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Sally C. Pipes - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute [go to Pipes index]

Woman at Forefront of Hoax Industry
PC fraud...
[Sally C. Pipes] 5/14/04

The latest evidence seems to indicate that women are better than men at faking stories that cast themselves as victims and cast aspersions on others. Take the strange case of Kerri Dunn, visiting assistant professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) in southern California.

In early March professor Dunn told police that vandals had damaged her car, stolen more than $1,700 worth of her personal property, and sprayed the vehicle with racial slurs. The professor, who is white, told the police she had been the target of "a well planned-out act of terrorism," for speaking out against racism on campus.

The story drew a 1,000-word news story in the Los Angeles Times, replete with photos. Police called it a hate crime. Officials at CMC and all the other Claremont Colleges canceled classes and posted a $10,000 reward for apprehension of the vandals. The FBI joined the hunt.

Dunn said the violence would not drive her away, and she became a hero on campus, a champion of the battle against oppression. A week later it emerged that the "act of terrorism" had indeed been planned - by professor Dunn herself, but not very well.

Two witnesses told police they had seen Dunn driving the car, already adorned with hateful graffiti, into a parking garage. There she savaged her own vehicle, smashing the windshield and slashing the tires. Then the supposedly stolen items mysteriously turned up in the possession of Dunn, who still denied she had staged the attack.

Meanwhile, reporters who had been taken in by Dunn’s antics started looking into her background. The professor, they found, had experience in both denial and theft.

Dunn previously taught criminal justice at Cal State San Bernardino, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees before going on to earn a law degree and PhD in psychology from the University of Nebraska. During her time there, she was arrested for driving with falsified license plates. She was also arrested for shoplifting, found with, among other things, a pink sweater, three Liz Claiborne bracelets, a necklace and a pair of earrings, $403 worth of steak knives, and a pair of Enzo Angiolini shoes. The creative shopper was belligerent with police, three times failed to appear in court, and, as in her current tangle, she denied any wrongdoing.

Hoaxes involving racism and sexual assault have become common on college campuses. Some of the hoaxers are male, such as Ahmad Saad Nasim, the University of Arizona student who faked assaults against himself, hoping to show himself a victim of 9-11 backlash. Women, however, appear to have the upper hand.

University of Wisconsin student Audry Seiler faked her own abduction. A store’s surveillance tape revealed that she herself had purchased the knife, duct tape, and rope supposedly used in the crime. At the University of Iowa, Katharine Robb faked a story about being raped by four black men. At the University of California, Davis, Angela Hartley made up a story about being kidnapped at knifepoint and assaulted.

The perpetrators and their defenders claim that the hoaxes don’t matter because racism and sexual assault do happen. Yes, they do, but lies, fake reports, and self-inflicted vandalism will not help actual cases, to be taken seriously. When the FBI and police are chasing imaginary villains, they are not stopping real crime and are wasting public resources to boot. That is why filing a false police report is a crime.

In late April, the district attorney charged Kerri Dunn with that crime, along with two felony counts of insurance fraud. Such prosecutions, believes Anne Hendershott, professor of sociology at the University of San Diego and author of The Politics of Deviance, will help remedy a wider problem.

"Perhaps if we can stop venerating victims and begin prosecuting perpetrators," writes Hendershott, "we may begin to move beyond the politics of victimhood." In other words, even female, politically correct hoaxers should not be separated from the consequences of their actions. CRO

copyright 2004 Pacific Research Institute




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