The Voice asks: Does this woman exist?
  • Vancouver Police
  • The Voice asks: Does this woman exist?
A lengthy piece posted yesterday by the Vancouver Voice, written by contributor Marcus Griffith, has a very controversial headline: "Caustic Questions Surround Acid Attack." It's about the apparently tragic tale of Bethany Storro, the young woman whose face was burned with acid in downtown Vancouver, allegedly after a woman passing by randomly threw it in her face.

But unlike so many other articles about the attack, this one opens with an apology, followed by a fairly sharp question:

Sometimes being a journalist requires asking questions one dislikes even thinking. In the case of the nationally infamous acid attack near Esther Short Park, being a thorough journalist meant asking the victim, Bethany Storro, if the attack actually happened in the manner she claims.

Yes, I did an inconceivably asinine act. I asked a young woman freshly out of her face-bandages if the attack that put her in the hospital was the result of a stranger’s violence. And I did it via Facebook’s friend request and message system because it was the only way I have to contact her. As of this post, I haven’t gotten a response.

I don’t feel good about asking her such a pointed question and I expect backlash for doing it. Given the opportunity to do it again, I would try to find a more tactful and discrete manner.

Yet, in the course of my journalistic probe into the matter, I spoke to several people who claimed to have witnessed the incident. Two of them stated Storro was clearly alone when she dropped to the ground screaming. Alone. As in no one attacking her and especially no African-American female being in the area, let alone fleeing the scene after the attack.

So why is Mr. Griffith so suspicious about Storro's account of what happened? Keep reading.

Although Vancouver police have produced a sketch of the suspected acid-thrower, Griffith cites two homeless residents who claim they witnessed what happened and that Storro was alone when she collapsed screaming on the sidewalk. He says other unidentified homeless people, and even some nearby businesses, have also cast doubt on Storro's account.

He also points out the time of day of the attack—at night—and wonders whether Storro would have seen a suspect clearly through the sunglasses she recently bought that saved her vision. And he wonders whether Storro, who suffers from hearing loss, could have heard her attacker as clearly as she claims.

In 1994, South Carolina resident Susan Smith claimed she was car-jacked by an African-American male and her two children in the car were kidnapped. After months of national attention, she confessed to having murdered her children and fabricating the car-jacking. She killed her children by pushing her car, with them in it, down a boat ramp to facilitate the inevitable drowning.

Smith later stated she made her make-believe assailant African-American because she thought more people would believe she was attacked by a minority male.

Storro’s assailant being described as African-American has rubbed Clark County’s own racial tensions.

In addition to becoming “I told you so” fodder for the area’s white supremacists , the race component of the attack fueled such excessively inappropriate comments on The Columbian’s website, that the paper deactivated its online comments.

I wonder why Clark County, and the nation, so readily believe an African-American women would randomly attack a Caucasian women with acid, but have trouble even considering a Caucasian woman could stage such a crime. Either option— random acid attack or fabricated acid attack — paints a pretty dark picture of the human condition.

So far, there hasn't been much said about Griffith's supposition—which, if true, would puncture a nationwide bubble of sympathy that will find itself fed by Oprah in one week.

The Columbian notes that police are examining speculative theories surrounding the attack, and mentioned a wild one posited by an article commenter: that Storro had made claims about a similar attack in another state.

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Ossie Bladine, the Voice's editor, told me he believes his publication is the first to question the conventional wisdom of the attack. And he says Griffith has heard from other well-placed sources who also privately concede there are questions. But Bladine also acknowledges that Griffith's post is also just more speculation.

"We don't have any facts, so you hate to come out with speculation, but there are questions," he said. "The story that's out there now is iffy."

Iffy just might be the word of the day.