Oscar Pistorius and how abusers don’t have ‘watch out’ written on their forehead

I was, like most people, utterly shocked by the news that Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp a couple of days ago. It’s a terrible tragedy, no matter what way you look at it. What really shocked me though was the level of support that Pistorius has received.

It’s one of those things you see about on the news and you think ‘oh, yeah, whatev’s, I’m sure that’s just the theoretical ‘some people must support him’ But then there it is on the BBC news site:

“For me it’s very tragic, I don’t know what side of the story is actually true,” a male supporter in Johannesburg told the BBC. “Even if it turns out to be true I don’t think I’ll be able to believe it.”

What?! Even if someone is sent to jail for pre-meditated murder, for planning to murder someone and then doing it and a court has found them guilty you won’t be able to believe it? Why?!

It’s like there is a belief somewhere sat in the back of our brains that murderers, rapists and people who abuse their partners will have a shaven head and ‘scumbag’ tattooed on their forehead. One in three women are abused by their partner. That either mean there’s a couple of blokes looking like Eastenders extras who go out with hundreds and hundreds of women and beat each of them up, or actually, a sizable percentage of the male population are abusers. A quick look at Dr Google suggests that’s 22% of men. No one is stupid enough to go out with the guy with the ‘scumbag’ tattoo, these men look just like normal blokes. 

Some of them, like Oscar Pistorius, will actually be pretty foxy (well, I thought he was anyway)

Some of them, like Oscar Pistorius, will do things that inspire us. I’ve seen his poster up in the local Personal Recovery Unit where soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan as amputees. The man was an inspiration to those men and to many more of us.

Some of them will be rich, some will be poor. I doubt any of them will get as much as a first date if they aren’t even a bit charming.

Being foxy and being charming and doing amazingly inspirational things all mean nothing though the moment that you make that choice to attack another human being.

I hope that it was an accident, I hope that Oscar Pistorius is the man I’d like him to be, but the facts sound rather stacked against it. If we support him in spite of the truth then we might as well say that the life of Reeva Steenkamp, the lives of all the other woman who are killed by their partners don’t matter, or at least not if their partners seemed like a nice enough bloke to the rest of us.

Abusers don’t have ‘scumbag’ written on their forehead or ‘watch out’ shaved into their grade one haircuts and the longer we act like they do the longer that women won’t think they’ll be believed if they report incidents to the police.


  1. Sonya Cisco
    16th February 2013 / 8:51 pm

    The coverage has been shocking, I saw a couple of BBC bulletins where they didn’t even use Reeva Steenkamps name, just referred to her as ‘his girlfriend’ as if she only existed in her context to him. I watched sports reporters saying they were sure there would be an ‘explanation’
    I think they struggle enough when a sporting hero does something wrong, let alone when there is the double whammy of being a paralympian. Has made for some uncomfortable viewing. Innocent until proven guilty of course, but some of the coverage has him already virtually acquitted by power of popularity alone!

    • Kate
      17th February 2013 / 7:14 pm

      I know, no one wants to see their heros fail, but we have a responsibility to hold our hands up when they do and admit that we had it wrong about someone. How on earth would we really know what someone is like just from watching them on tv?!

  2. 17th February 2013 / 8:24 am

    Agree that this news was a complete and utter shock but then who knows what really goes on behind any closed door? Oscar Pistorius is still innocent until proven guilty and it’s reported on the news this morning that he tried to save Reeva. I am hoping too that this was a tragic accident.

    • Kate
      17th February 2013 / 7:15 pm

      I hope it was too, I really do, but then I would hope that in any case of apparent domestic violence and sadly it normally isn’t an accident.

  3. 18th February 2013 / 2:51 pm

    I agree, it is so wrong that we don’t give more attention to the loss of “victim.” Incredible where press focus has been, you’ve really had to search quite hard to find coverage of Reeva. It is almost as if we are caught up in the plight of some Shakespearean tragi-hero which, in a sense, I guess, we possibly are.

    But you are right, good looks, charm, great skill, do not necessarily preclude someone from being abusive. That said, Oscar Pistorius is innocent until proven guilty and who knows for sure what will come out in the trial. I’m trying to stay open-minded.

    • Kate
      20th February 2013 / 9:10 pm

      Oh I totally agree and today I feel that he probably is innocent by what is being said in court. But it is the courts decision to make and as a (global) community we have to go with what the court says and not say ‘well I don’t agree because he seemed like a nice chap and I know best’

    • Kate
      20th February 2013 / 9:12 pm

      Thank you, I just keep thinking that if someone could be killed in an (at the very least alledged) domestic violence incident and still people don’t believe it’s DV, why on earth would anyone go to the police if they are assaulted? Who would expect people to believe them? All very sad.

  4. 20th February 2013 / 5:18 pm

    Great post about a subject that a lot of people don’t want to have to think about.

    • Kate
      20th February 2013 / 9:12 pm

      Thank you x

  5. aqua
    23rd February 2013 / 11:34 pm

    How many times have I heard – have we ALL heard -‘Oh I cant believe it- he seems so nice! – He’s such a lovely guy!
    We need to learn from repeated [over and over again] observation and experience, that often the most charming men are the most violent and abusive towards women and children- frequently ‘pillars of the community’ popular, famous, doers of ‘good’ deeds, sexy, charismatic etc etc etc -whether in the church, in politics, , cinema, pop culture, academia , medecine or in sport!

    Naivity doesnt serve us – disbelief and denial on our part at the possibilty that our icons and heroes may in fact be sociopathic , re- traumatises the victim,and enables the abusers.

    This whole thing leaves a foul taste in my mouth- the poor woman-her poor family-and sending flowers and a card-yuck!
    God I hope this doesnt turn into another OJ Simpson travesty, because he is a ‘hero’.

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