Microassaults are the "biggest" and most "explicitly violent" type microaggressions identified by Dr. Deral Wing Sue. They are obvious. They are usually deliberate and on purpose. They can be subtle, but usually aren't. They usually happen when the perpetrator is anonymous, they are being supported by peers around them, and/or they know they can get away with it. There's no guesswork in determining if you were the victim of a microassault.[1]

Examples of microassaults:

  • When a white person in a car shouts a slur at a person of color who is walking down the street, then the white person quickly speeds away.
  • When a man in an office quickly gropes his female co-worker and laughs it off as a joke.
  • When an able-bodied person takes or knocks a cane out of the hands of a person who walks with a cane.
  • When straight men surround a gay couple to intimidate them, while pretending to just be having a friendly conversation, then breaks away when the gay couple starts to make a scene.
  • When a neurotypical person intentionally does things to trigger someone's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in order to bother them and find entertainment in watching them fix the issue over and over.
  • When a cisgender person gropes a transgender person's crotch to "check" if they belong in the public restroom they are using.

While these are the most explicit forms of microaggression, studies have found many people claiming these to actually be the easier ones to cope with. There is no doubt that they were awful, that it isn't your fault, and that the perpetrators were awful people. When you experience microassaults, always remember that nothing about it is your fault.[2]

Coping skills I suggest for microassaults are Safety Planning, prioritizing safety and escaping the situation as a goal, and all of the skills under Taking Care Of Yourself.

Microassaults are the closest to no longer being microaggressions, and just being regular aggressions. For more on this distinction, see The Lines Between Microaggressions and Aggressions.

Also see: Microinsults, and Microinvalidations.

[1] Derald Wing Sue. (2010). Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

[2] Hernandez, P., Carranza, M., & Almeida, R. (2010). Mental health professionals adaptive responses to racial microaggressions: An exploratory study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41(3), 202209. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0018445