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?

 

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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?

 

The Problem With Stranger Danger

Did you know that 84 percent of rapes are executed by someone the victim knows?

84 percent.. That means the majority of those who are raped have been done so by a friend, partner, colleague…someone they trust and love.

With only 16 percent of rapes being committed by strangers why do mostly hear about stranger rape?

Is it because we’ve become too desensitised to rape committed by a partner? Or is it the shock factor of ‘stranger rape’ that is more frightening?

Unfortunately, stranger rape in today’s society is far more likely to be seen as the primary type of sexual violence attributed to the perception of rape and sexual assault. With the responsibility partly on our media’s shoulders for the way they report and represent such crimes. The “rapist” narrative perpetuates misconceptions that all sexual assault involves extreme physical force and is mostly committed by strangers unknown to the victim.

Both myths are untrue. And the statistics prove it.

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes.
  • 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year.

Perpetrators are more likely to target people they know because they know they’re less likely to be reported. And often this is the case. By deliberately refusing to acknowledge or be educated on the realities of rape, by ignoring rape survivors testimonies or belittling their experiences, we’re excusing the act of rape and letting bad people get away with horrific crimes.

If we continue to perpetuate these myths, individuals fail to correctly interpret incidents they observe, with research indicating many young people do not recognise what sexual assault and harassment looks like. And if they don’t recognise what sexual assault really is, how can they stop it if they see it or encounter it?

I recently read a  thought-provoking essay written by Tom Meagher, whose wife was the victim of an utterly horrifying rape and murder in Melbourne, Australia that made headlines in late 2012.

Tom has written a brilliant and brutally honest essay about ‘The Monster Myth’ in rape cases, reminding people that his wife’s rape was a rarity and that most rapists are known and trusted by the victim. I definitely recommend giving it a read, it’s really quite interesting and presents a bleak view of rape culture and consequences for perpetuating such myths.

What are your thoughts on the ‘Monster Myth’? Why do you think we’re so quick to report stranger rape, but less likely to believe someone we know and trust is capable of such a crime?

Read Tom’s essay here: http://whiteribbonblog.com/2014/04/17/the-danger-of-the-monster-myth/

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

Victim Blaming 101

Unfortunately, victim blaming is deeply embedded in our culture.

There is a visible and pervasive culture of harassment and disrespect towards victims of sexual assault. It is easier for society to blame the victim than admit overarching systematic problems.

Rape culture can be defined as discourse that unconsciously tolerates and normalizes violence against women and sexual coercion in a way that views rape as inevitable and the victim to blame.

Telling a man or woman they should have prevented their own attack puts the responsibility on the victim, and not the person who SHOULD be held accountable. The problem of instructing potential victims to avoid rape or victim-blaming sexual assault survivors is that it puts the burden of responsibility of preventing rape on the victim instead of the perpetrator.

There is an urgent need to shift the culture away from the ‘myths’ that shame survivors into silence. To change this, we must rethink the way we view victims of abuse both personally and through stories in the media and be aware of the effect such thinking can have on people.

This social project aims to shed light upon this victim blaming culture in an effort to raise awareness and understanding of the effects such thinking can have on victims, potential victims and society as a whole.

Because if we can recognise it, we can stop it.

#thisisnotashamegame