“F*** you Asian, you don’t belong here” were the words hurled at Filipino-American Vilma Kari by a man who repeatedly kicked and stomped on her as she walked the streets of New York City in March. The CCTV footage of the assault made the rounds on social media, which further sparked the #StopAsianHate movement.
Despite the brutal attack that left her physically, emotionally and mentally injured, Vilma prays for the man who harmed her.
“My attacker, I pray for him. Because I felt he needed prayers,” Vilma told ABC’s Nightline recently.
“That’s the only thing I can do for him, with the thought that someday he reforms or finds the right medicine, whatever he needs.”
Vilma, who immigrated to the United States 40 years ago, was on her way to church when a man viciously assaulted her in broad daylight as many of the bystanders did nothing to help.
(According to the GoFund Me page set up by her daughter Elizabeth, what the CCTV footage did not capture was someone standing across the street who witnessed Vilma getting attacked. That person, who remains anonymous, yelled to get the attacker’s attention.)
A few days later, the man was arrested on hate crime charges and was later identified as homeless with history of mental illness who was out on parole for stabbing his own mother to death almost two decades ago.
“I’m asking my friends, why me? Did I do something wrong? What did I do to provoke that? All they could say to me was maybe there is a plan for you,” Vilma said. “Maybe God is telling you to do something.”
Vilma suffered head wounds from the attack and figured a fractured pelvis, which left her needing a walker to move around.
“Physically, I’m healing well but mentally, emotionally, I’m not there yet,” she said.
Vilma said she chose to speak out because with the ongoing attacks that reek of hate for people of Asian descent, she could be a voice for a lot of victims that are not being heard.
She is also grateful for the outpouring of support from people that help her in her recovery. The family raised over $270,000 in their GoFund Me page. “I want to thank all of them. Thank you from my heart.”
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Vilma’s daughter, Elizabeth, took her mother’s horrific experience that brewed hate into art to spread awareness on the ongoing racist attacks towards Asians.
The words Vilma’s attacker used—“you don’t belong here”—were Elizabeth’s inspiration to start “AAP(I Belong),” a collection of stories “to flip victimhood into empowerment.”
Two months after the attack, Vilma gets to go out again and she is not allowing fear to overwhelm her.
“There is fear but if you let fear overcome all these things, nothing will happen,” she said. “We have to rise above fear and be stronger than fear. Be courageous.”
Banner and thumbnail screenshot from ABC’s Nightline