By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — An alarming number of brazen attacks against Asian Americans in the Bay Area have been captured on cell phones – many happening in broad daylight before witnesses. An intervention expert says getting involved doesn’t always mean getting in the face of a perpetrator, because that could escalate a situation.

“Something, do something,” said Cat Shieh, an anti-hate training coordinator with Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago.

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Shieh started offering virtual bystander intervention courses in the fall of 2020. Up until January this year, she says she’d normally get up to 30 people per webinar.

“Now, I have 600 emails in my inbox, and I’m tapping out at 500 attendees each time,” said Shieh. “So we know that things have really escalated a lot.”

We’ve seen verbal attacks, like tech CEO Michael Lofthouse, who harassed an Asian family having dinner in Carmel in July last year. The waitress intervened by speaking up and ordered him to leave.

We’ve also seen numerous physical attacks, including an Asian woman dragged by a car during a robbery in San Francisco Sunday afternoon.

Some bystanders rushed to help her, and a resident recorded video from his nearby apartment.

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Shieh’s online courses teach direct and indirect ways to help, including creating any sort of distraction to derail the attacker, finding a person of authority nearby to report the incident, and checking in with the victim.

“You can even really console and support somebody after the fact of something happened, because you still want to validate and really center the person that was harassed,” she said.

Shieh herself was a victim of assault. She says she was punched and knocked to the ground by a man asking her for a dollar three years ago at the Fruitvale BART station on a busy Saturday morning.

“I slowly get back up, realize that I’m a little bit bruised, and I look around and everyone is still just going about their day,” she said.

Shieh said it took her several months to find the courage to report what happened.

She added that creating a safe space for the victim should be a priority, so you can give them an option to leave a dangerous situation.

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