UPDATE: Bethany Storro Acid Attack a Hoax: I’m Getting Really Tired of These Psychos Blaming Blacks
UPDATE: There is a fund set up on behalf of Derri Dias Velarde to help her meet her expenses. A Paypal widget is located on the webpage, which includes information about Velarde, her attack, her family, and may include updates about her progress. Her health insurance plan refuses to pay for her convalescence in Massachusetts. If you would like to contribute, please visit The Derri Velarde Fund.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Bethany Storro, 28, said an unknown woman approached her outside a Starbucks on Aug. 30 and said, “Hey, pretty little girl, want to take a drink of this?” The woman then allegedly threw a cup of acid-like liquid in Storro’s face, resulting in second-degree burns all over her face.
Doctors say a pair of sunglasses Storro bought less than an hour before the attack saved her vision. Since the attack, Storro has helped police put together a composite drawing of her alleged attacker, whom she describes as an African-American woman in her late 20s or early 30s, with her hair pulled back into a ponytail.
No suspects have been named, and no arrests have been made.
The case has since garnered nationwide media attention, but some of that attention started to turn negative last week, when several media outlets began to question Storro’s version of the events. The Columbian newspaper focused on some of those reports in an article published last week.
“With no suspect identified 10 days after Bethany Storro was found injured by acid burns to her face, speculation by some is raising this question,” reporters Bob Albrecht and John Branton wrote.
The journalists said they had spoken with Vancouver Police Department Detective Sgt. Scott Creager, who told them he could not discuss the case. “The reasons will become clear later, he said,” they wrote.
Actually, it wasn’t the reporters from The Columbian who first raised these issues. It was Marcus Griffith, a freelance reporter/blogger from an alternative paper, The Vancouver Voice, who thought something was awry about Storro’s story because he was hip to the homeless population as well as the area where the incident occurred. For his pains, Griffith and his paper were publicly vilified for presuming that Storro was lying. (Above is a September 14 interview of Griffith by a Seattle radio station.) The Columbian reporters–intrigued by Griffith’s queries–picked it up.
Storro later said that she wanted to go on Oprah’s show, who had extended an invitation to tell her story, to talk about Jesus. Jesus? When I read that I knew something was wrong with this girl and this picture. Sure enough, the Oprah appearance was called off, and yesterday Vancouver cops announced that the whole story was a hoax, that Bethany Storro had inflicted these horrible wounds on herself, possibly in response to the failure of her marriage.
There’s even another aspect to this: Storro had allegedly visited a cosmetic or plastic surgeon before the acid attack hoax. Was this person a fake cosmetician? Did she buy what she thought was a chemical peel from some underground source? Did she try to give herself a homemade chemical peel because the cost was prohibitive? I could have told this woman–any woman–that using a caustic acid on her face was not at all like glycolic acid, which is used in facial peels.
If any of this is true, why couldn’t she have told the truth in the first place? Why did she have to put the blame on a homeless woman who was African American? Was she afraid of what her family might say?
Police said they don’t know why Storro chose to describe her attacker as African American. Before they suspected her story was false, officers stopped several women who matched the description, Cook said.
Margo Bright, president of the Vancouver chapter of the NAACP, said it’s unfortunate that Storro invented an African American attacker. “This society has a tendency to want to believe that all crime is done by African Americans,” she said.
Bright wondered if white women would have been stopped if Storro had given police a different description.
“From a statistical standpoint we commit very few non black-on-black crimes,” Bright said. “It’s sad that here it’s 2010 and we’ve still got all of these issues around race.”
Moreover, it is also possible that Storro’s hoax may have inspired a copycat attack on a Latina woman in Arizona.
The victim of the copycat attack, Derri Dias Velarde, has also been in the news, but in her case, the mother of five is in the process of a divorce and had started a new relationship. These may be plausible reasons why she was attacked, although the perpetrator has not been caught. Velarde does not know her attacker, a woman, but unlike Storro, the splash pattern of her wounds are consonant with someone who has had acid thrown at her. They are not only on her face, but on her neck and her back. Had she not had the opportunity to wash off the acid before going to the hospital, the wounds would have been deeper and more extensive.
Velarde is also convinced that someone wanted to make sure that no one else wanted her or would love her. The perpetrator, she said, had “an evil look” in her eyes.
Velarde also does not have health insurance that will pay for her convalescence in Massachusetts at her brother’s home. Some people were fundraising to relieve some of the burden of medical expenses that Bethany Storro would have to face, but that has been halted and the money raised will be returned. No one on their own is stepping up–at least not yet–to assist Velarde. Which to me is really strange. Velarde is Latina, but she also looks mixed. Her attack seemingly had less to do with race (her assailant has been identified as another Latina), than with what one might call a crime of passion, and this may also be a reason why she isn’t getting any help.
However, I neglected to point out that there is racism against darker-skinned Latinos or Latinos of African descent within their own communities. And with the current, nearly untenable atmosphere about Mexican and Latino immigrants (legal or otherwise), residents and American citizens in Arizona, this may be another reason why individuals in her Mesa community or in Arizona refuse to open their wallets and their hearts.
Acid attacks are almost unknown here in the United States; they are more common in places like Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are various reasons why women are attacked in this fashion. It is quite common in Bangladesh, where it is a form of domestic assault, of husbands punishing wives. In Afghanistan, however, acid can be thrown on women who appear to be improperly dressed. Cambodian wives usually attack their husband’s extramarital lovers with acid.
So, the idea of someone in the United States–anyone–throwing acid on a woman as a hate crime astounded Vancouver police, law enforcement everywhere, and naturally drew the attention of the media. Look what black people have done now. Look what they are capable of doing…
Susan Smith. Charles Stuart. Bonnie Anne Sweeten. Ashley Todd. And in Wisconsin, Jesse Anderson. All of these high-profile cases involved whites who accused blacks of carjacking, murder, kidnapping and disfigurement, only for the police or more suspicious segments of the media to probe deeper and find that naming blacks as their assailants was only the method to their own madness. From a June 2009 NPR interview with Michel Martin and criminologist Katheryn Russell-Brown:
MARTIN: Professor, is there a pattern to who perpetuates these types of hoaxes? I think a lot of people remember Charles Stuart, who killed his wife in Boston in 1989, then tried to blame it on black men. And then, of course, there was the Susan Smith case in 1994 – who killed her children and then blamed it on black men. Is there a pattern to who tends to do this? Does it tend to be men, women, any particular circumstances?
Prof. BROWN: Yeah, well actually, the majority of the hoaxes involve someone white falsely claiming they were harmed by someone black. In terms of gender, about a third of the cases involve women. And with regard to the type of hoax – ’cause I divide the hoaxes into two types: one, where there’s a cover-up of an actual crime, and then the second type, where the hoax is used just really as a matter of convenience. It’s not covering up anything, but the person may want time off from work, may not want to get in trouble for curfew, may be hiding something. But they are most frequently used to allege or to cover up an assault, a murder or rape.
MARTIN: Are black women ever the targets, or is it generally African-American men?
Prof. BROWN: Yeah, primarily it is the African-American male. And I describe it as the criminalblackman – you know, one sort of run-on word because they are the key targets of the hoaxes. And not surprisingly because across race, most people fear young, African-American males. And hoaxes are a way of tapping into that fear and at the same time, garnering or attempting to garner some kind of sympathy for the person who is using the hoax.
It happens with black people blaming whites for crimes, too. Like with Tawana Brawley. Like with the Duke lacrosse team. But nothing, nothing feeds a news cycle better than an errant black man or woman stealing away or attacking with guns/knives/and now acid unsuspecting or beautiful white people.
And the fact that this phenomenon is studied by people in the know should give the media and others pause to reflect. I was reading some of the comments at Marcus Griffith’s blog at the Vancouver Voice, and there is rage towards not only Storro herself and her parents (who called the Vancouver Voice “Satan’s paper”), but against the Christian right wing and hate elements–who are thick in Washington State–who were busily whipping up race hate and retaliation against blacks as this controversy was going on. Who knows what revenge fantasy would have been enacted before this troubled broad ‘fessed up?
Like I said, I am getting really tired of these psychos blaming black people (and Latinos) for crimes that they did not commit, with them getting glory and sympathy, while black people who are attacked or kidnapped or disappeared (Mitrice Richardson) get short shrift. I distinctly remember the Charles Stuart and Susan Smith cases, and particularly, the illegal searches and arrests of black men abetted by the Boston media. The same thing happened in the Susan Smith case, within the black community where the incident occurred, until the real perp finally ‘fessed up.
Yes, we are responsible for some crimes, but not all crimes, and not all violent crimes, either. But the myth of the crazed black destroyer/looter/shooter/rapist that has been around since slavery and colonialism in this country has been much harder to kill. Even after Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster, wild rumors about rampaging blacks caused many whites to overreact, with many justifying the actions of racist cops and vigilante groups towards blacks who were innocent of any crime.
Storro is going to be suffering for the rest of her life with those self-inflicted scars. A sympathy Facebook page for her that was once filled with loving messages for her convalescence from total strangers now has pages and pages of verbal excrement against the woman. Those people were cheated out of their confirmation of black pathology; they wanted a hero/ine. One might think that this episode, like the others I have mentioned, would force them to alter their views, but I doubt it. I don’t have any pity left for Bethany Storro or for her psychological problems, when black people can be irrevocably harmed or killed for such baseless accusations.