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Duchess Meghan reaches out after 18-year-old woman was set on fire in alleged hate crime

Duchess Meghan reaches out after 18-year-old woman was set on fire in alleged hate crime

The Duchess of Sussex has spoken with an 18-year-old biracial woman who was allegedly set on fire in a hate crime.

Duchess Meghan spoke with Althea Bernstein in a 40-minute phone call on Saturday to offer support and talk about self-care and being biracial, said Michael Johnson, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County.

Bernstein, a college student from Wisconsin, USA, was driving on Wednesday morning when she was stopped at a red light and heard a “racial epithet” yelled out, the police report said.

“She looked and saw four men, all white. She says one used a spray bottle to deploy a liquid on her face and neck, and then threw a flaming lighter at her, causing the liquid to ignite,” the report stated.

The young woman was able to put out the flames and drive home. She later reported the incident to the police and received treatment for her face and neck burns at hospital.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway described the incident as a hate crime the following day.

“This is a horrifying and absolutely unacceptable crime,” she said in a statement.

“While we are still learning more about the details, current information suggests this may have been a premeditated crime targeted toward people of colour, which makes the incident even more disturbing.”

Bernstein was connected to the Duchess through Johnson, who has been acting as the teenager’s spokesman.

“[The Duchess] applauded her for the way that she responded and pretty much said, ‘Hey Michael, give me her cell phone number. I want to stay in touch. And let me know when you want me to come back and talk to people in Wisconsin’,” Johnson told Channel 3000.

“Meghan lifted her spirits.”

Johnson shared that Prince Harry joined the call for about 10 minutes and that the Prince spoke with Bernstein about the importance of young people’s voices.

Meghan and Harry have been talking to community leaders about ways to contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, PEOPLE reported.

“They are holding calls with community leaders and organizations but are doing that privately as they continue to see how they can play a role. But they also want to learn and talk about it like the rest of us,” a source told the outlet.