Statement on Asian and AAPI COVID-19 Related Harassment and Resources

March 24, 2020

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, xenophobic and racist incidents targeting members of the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander community have been surging in the U.S. and around the world. The Department of East Asian Studies denounces all forms of violence and racism against Asians and AAPI individuals.

Below is a compilation of legal, social, and mental health resources for Asian and AAPI students who have experienced, or worry that they may experience, COVID-19 related harassment and discrimination. This list is not comprehensive. If you are aware of further resources not included here, please contact with suggestions for updates.

Please note that Harvard University is not affiliated with, nor does it explicitly endorse, any of the advocacy groups, hotlines, or organizations listed here. This list is intended only to inform students of resources available to them in the broader community.



1. How should I respond if I am harassed on the street?
2. What constitutes a “hate crime”?
3. What immediate steps should I take if I am the victim of, or witness to, a hate crime?
4. What about a “hate incident”?
6. What if I need legal advice or assistance regarding COVID-19 related discrimination?
8. How can I access mental health resources that will address my specific needs?
9. What if I want to report my experience to an advocacy/social justice organization, or share it through social media?
10. Other resources

How should I respond if I am harassed on the street?


We hope this never happens to you, but the unfortunate truth is that for many, it has probably happened already. Being targeted by racist harassment is shocking and frightening, so you may not be able to respond as eloquently as you would like to in the moment. Please always keep these points in mind: A.) Your safety always comes first, B.) It is not your responsibility to educate or admonish a harasser if you do not feel safe doing so, and C.) Be kind to yourself, even if you wish after the fact that you had reacted differently.


There is no single “right way” to respond to verbal harassment. However, you may want to prepare by considering how you might respond to a potential harasser. The articles below offer suggestions and examples.


➜ General guidelines for responding to verbal harassment and addressing the emotional repercussions:


➜ Suggestions for dealing with and processing racist behavior both in person and online:


➜ A Muslim and Sikh man talk about their experiences, outlook on, and responses to hate speech (content warning: explicit hate speech):


Though not emphasized in these articles, another way to respond to verbal attacks is to film the encounter with your phone. HDS alumna Tanny Jiraprapasuke, for example, used her viral video of a man directing a racist tirade at her on the subway, along with the hashtag #iamnotavirus, to help bring attention to the recent increase in hate incidents targeting Asian Americans. At times, the filming itself is enough to discourage a harasser. In addition, it secures evidence you might later show to law enforcement or legal advisors. However, as the first article advises, “trust your instincts.” Depending on the context and the other person, filming has the potential to either escalate or de-escalate the situation. Your safety should be your first priority.


In the case of threats or actual physical violence, call 911 or find a nearby law enforcement officer right away. In the meantime, appeal to bystanders for help and draw their attention to the harasser. If you wish to carry pepper spray, make sure to check first if it’s legal in your state or country (it is legal to carry in Massachusetts). You can also download one of these apps which record audio/video if you find yourself in a dangerous situation, and will alert either 911 or your trusted friends/family members to your location.


What constitutes a “hate crime”?


➜ A hate crime is defined by the FBI as:


“[. . .] when a person or group of persons commits a criminal act, such as an assault or vandalism, with the added element of bias against the victim's actual or perceived membership in a protected class.


Under federal law, a hate crime is when a person willfully causes bodily injury, or attempts to do so using a dangerous weapon, because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person. See 18 U.S.C. 249. The bias motivation does not need to be the primary motivation for the crime.

Federal law also protects interference with housing rights, damage to religious property or interference with the exercise of religion, and the exercise of a federally protected activity or other right granted by law or the Constitution. See 42 U.S.C. 3631; 18 U.S.C. 241, 245, 247.”


What immediate steps should I take if I am the victim of, or witness to, a hate crime?

  1. (If on campus) call HUPD at 617-495-1212 or the local police immediately and make sure a report is taken. See HUPD’s hate crimes information page for more information.

  2. If there are injuries, call 911 and request paramedics immediately.

  3. Leave all evidence in place. Do not touch or remove anything. Record photo or video evidence if doing so is safe/possible. If not, write down everything that happened as soon as possible after the event.

  4. Inform the police that you were a victim of a hate crime.

  5. If the police hesitate to report the incident, insist on it. Ask for a copy of the police report for your personal records, and note the reporting officer’s name and badge number.

  6. If you do not feel comfortable reporting to law enforcement, or if they do not take adequate steps to resolve your case, consider contacting a victim advocacy organization or contacting your regional FBI office.

  7. (If on campus) inform school administrators about the hate crime and utilize victim’s support resources offered by Harvard. Inform civil rights organizations (such as the ACLU) about the incident.


It’s important to note that you don’t have to file a police report immediately in order for your report to be accepted. Depending on the severity of the crime, reports may be accepted as much as one to five years after the fact.


What about a “hate incident”?


➜ A hate incident is defined as “Acts of prejudice that are not crimes and do not involve violence, threats, or property damage.” Whether the discrimination you experienced was a hate crime or hate incident, or even if you are not sure if the person’s actions were motivated by racial prejudice, contacting your local police may still be an appropriate course of action.


The Department of Justice website has further information and examples on what constitutes hate crimes vs. hate incidents.


If you are a member of the GSAS who has been harassed or subjected to racial discrimination by an affiliate of Harvard University, contact one or more of the following GSAS staff members:


Sheila Thomas, Dean for Academic Programs and Diversity

Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center

1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 350



Garth McCavana, Dean for Student Affairs

Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center

1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 350



Danielle Farrell, Director of Student Services

B2, GSAS Student Center



Cases of alleged harassment by graduate students are adjudicated by the GSAS Administrative Board or by the Student-Faculty Judicial Board.


If you are an undergraduate who has been the victim of racial discrimination or harrassment by a Harvard affiliate:

Whether the incident occurred on or off campus, if you are in MA you can file a civil rights complaint with the MA attorney general’s office. The same holds for other states in the US.

What if I need legal advice or assistance regarding racial discrimination?


Check out these resources:


Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) has information on fair housing rights.


Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)

AALDEF is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans by combining litigation, advocacy, education and organizing. Contact AALDEF for legal assistance at 1-800-966-5946 or through their website.


The American Bar Association has compiled a database with information on COVID-19’s legal implications, as well as offering webinars for legal education.


The ACLU offers legal advice and assistance to victims of hate incidents, hate crimes, and racial discrimination. Find your local ACLU affiliate here.


National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) has a COVID-19 community health resource page as well as a page with links to resources for reporting, prosecuting, and receiving support for victims of hate crimes.


The Stop Hate Hotline offers legal and social resources and information. Call 1-844-966-4283.


The US Commission on Civil Rights can refer you to the proper official for filing a complaint at the Federal level.


Victim Connect Resource Center is a place for victims of crime to share their stories with specialists and learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately. They serve victims of any crime in the United States through online chat or phone. Call 1-855-4VICTIM (84-2846).


How can I access mental health resources that will address my specific needs?


Check out these resources:


Action for Students and Scholars of Asian Heritage (ASSAH) is a student group founded by graduate students in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC), with the aim of providing mutual support and discussion for Asian and AAPI scholars at Harvard (with an especial focus on mental health). For more information and to join future online meetings of ASSAH, please contact Jannis Jizhou Chen (


HUHS Counseling and Mental Health Services are currently available by phone only, but you are still able to schedule a consult or appointment.


National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA): NAAPIMHA’s mission is to promote the mental health and well being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.


National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA): The national victim assistance organization that provides resources, assistance and support for victims harmed by crime and crisis. Call 1-800-TRY-NOVA (879-6682).


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, confidential, 24/7 support for people in distress, as well as provides crisis resources and best practices for professionals. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


SAMHSA’s National Helpline (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).


South Asian Network (SAN) offers free and low-cost individual, group, and family counseling. They will also provide referrals to other mental health professionals.


What if I want to report my experience to an advocacy/social justice organization, or share it through social media?


Reporting is of vital importance to ensuring both the public and government organizations understand the severity of the prejudice currently being leveled at people of Asian descent in America. If you feel safe doing so, please consider reporting your experience to an organization like the ones below. Please note that Harvard is not affiliated with, nor does it explicitly endorse, any of the groups listed here. This list is intended only to inform students of resources available to them in the broader community.


Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) is calling for reports of racially-motivated hate incidents/crimes.


Asian Pacific American Advocates (OCA) records incidents of anti-AAPI hate incidents/crimes.


Report Harassment (incident report form) to Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council

(English, Chinese, Korean, Korean, Thai, Japanese)


The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is collecting and recording reports of hate incidents/crimes.


Stand Against Hatred is a website run by Asian Americans Advancing Justice.


The #IAMNOTAVIRUS campaign is a photography and storytelling series which challenges negative perceptions of AAPI individuals surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. You can request an appointment to share your story, be photographed, or report a hate incident to the campaign.

Other Resources:

We Are Not A Virus ( is a global initiative to end the social stigma against Asians and to raise awareness about the coronavirus through education, advocacy, and resources. It was started by MIT students and partners with the MIT Innovation Initiative. The organization is currently seeking leaders and student activists to help advance the movement.

Nationwide Resource List for Undocumented Communities (Open Google Doc)