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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