If it were a movie, the killing of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius could be called the Valentine’s Day Domestic Violence Killing. The killing of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius appears to be a classic case of domestic violence. He stands trial on premeditated murder of her death. By Reeva’s own account in her text messages read into evidence by the prosecutor, their short 3 month relationship had been rocky with outbursts of jealousy and temper tantrums by Oscar. One text said she was scared of him. And her Valentine’s Day card professed her love for him. There was no similar card by him given to her. A love relationship wrought with feelings of fear of a lover coupled with a lover’s jealousy and anger is a recipe for domestic violence and disaster. The cycle is usually feelings of love, jealousy, anger, rage, abuse and then remorse with the cycle repeating again. For Reeva, there is no repeat. Her life ended on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013.
For Oscar Pistorius, there is the ongoing and appearing never ending cycle of remorse. His crying, sobs, weeping and emotional outbursts in the courtroom are indicative of an abusive lover who now feels remorse for what his violence has caused. There is more than one sign of domestic violence in this case. In addition to Reeva’s text telling Oscar that she feared him, her actions of being locked in the bathroom on the night she died show fear. If you were to ask 1 million women, if any of them lock themselves in the bathroom when staying at their lover’s home, I bet the answer would be zero. The only logical explanation is that Reeva feared Oscar on February 14th –a day known for love. Neighbors heard arguments earlier in the evening before the killing occurred. Others heard shots followed by a woman’s screams and followed by more gun shots. Logically, if true, it shows that Oscar Pistorius knew his intended target—Reeva, was in the bathroom.
The whole defense seems so bizarre that Pistorius thought an intruder was hiding in the bathroom. Then again, the arguments and reasoning by an abusive lover or spouse never seem to make sense. It is reported by the World Health Organization that anywhere between 40% of women killed worldwide are killed by their loved ones as a result of domestic violence. According to World Bank data, women worldwide between the ages of 15-44 are more likely to be a victim of rape and domestic violence than cancer, motor accidents or war. A U.S. government study shows that 1 in 4 women will be the victim of domestic violence by a boyfriend or husband. Violence is defined as pushing, punching, hitting, slapping or attacking with a weapon. These startling facts are also reported in the United Nation’s Secretary-General’s In-depth Study on Violence Against Women, 2006. None of these facts will bring back Reeva Steenkamp. Awareness may help to save the lives of other women in similar situations.
In an age, where women who do report sexual violence or abuse are treated less as a victim and more as the reason for the problem, makes it difficult for many women to come forward and report domestic violence. Yet, somehow the wash, rinse, repeat domestic violence cycle of love, hate, anger, abuse and remorse must end. If not, there will be many more Reeva Steenkamps who die too early at the hands of the one they profess to love.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor who represents victims of domestic violence and prosecuted defendants who commit domestic violence. She is a Huffington Post and Women’s Media Center contributor.