The Oscar Pistorius Effect

Last week Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison for the 2013 shooting death of his then-girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.

However, he will most likely only be serving 10 months of this sentence in prison, while the rest of the time will be under house arrest.

Am I the only one that think’s Oscar Pistorius’ punishment is absolutely ridiculous in it’s leniency and not at all representative of the crime he committed?

Columnist Allison Pearson in her article “Another black day for Reeva Steenkamp and all women” hit the nail on the head when she said that ‘Oscar will do the sort of stint in prison you give to a petty thief, not someone who has stolen a young woman’s life from her.”

“So now at least we know. We know what a woman’s life is worth….for this casual monstrosity, Oscar Pistorius was handed a five-year term, of which he will serve only one sixth in jail. After that, he will be under house arrest and will be free to see family and friends, to feel the sun on his face, to make love to another blonde.”

“For Oscar the bereft, Oscar the remorseful, Oscar who was so distressed about losing his soul-mate that he had trouble getting his facts straight, is said to have started a relationship with another model. Well, fancy that.”

Pistorius was “jealous and insecure”. In a text message, Reeva had told her boyfriend: “I am scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me.”

Can you imagine if Reeva was the one that was jealous and insecure? It would be a different story. It seems like if you’re a woman and you’re jealous and insecure you’re deemed by your partner as ‘crazy’.  If you’re woman who is in a relationship with a jealous and insecure man… well there’s a greater likelihood of abuse or murder. (Yes I realise that’s a gross assumption… but I’m all kinds of angry at the moment)

It can be argued that in many ways Pistorius’ overt displays of emotional distress in court saved him from people seeing what he truly was – a perpetrator of sexual violence. If the roles were reversed, this would have been what doomed Reeva to a harsher sentence in jail.

As Daily Life columnist Dan Hodges points out, “She was a woman. And he is a man. So she is dead. And this time next year, Oscar Pistorius will be free.”

This case is not just an example of the completely warped sentencing for abusers but is also a reflection of the issues surrounding domestic violence and perceptions of such violence.

In the same 20-month window since Reeva Steenkamp was killed, an estimated 2361 women in South Africa (where Steenkamp lived) have been killed by their partners. That’s about 27 women every week. Or almost 4 women a day.

While responsibility lies with the perpetrator, at least some of these deaths could be prevented if more of us spoke up when we suspect domestic violence.

But why don’t we?

In some homes and communities domestic violence is normalised and it may be considered futile to intervene. People often take the it’s ‘none of my business’ approach for fear of revenge, uncertainty or a lack of confidence in the police system – supported by the utter incompetence of many courts to give justice to victims.

The more we talk about domestic violence, the more we educate everyone on the circumstances of abuse, the more we combat the ignorance and injustice that plagues conversations surround abuse and assault.

Let’s not turn a blind eye. Let’s make sure Reeva Steenkamp and all the victims of domestic violence do not die or suffer for nothing. Let’s change the conversation.

“As we mourn for Reeva Steenkamp, and all those others who have died at the hands of partners, it’s vital that we see the bigger picture. Because Reeva Steenkamp may have died alone. But her death does not stand in isolation.”

What do you think of Pistorius’ sentence?

 

It’s Not Just Women: The ongoing struggle of male sexual assault victims.

Most of the discussion around victim blaming is heavily focused on women. I myself am guilty of focusing 90% of my attention towards women with regards to sexual assault and rape culture.  However, it is important to understand that men are also victims of sexual assault and harassment and are even less willing to report their assaults because of their fear of humiliation and shame.

Did you know that:

  • 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual victimization in their lives.
  • 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.

More than half of military sexual assault victims in the United States are men. According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day and very few survivors speak out or report their assault.

Why? For fear they’d lose their job, be persecuted against by their peers or simply no-one would believe them.

In a recent GQ article, one survivor admitted to feeling responsibility for his attack, claiming he believed he was responsible because he could have stopped it.

“I still don’t believe I didn’t bring this on. I keep telling myself, If only I hadn’t had a few beers that night. If only I hadn’t invited him back to my room. I tried to resist. He was just so f******g strong,” Jones said. 

It’s these kind of internal thoughts that survivors suffer with after their attack that are repeatedly perpetuated not only by the stigma surrounding the reporting of the assault and how little the military actually do for survivors of assault, but also the consequences on career and personal life that are just too much of a toll on the victim.

Recent studies show that military men are assaulted more than women with nearly 14,000 cases of male sexual assault in 2012 alone. And what makes this situation even more horrifying is that prior to the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” by U.S. President Obama in 2011, male-on-male-rape victims could actually be discharged for having engaged in homosexual conduct. While these actions are no longer undertaken, the damage has already been done and the numbers show that men are still afraid to report being sexually assaulted.

As the GQ article explains: “An overpowering shame prevents many enlisted men from reporting an assault—a sense that they must somehow be complicit in what has happened to them. Straight men often question their own sexual orientation, while gay men may struggle to find intimacy in relationships because they don’t trust other men (or their own judgment). Telling the secret ruptures families and friendships. So does not telling.”

It’s also a case of the military shoving these issues aside and simply not willing to deal with them. In the article one soldier admits that upon his examination from a doctor after he mentioned his sexual assault, the doctor said to him, “Son, men don’t get raped.”

It’s this blatant ignorance of the issue regarding male sexual assault and sexual assault as a whole in the military that perpetuates this notion of silence where the victim is too afraid to speak out, giving power to the perpetrator and shedding all responsibility from the rapist.

Under no stretch of the imagination is this okay. The military needs to be more proactive in their stance against rape and actively enforce harsh penalties for the perpetrator, NOT the victim.

However, the responsibility does not solely lie in the hands of the military system. People need to be educated about the seriousness of male rape and how prevalent in our society it really is.

We need to teach consent and reiterate that in no way does another person have a right to violate a person’s body or mind without their consent.

For more information visit: http://www.gq.com/long-form/male-military-rape

What do you think about this issue?

Do you think enough is being done to educated people about male sexual assault?

Victim-blaming: the betrayal of trust and erosion of justice

Victim-blaming: the betrayal of trust and erosion of justice.

California passes ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law. How will this affect rape culture?

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In a fantastic move towards defining consent in sexual assault cases, California has become the first American state to clearly define when people agree to sex, and when they don’t. 

This law tackles the ambiguities of the original ‘no means no’ standard which made investigations of sexual assault cases difficult.

So what does this mean?

Basically, the law states that a “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,”  “nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”

This means that ‘affirmative consent’ cannot be given if someone is asleep of incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

This is a fantastic move for lawmakers and enforcement who struggle often in determining positive outcomes for the victims of sexual assault cases, particularly when involving alcohol intoxication.

There is an obvious problem within universities and how they handle rape and sexual assault accusations, and this law seeks to improve their systems by requiring the use of  policies from protecting privacy to training campus officials and providing counseling for victims of sexual assault.

“The State of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug,” Sen. Kevin de Leon, one of the men in charge of passing the bill, said. “We’ve shifted the conversation regarding sexual assault to one of prevention, justice, and healing.”

“Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy.”

Yay California!!

I think this a definite step in the right direction, albeit a small one. If the rest of America and the world can adopt such laws we could really shift the conversation surrounding sexual assault, especially in young people.

What do you think about the ‘Yes Means Yes’ law? Will it make a difference?

 

Stop Victim Blaming Campaign Posters

Warren Buchholz recently created these wonderful posters for his Stop Victim Blaming campaign.

What do you think of the posters?

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Source: http://warrenbuchholz.com/post/96372746673/stop-victim-blaming-campaign-poster-series

#WhyIStayed: The Twitter Hashtag that sparked an important conversation on domestic violence.

TMZ released footage of American NFL player Ray Rice violently attacking his ‘now wife’ Janay Palmer back in February. His former team, The Ravens, cut all ties with Rice and he was suspended indefinitely from the NFL.

But why is this relevant?

Well, while many were appalled at his actions and supportive of Rice’s punishment, many people including this lovely Fox News reporter pointed the blame towards his wife, for sticking with him.

“Let’s not all jump on the bandwagon of demonizing this guy,” said Fox News contributor Ben Carson. “He obviously has some real problems, and his wife obviously knows that, because she subsequently married him.”

Ladies and Gentleman, this is victim blaming in a nut shell.

It’s important to recognise that no one, in any form of abuse situation is responsible for their abuse. Something I’m not sure this Fox News reporter quite understands… and which some people on Twitter were happy to correct for him.

So what sparked the #WhyIStayed conversation on Twitter?

In response to an alarming trend on Twitter where people who viewed the video were asking ‘why did she marry him?’ and ‘why didn’t she leave him?’ instead of ‘why did he hit her?’ writer Beverly Gooden decided to flip the focus of the conversation to draw awareness to the underlying complexities of domestic violence.

She called on her followers to share their stories of domestic abuse with the hashtag #WhyIStayed and within a few hours, thousands of Twitter users were voicing their support and sharing their experiences.

“When the overwhelming public voice is of shame, you can get lost in the guilt. You can feel voiceless. I want people to know that they have a voice! That they have the power. That’s so critical, that survivors feel empowered.” said Ms Gooden.

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These conversations are important in shifting the myths surrounding harassment and assault. Ignorance is often the main contributor to these myths and it is important that we continue to share and voice our own experiences because victim shaming is never okay.

Do you think the #WhyIStayed twitter conversation was helpful in raising awareness?

Source: http://mic.com/articles/98326/19-why-istayed-tweets-that-everyone-needs-to-see?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social