashtag was so viral, the story gained international media attention.
Reporter EJ Dickson covered Bianca’s story for Rolling Stone and says, after her murder, Bianca’s number of online followers exploded, and it was impossible to search her name or look at the hashtag without seeing her death photos.
As Bianca’s family grieved, certain corners of the Internet responded with morbid delight. EJ states, “… “People were creating memes from the images…they were turning them into jokes.”
Frustrated at the inaction of social media companies to respond to the request for help, some users started a campaign to fill the hashtag with pictures of Bianca, including rainbows, pink skies and fan art. This was to reduce the number of death photos in search results.
But the trauma of losing Bianca was only made worse in the months following her death, as her family faced a tide of inhumanity from vicious online trolls who relentlessly sent them the sickening photos along with hateful messages blaming Bianca for what happened to her. “It is horrifying to hear people say that…my baby, that she deserved such cruel ending to her life,” Kim said. How did this happen? “48 Hours” and correspondent Jericka Duncan investigates in “The Online Life & Death of Bianca Devins. “
“A very twisted need is being met by continuing to share these [images] and trying to get these to Bianca’s family,” says behavioral scientist Steven Crimando. It actually promotes physical crime. What they are trying to convey two years later is that… “You don’t know when it will happen, but you’re sure it will.” It is psychological terror. According to Crimando the most likely perpetrators of the attack on Bianca’s loved ones are members of an online community called “incels”. This is shorthand for involuntary cetates. Incels, by their own definition, are men 21 years or older who have gone six months or longer without any sort of sexual activity not by their own volition. The community is marked by pathological envy by attractive men known as “Chads”, who believe they have more success with attractive women than the group “Stacys”, which Bianca considered to be.
In March 2021, Brandon Clark was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25-years-to life for the murder of Bianca. Clark was not an incel but he was praised by the dark community for his actions towards Bianca. One online user wrote that Clark was a “legend”. One user said, “He did the universe a favor.”
Crimando thinks that Bianca’s image was deliberately desecrated in order to promote Incel ideology and justify violence against women. In the toxic, misogynistic world of incel culture, this kind of hate has been accepted as normal.
The community is a focus for experts such as Crimando who claim it has evolved from chatroom umbrage to a full-on grievance campaign, fueled by #MeToo. Crimando thinks that incel ideology is dangerous because those on the fringe, as with other extremist groups and willing to use violence to advance their beliefs.
” The incel feels cheated so much that it is a constant thought that they must act. Crimando says, “I must strike back at the unfairness. “
In fact, violence has been a catalyst for murder. According to the intelligence community, there have been more than a dozen mass killings in North America resulting in 50 deaths attributed to incel ideology. “As we have seen more incel murders, it has become clearer to us that there are, on this spectrum, those at extreme ends who are certainly capable killing,” Crimando says. Crimando also notes that it is now considered a terrorist threat. “
Recently, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a special advisory stating the main threat to the homeland is domestic violent extremists, of which incels are a part.
To be precise, not all incels can pose a threat. The challenge lies in identifying the threat to the community’s language and not just the chattering online. Crimando states, “This does not mean picking up a needle out of a haystack.” “
So, from a law enforcement perspective, what is possible to stop the next incel murder.
” When we think of prevention, Crimando states. Preventing is about creating an on-ramp. In this case, Crimando suggests that mental health care can be a response. This will help people to understand the alternatives.
” When we begin to see how many things we share, it decreases the chance that the enemy is us and makes it easier for us to understand the alternatives.” Crimando says. I hope this is what happens.
Bianca’s family shares that sense of hope and is turning their grief into action. The family is working together with local politicians in order to pass Bianca’s Law, a federal bill which would make social media platforms accountable for publishing violent or graphic content.
The Bianca family established a scholarship to support students who want to follow in the footsteps of Bianca, who had endured mental illness herself.
In her darkest hours, Bianca struggled with mental illness and Kim made a promise to her that she would be there for her if she lost her fight. As a way to honor Bianca’s memory I will continue that fight. “