I’m One Of The 1,500 Asian Women Who “Rejected” The Serial Attacker In NYC

On Monday evening, June 22, police found the body of Tyrelle Shaw, believed to be the man behind a recent string of attacks on Asian women in New York. Shaw appears to have hanged himself in the elevator shaft of a building on the Upper East Side, according to The New York Times.

My mother, who lives in Hong Kong, freaks out every time there's a news story about something happening to an Asian woman in New York. She sends a daily crime digest to my inbox, along with harried commentary. "Did you read this?! A Chinese girl was almost raped in Flushing!" or "A student was robbed at gunpoint near Columbia — don't walk alone at night!" I usually skim through the messages and shrug them off. Those things seem to happen to people I don't know, in neighborhoods I don't normally frequent, and I'm confident in my street smarts. I've lived in NYC for five years, after all.


So, when she zapped over an article about a man who'd allegedly been attacking Asian women in NYC with a blunt object, I was as blasé as ever. I was casually scrolling through the article when a photo of the suspect stopped me dead in my tracks. Suddenly, those headlines didn't seem like things that happen to other people. The man the police named as a suspect in relation to the attacks was someone I knew. I have spoken to Tyrelle D. Shaw in person and online. We have been friends on Facebook for almost three years.

Photo: Via Mr. Talented.
My first encounter with Shaw was in 2011, my sophomore year in college. Already late for a class, I was folding up my laptop and getting ready to leave a café when he tapped me on the shoulder.
"Excuse me — I just wanted to come over to tell you that you have the most amazing eyes I've ever seen." The slender young man in front of me was impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit, and his smile was friendly and unassuming. Flattered and somewhat surprised, I thanked him and jokingly mentioned that my very narrow eyes were actually the source of much childhood taunting. My teachers would joke that I looked like I was falling asleep even when I wasn't, and immature high school boys have done the slanted-eye gesture to me.
"I can't believe it. You're absolutely beautiful!" He kept showering me with compliments. We chatted for about five more minutes, with topics ranging from his studies at FIT majoring in textile design to Mr. Talented, his burgeoning bow tie business (he claimed Karl Lagerfeld was a fan). Later that day, I accepted his Facebook friend request without thinking twice. This is how you meet cool new people in the city, right?
A few weeks after our Facebook connection, he sent over the first invite to chat, which made me slightly uncomfortable. It was not that the content raised a red flag per se, but more the timing and robotic quality of these chats: They would always pop up late at night, with a mention of my full name followed by a "Hi." The one time I wrote back, there was no response. This happened five times over the course of our digital "friendship." It annoyed me a little, maybe even creeped me out, but it didn't sound any alarm.
Then, last year, he made a comment on my new profile picture. I had just uploaded a photo of myself looking pensively into the camera in my new apartment. Within seconds, he wrote — criticizing my expression and asking if I was too cool to crack a smile. The rude remark prompted me to block him immediately. There's no time for that kind of negativity in my life. I'd barely spoken to this man — just once. Who did he think he was? I chalked it up to common NYC douchebaggery and never looked back, until now. Now, I feel like I might have dodged a bullet. If Shaw was the man behind the attacks, he got pretty close to me.

"I’m only talking to Asian women for the rest of my life…Until I get married to an Asian girl."

In fact, if the recent post on Shaw's website was written by the same Shaw I knew, it looks as if I'm not the only Asian woman he targeted. My eyes likely stood out to him for a reason. The blog chronicles an eerie, rambling diary documenting his obsession with having an Asian wife and his wrath over repeated rejection due to the color of his skin. It also lists a log of the Asian women he claims to have followed around during the course of a day.
The blog goes into details about the responses he got from the (apparently many) women he approached, which vary from "Sorry, I'm in a rush" and "Sorry, I have a boyfriend," to complete freeze-outs. If they're real, these rejections sound as if they fueled his obsessions with Asian women while simultaneously enraging him. The site also features another detailed journal of the number of times he spotted an Asian woman holding hands with a Caucasian man. Eventually, according to the posts on his site, he set out for payback with what he called the "Nose Game." A recent post detailed a plan to attack more than a million Asian women with a stick and "start an independent civil war." So far, he has been investigated in connection with four assaults. In the blog's final update, the writer announces his plan to commit suicide, but not before stating that his latest victim "asked for it."
Reading this hateful manifesto sends shivers down my spine, and not only because I could actually be one of the 1,500 Asian women who, the blog says, rejected him. This fetishization of my ethnicity is very familiar. After five years of living in the city, I've grown numb to unsolicited comments from men on the streets, especially ones about my race: I've dodged pornographic slurs about my "ching-chong pussy" on the G train. I didn't make eye contact when a slimy guy hollered, "I love you, China doll! I wanna fuck you!" outside Bryant Park last week. My eyebrows barely furrow anymore whenever someone greets me with a "konnichiwa"— a Japanese greeting I've heard hundreds and hundreds of times, despite being Chinese.
And since I'm Asian and speak fluent English, people have assumed on more than one occasion that I date only white men, making me an easy target for people with "yellow fever" as well as the subject of ludicrous, demeaning essays, like this one. Instead of being seen as an individual, I'm a "Dragon Lady," a "Lotus Flower," or a "Banana" — yellow on the outside, white inside. The experience of being sexually relegated to a stereotype is utterly unpleasant, though most certainly not unique to me.

"Every Asian Woman by herself must be hit in the face...The reason is because I don’t think Asian women like me...So I think it's brilliant to give all Asian Women a legitimate reason to hate me."

In NYC, the default response to getting approached on the streets is putting on a poker face and walking away. Choosing to not engage is the most nonconfrontational way of showing your lack of interest, denying a man the possibility of interaction. But sometimes, that detachment is misconstrued as arrogance, as demonstrated by that painfully truthful catcalling video. Let this be a reminder: Women do not owe anything to street harassers, particularly when all they see is an exotic exterior. Nobody's got time for objectification and self-loathing bigotry.
The author of this article has chosen to stay anonymous in order to guarantee her safety. The details about the author's experience reflect only her own opinion.