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‘I never thought something like this would happen’: Victim of lighter fluid attack speaks out

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MADISON (WKOW) -- While waiting for a green light at the intersection of Gorham and State street, 18-year-old Althea Bernstein says four white men called her a racial slur, before attacking her, and setting her on fire with lighter fluid.

"I never thought something like this would happen," Bernstein said.

Berstein suffered second and third-degree burns on the side of her face. Madison police are now investigating the incident as a hate crime and reviewing surveillance footage from the area where it happened.

For now, Bernstein is recovering at home and said she's thankful for the support she's gotten from the community.

"People have been coming from all over and everywhere, to take care of me and to take care of my family," Bernstein said. "People have been dropping off flowers and there's some nice chalk in front of our house," she said.

Out of a horrible situation, Bernstein said she's thankful this happened to her, and not someone who's older and more vulnerable. She said she has support from family and friends, and healthcare -- something many people don't have.

But still, change is needed. As racial tensions rise across the country, Bernstein is encouraging people everywhere to speak up and use their voices to make real change.

"I think the most important thing is to vote and make sure you are voting for people that are supporting what you want," she said.

"Again, it's 2020 and I never thought something like this would happen."

Jessica Porter

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