USA Today: Terrifying attacks on Asian women continue. Here's what advocates say needs to change.

Image for USA Today: Terrifying attacks on Asian women continue. Here's what advocates say needs to change.
Chinatown residents join New York community and business leaders for a rally on Jan. 20, 2022 to denounce recent acts of violence against Asian Americans. Credit: USA Today

By Grace Hauck/USA Today

Bew Jirajariyawetch was waiting for a subway train in New York City when a man grabbed her from behind, assaulted her and took her purse. She was hospitalized and has physically recovered. But three months later, Jirajariyawetch, 23, said she continues to be retraumatized by reports of attacks on other women of Asian descent in the city.

“It’s still terrifying going out,” said Jirajariyawetch, who is Thai.

Last month, Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, was on a subway platform when she was pushed to her death. And last weekend, Christina Yuna Lee, 35, was followed into her apartment and stabbed to death.

“They don’t do anything wrong at all, but things tragically still happen over and over again,” Jirajariyawetch said. “At least I’m alive right now. The others didn’t have a chance.”

The ongoing violence against women of Asian descent in the U.S. continues to outrage Americans and strike fear among Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

While some public figures have said the suspects shouldn’t have been out on the streets in the first place due to prior criminal histories, others say the answer isn’t so simple.

Elected officials, advocates and New York City residents who spoke to USA TODAY said the attacks stem from a confluence of deeply-rooted societal issues in the U.S. — patterns of gender- and race-based violence, poverty, homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness.

Some public figures have cast blame on reforms to New York’s bail laws, which passed in 2019 and eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges.

Shirley Ng, a community organizer in Manhattan’s Chinatown with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said there is a feeling among her community that people arrested for crimes are being prematurely released.

Newly elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat who campaigned on public safety issues, was questioned about the issue Monday in the wake of Lee’s murder. Asked by a reporter if the suspect in Lee’s murder was the “poster child” for bail reform failures, Adams said the accused murderer “should have not been on the streets.”

“We need to make sure we close the loopholes that allow dangerous people to be on the street,” Adams said.