Meghan Markle spent 40 minutes on the phone with Althea Bernstein, the 18-year-old Black teen from Wisconsin who was set on fire in a possible hate crime, according to People. Markle called Bernstein Saturday afternoon.
The two reportedly made a connection over being biracial and the former Duchess of Sussex advised the teenager to stay off social media in order to avoid negative comments and feedback.
"Her and Meghan talked about the importance of self-care and allowing herself to heal," Michael Johnson, the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County told Channel 3000. "And she 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."
Prince Harry is said to have joined the call for 10 minutes.
Johnson said that while the teenager is struggling, the call from Markle “uplifted her spirits.”
Bernstein was on her way to her brother’s house around 1 a.m. Wednesday when she said she was attacked by four white men.
“I was listening to some music at a stoplight and then all of a sudden I heard someone yell the n-word really loud,” she told Madison365. Bernstein suffered second- and third-degree burns after the men allegedly used a spray bottle to soak her with lighter fluid before throwing a lighter at her.
“My neck caught on fire and I tried to put it out, but I brushed it up onto my face,” Bernstein said. “I got it out and then I just blasted through the red light. … I just felt like I needed to get away. So I drove through the red light and just kept driving until I got to my brother.”
Bernstein said the men “looked like classic Wisconsin frat boys” and from the way they were walking, seemed to be intoxicated. She said two of them were wearing all black and the other two wore floral shirts.
Bernstein said she was able to drive herself to her brother’s house and back home immediately after the incident because she was in shock — an effect she normally sees in people other than herself. “It’s so incapacitating, you don’t even realize what’s going on. My brain still got me home and my brain still got me to call my mom. I just remember my face was bleeding.”
She drove herself to the hospital after telling her healthcare provider on the phone that she “got a little toasted.” Bernstein went through a decontamination routine to get the lighter fluid off her skin. “They had to pretty much scrub the skin off, which was extremely painful,” she said.
Bernstein called the police after getting home around 6 a.m. Wednesday. She said she was told they would start an investigation, but they couldn’t take a statement because they were too busy preparing for protests.
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain confirmed that Bernstein had called the police and said officials took a statement Thursday morning. According to a police incident report, surveillance footage will be reviewed to see if the assault was captured on camera. Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway condemned the attack in a statement released on Thursday. "This is a horrifying and absolutely unacceptable crime that I will not tolerate in Madison," she wrote.