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.