What is it with impressionable young women and bizarre self-harm trends? In 2008, Katie Piper, (right), who suffered an authentic sulphuric acid attack, arranged by her ex-boyfriend, Daniel Lynch, and carried out by an accomplice, Stefan Sylvestre. Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive strong mineral acid, and is normally used for domestic acidic drain cleaner, electrolyte in lead-acid batteries, and cleaning agents. Main uses include mineral processing, fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining, and wastewater processing: this is the substance Lynch had thrown at Katie’s face. Lynch and Sylvestre were arrested and are serving life sentences in prison for their crimes. Katie’s beautiful face is permanently disfigured. She became a “champion for facial disfigurement victims.” Lynch, a martial arts enthusiast who had been tracking Katie’s media and modelling career, met her through the online social site Facebook. Unknown to Katie, Lynch had previously been jailed for throwing boiling water into a man’s face . Katie was victimized twice by Lynch: two weeks into their relationship, Lynch raped and beat her, threatened to cut her with a razor and hang her, then stabbed her several times in the arms. Katie withheld the nature of the incident from the doctors and police, because she was afraid of Lynch. Too bad. A report, arrest, and conviction, might have deterred the attack altogether.
The bizarre attack reminds me of another beautiful model’s disfigurement away back in 1986: Marla Hanson (below), worked for a petite modelling agency when she was attacked by 2 men, both of whom were hired by Steven Roth, a makeup artist whose crude sexual overtures Marla rejected. while she stood talking to him near his Manhattan apartment building in New York City. Roth’s hire, Steven Bowman, his former homosexual lover, shoved her against a wall and held her face while the other moved his hands quickly back and forth across her face. “Almost,” she testified,“like an artist at a canvas.” Every corner of her face was slashed; the muscles that controlled her smile were severed, half her nose skinned. She was aware of a “burning, stinging motion,” and when she put her hands to her face, they were covered with blood. Three hours of surgery and more than a hundred expert stitches as well as future surgeries, would not fully repair the damage. She had been cut so badly that she had lost 20 percent of her blood.
Growing up Marla suffered scars plastic surgeons cannot mend. She was born June 18, 1961 in Independence, Mo. and was very young when her parents divorced. She was sexually abused as a child, she said in an interview in Glamour magazine, and her mother “couldn’t deal with it.” Marla ran free and, at the age of 12, after a protracted custody suit, went with her 2 brothers to live with their father. Roth also suffered from an abusive background and he was not a well-adjusted young man. Roth’s lawyers alleged he had “been plagued by severe mental distress and significant emotional problems throughout his life.” Roth claimed he was beaten by both parents throughout his early life in Queens, N.Y. and over the years had seen a dozen psychiatrists. Can’t you just hear the violins playing? One, who saw him for six months when he was a teenager, noted “hostility towards authority figures… especially anger at his mother.” At 16, after impregnating his girlfriend, he was thrown out of his family’s home. Another woman, a German stylist, also noted that Roth “always seemed to get on the subject of sex”. Roth received a 15-year sentence in prison and was fined $5,000.00. The latter probably infuriated him as much as his prison sentence; another reason for the attack was Marla’s insistence that he return her $850.00 deposit on the rental of his coop apartment. During the year after Marla’s attack a small percentage of American women reported they, too, had suffered razor attacks to their faces, although police investigation revealed they had either arranged the attacks or committed the disfigurement themselves. No joke.
Fast forward to 2010, two years after Katie Piper’s attack. Bethany Storro , a deaf woman living in Vancouver, Washington, claimed to be a victim of an acid attack by a 28-year-old black woman. Bethany’s unlikely story went like this: she was getting something out of the trunk of her car when a woman holding a cup came up to her and asked: “Hey pretty girl, do you want to drink this?”The woman splashed the contents of the cup, believed to be hydrochloric or sulphuric acid on her, causing her to stumble in pain and fall to the ground screaming. The other woman ran off.”It was the most painful thing ever. My heart stopped. It ripped through my clothing the instant it touched my shirt. I could feel it burning through my second layer of skin. I have never, ever seen this girl in my entire life. When I first saw her, she had this weirdness about her — like jealousy, rage.” A key phrase in Bethany’s allegations is“jealousy, rage”. It would seem to me that Bethany Storro thinks pretty highly of herself (at least on the surface), and developed a pathological belief that other women hated her because of her beauty. Certainly she, like the following woman, sought significant attention. Even more oddly is Bethany’s deafness. She already possessed a significant handicap yet still felt the need to damage her face. Once again, Facebook is presented in a negative light: initially Bethany refused to give interviews about the attack but she was happy to blog about it using her Facebook account. Bit of an irony, that.
Under police interrogation, Bethany eventually admitted she threw the acid in her own face. Police Commander Marl Schuman said the alleged attack and the probe stretched the resources of Vancouver‘s small police department. “It’s been hundreds of hours,” Schuman said about the time invested in the investigation. “It really took a toll on the department and the resources that we have. She is extremely upset. In many ways, this got bigger than she expected.” I believe the attack, although 2 years after Katie Piper’s was a copycat crime. Katie was a gorgeous model whose career ended abruptly after the legitimate attack by her ex-boyfriend. Perhaps Bethany wished to see herself as attractive as Katie and to receive similar attention. Bethany offered an unlikely defence, that she suffered from body dysmorphia, and saw her face as horribly disfigured before the attack. She offered a statement that contradicted earlier claims to the press: “I held it (acid) up to my face and I could feel it burning through my skin, like, melting into my face. And I was just, I was so happy.” She also described it as a suicide attempt. Fittingly, after the attack, Bethany spent a year in a mental health facility (nuthouse). Body dysmorphia is a psychiatric disorder and is listed in the DSM-IV-TR. People who suffer from BD may commit extreme reactions, such as not living their house or even attempting their own amputations and other “surgeries” at home, usually with disastrous results. Other patients find surgeons to “fix” their deformities, in spite of the fact that the “deformity” doesn’t exist. Does Bethany Storro have BDD? She certainly didn’t mention how “morphed” her face was in contrast with the rest of her body after her attack and sufferers can easily describe their symptoms, even if they cannot name the disorder itself. Frankly, I think Bethany is trying to dig herself out of a hole to save face (oops) in front of the world.
In 2013, three years after Bethany Storro’s self-mutilation and supposed “suicide attempt“, another hit-and-Miss story dominated the headlines: Naomi Oni , 20, in also claims she also became an acid attack victim as she left her job at a Victoria’s Secret boutique in Stratford Westfield. She blames a a person in a niqab and was unable to identify her attacker. Naomi, who also lost her hair and eyelashes in the attack, has undergone multiple operations and skin grafts to repair the damage to her skin, hair and eyes. In an interview Naomi stated: ‘After the attack I asked “why me?” I work so hard, I’m a good person. I was shouting all sorts of things. I started to question so many things. Am I a bad person? I don’t argue, I don’t like confrontation. Being an only child I shy away from it. I like to keep myself to myself in my own little corner.’ She appeared on the talk show This Morning Today and wept to the audience. The key phrases in her statement include “why me?”; “am I a bad person?”; and “my own little corner.” The night before the attack, Naomi downloaded a Channel 4 documentary on Katie Piper and watched it on her computer .
Today Katie Piper, (right), although permanently scarred, is gorgeous. The reconstruction of her face over 2 years and the unusual approach to heal her has certainly paid off. This “happy ending” is something Bethany Storros and Naomi Oni hadn’t considered. There will probably be no significant recovery, certainly not for Naomi whose injuries are so extreme. Who was the madman or madwoman who committed these atrocities? Naomi and Bethany claimed they want to know and they offer forgiveness. The rest of society probably don’t; certainly not the African-American population. Bethany accepted $20,000.00 donated by the public for her recovery under false pretences; a judge ordered her to return it. She is also paying Vancouver police $4,000.00 for their hundreds of hours searching for a criminal on the streets who didn’t exist. She also received several hours of community service. Bethany once stated, “she’d like to find her assailant (her personal doppelganger) and ask her why she threw the acid.” Where Bethany and Naomi are concerned, the madwoman exists inside of their heads, where their once hidden darkest side lies. Their community may hesitate to offer forgiveness, but when the assailant lives inside one’s head, forgiveness is the first step toward healing.