While I was on Tumblr the other night, I found a disturbing news article from October 31, 2013 in The Star: Online. In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 15-year-old Ng Yuk Tim was murdered by her 23-year-old friend Poon Wai Hong who agreed to make her some cosplays. Reportedly on October 21st, Yuk Tim went to the suspect’s house try help with the cosplays he was making where he then attempted to rape the young woman and hit her on the head with the dumbbell when she resisted, effectively killing her. Wai Hong later plead guilty and was sentenced to death.
Sounds like those stories our parents told us about so we wouldn’t talk to strangers online when we were young, right? Now no one is trying to say that the Internet is evil and full of people trying to harm you (I found the story on Tumblr for goodness sakes), but it is important that your safety is paramount. Cassidy Arnold, New England cosplayer and cosplay-maker says, “I try to prepare myself for any situation, and know different escape and defense methods if something happens. Though, I know that all it takes is one slip-up or disadvantage, and I could never be heard from again. It’s a scary thought, but you need a certain degree of fear to respect that anything can happen.”
So after sending the article I found to a few friends who buy and make cosplays, including Arnold, here is the advice they would give to their friends and family:
1. If you don’t know the person and have to meet in person for some reason, keep the meetings in public areas. It can be awkward to bring a cosplay to Starbucks and try it on there, but it’s better than showing up to a house of a person you don’t know.
2. Make sure you let someone like a parent or a roommate where you are going if you have to meet with a client or the cosplay-maker. Always be sure that someone knows of your plans, and expecting updates from you. And even better, bring a friend or have your friend drive you and pick you up from the public meeting place.
3. Don’t give out personal information online, like an address or phone number, an individual via social media or other sites. Many people use eBay or PayPal to buy and sell cosplays these days, though it doesn’t safeguard your address for deliveries but it’s definitely less sketchy.
4. Even if the client or cosplay-maker is an acquaintance, friend of your friend, or an online friend, don’t automatically trust them. Always be on guard. You don’t necessarily need a weapon, but you can educate yourself in some self-defense moves and tips. If the person is making you uncomfortable, you have the right to leave and back out of the deal.
If you want some tips on self-defense, YouTube has many videos about self-defense techniques. Here is one I found particularly help. You can also find many techniques explained in detail online.
Again, it is important to remember that one bad incident doesn’t label the attitudes and behaviors of a group. As Aronld said at the end of our interview, “We can’t bring [Ng Yuk Tim] back, or undo the pain of her death to her loved ones. But we can spread the word on how to be safe, and how cosplay is a great activity and worthwhile investment when done responsibly.”