7/11/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A retired Asian-American woman was recently a victim of hate crimes and is now terrified to go out in public alone. Her husband asks advice columnist Amy Dickinson for advice in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

My wife and I are both retired Asian-American professionals. Several months ago, a homeless person in a famous outdoor market came up to my wife and spit hot coffee in her face.

The person also harassed a Korean tourist and a Laotian flower vendor.

My wife called the police, and they identified the man. He has a past record and is mentally imbalanced. He was not arrested even though he has a record of inappropriate public activity and harassment.

My problem is that now my wife is afraid to go out in public without me. Other Asian and Asian-American women have been attacked randomly in our city.

She is at the point where she worries about me when I run errands. Given that we are just emerging from our COVID caves, I need to find a way to have her feel safe without arming her.

Upset Asian American couple sitting on sofa. Photo by Aekkarak Thongjiew, Dreamstime. A retired Asian-American woman was victim of hate crimes and is terrified to go out in public alone. Her husband seeks advice from “Ask Amy.”

Also, I’m concerned that if someone attacks us, I will actually harm this mentally ill person, and I would be the one who would be sent to jail.


Dear Anonymous:

The history of hate crimes against Asian Americans is long and heartbreaking.

Quoting from a recent story published by PBS, “There are 22.9 million Asian Americans and 1.6 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders across the U.S. American history is pockmarked with anti-Asian exclusion, discrimination and prejudice, particularly when economic times are tough or during other times of great unrest.”

A recent survey suggested that up to 1 in 6 Asians have been victim of hate crimes, representing a dramatic rise in attacks over the course of the pandemic.

I believe that the answer – to your safety and to your sense of well-being – lies in solidarity, activism, and empowerment.

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, passed last year, aims to empower communities to fight anti-Asian hate crimes.

The organization Stop AAPI Hate ( has some useful safety tips on their website.

The Asian Mental Health Collective has a database of therapists who might work with your wife (

I also suggest contacting your local community center and seeing if there are self-defense classes or other groups your wife could join to experience community and solidarity. See if a group of women could come to your home to visit with her, to make her feel safer, and to encourage her to go out in a group.

I also suggest that you do your best to advocate with the police and through the media to demonstrate what steps they are making to assist your community.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from when a spouse demands immediate attention to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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