The Oscar Pistorius sentence: no justice for Reeva by @lexiconlane


(Cross-posted from Donna Navarro)
Oscar Pistorius SentenceThe headline reads: ‘Pistorius sentenced to five years in prison’

What a misleading headline. Aren’t they always.

Oscar Pistorius has today received his sentence for the culpable homicide (manslaughter) of Reeva Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa has imposed a five year custodial sentence for the manslaughter of Reeva and three years suspended for the firearms offences. Under South African law, what that actually means is that Pistorius will serve one sixth of his custodial sentence in prison before being released to serve the remaining term on house arrest.

So, that’s about ten months in prison for shooting Reeva and killing her. No where near five years in prison.

I understand his ten months will be served in the hospital wing of the prison due to Pistorius’ disability. If housed on the main wing of the prison we are told he will be at risk of daily rape.

My issue is that Pistorius shot his firearm four times. Not once. Four times.  I don’t believe it was a negligent act or amounted to manslaughter but the judge has made her decision.

A ten month term in prison is not enough for shooting four times at Reeva Steenkamp.

Comparative cases indicate the sentence is reasonable for the South African justice system. Other cases where a longer prison sentence has been imposed have involved more deaths.

Apparently the prosecution find some solace in the fact a custodial sentence has been imposed. Reeva Steenkamp’s parents have also said they are satisfied and feel there is some closure for them now. I have a lot of respect for their reaction to the sentence. I couldn’t display the same level of composure.

It’s believed Pistorius will go to the Kgosi Mampuru jail in Pretoria (formerly the Central Pretoria prison) which has a hospital wing that will provide a safer environment for him. He’ll have a single cell and then be released on house arrest. Even the length of house arrest may be reduced for good behaviour.

House arrest seems to be the South African justice system’s equivalent of the UK’s being released on licence. On release, Pistorius will have to be at a pre-approved address between set hours each day. According to the Department of Correctional Services for the Republic of South Africa this involves:

House arrest refers to that portion of the day/night when the probationer does not work and is compelled to be at home. The period of house arrest of individual probationers may differ.

The possible risk posed to the community is taken into account when determining the probationer’s placement under house arrest. When the condition of house arrest is being set, the offender’s working hours are taken into account in order to avoid conflict between such hours and the period of house arrest. Flexibility is also built into the condition of house arrest to allow probationers to participate in organized sport activities, to attend church services, to do the necessary shopping, etc.

It sounds like it won’t be long before Pistorius will be free to carry on his life with some sense of normality. After ten months it sounds like he will be free to return to sport, provided he is back in his home by a certain time on an evening.

In the UK we can release offenders with a licence condition of a curfew. House arrest seems similar to that. I’ve worked with offenders who have received this condition. It allows them to return to work, to move freely during the day provided they are back at the approved address by the required time. If they breach this they will be returned to prison. I assume it works the same in South Africa.

I still can’t believe that if you think there is an intruder in your house you don’t first check it’s not your partner. That you don’t first check that they are not lying there next to you.

But, like I said, the judge has made her decision.

Her decision, the Oscar Pistorius sentence is not justice for Reeva.


Donna Navarro : Writer, campaigner, former offender manager; passionate about social justice, criminal justice, feminism and freedom from male violence against women. Opinionated. Sarcastic. More fun than I sound. @lexiconlane |

Fear is a Liar by Blues in a Tea Cup

(Cross-posted from Blues in a Tea Cup)

It’s not every day you find out you’re dead. A quiet, family evening at my brother’s house. We’re sorting out an Indian takeaway. Negotiating portions of rice. Extra poppadoms. Anyone want to share a naan? Don’t suppose there’s any mango chutney, is there? I notice a missed call on my mobile. Gary doesn’t phone often. When he does, it’s usually about Charlie. I don’t think I’m going to like the voicemail he’s left. Please call Mike as soon as you get this. I was right. I don’t like it.

Mike’s the Community Police Officer. He sounds surprised to hear my voice.

You’re OK then?

I’m fine.

Only Charlie told me you were dead.


He said you died last week. Of a heart attack.

Not that I noticed …

I hear disbelief. Then anger.

But he was sobbing his heart out. How can anyone lie like that?

It doesn’t seem a good time to tell him how rich I’d be if I had a fiver for every convincing lie Charlie’s told me. With tears. Snot. Anguish of the soul. The whole nine yards.

Maybe Reeva Steenkamp was less surprised by her demise than I was by mine. After all, she’d already told her lover she was scared of him. Only a few days before he shot her. Through the locked door of the toilet. At three in the morning. Four times. Just to make sure. She’d known he had a gun. A previous girlfriend once hid it because of his insane rages.

If Charlie’d ever had access to a firearm my death might have been more than a figment of his imagination. Over 70% of domestic violence murders happen after the victim has left the relationshipI left Charlie five times. He’s one reason why I’ve followed the media circus surrounding Reeva’s killer with such interest. There’s a photo that stands out for me from all those Oscar-winning performances in the witness box. The man’s in tears. Again. A single drip hanging from the end of his nose. Puts me in mind of Charlie whenever I see it. He could have won awards for acting too.

Reeva’s killer. Charlie. Nigella Lawson’s exRosemary Gill’s murderer. They think they’re the victims somehow. If Reeva had behaved the way he wanted her to, everything would have been fine. It was all her fault. Charlie’s predecessor spelled that one out for me. Loudly. And often. The average abuser is utterly convinced of his own rightness. When the solids hit the fan it’s only reasonable for him to lie his way out of trouble. After all, he’s intelligent enough to know the truth might not garner much sympathy. I didn’t like what she did / said / the way she looked at someone. I threatened her. Smothered her. Shot her. Throttled her. Beat her to death. I couldn’t help it. Not going to go down well in a court of law. I thought she was a burglar. Much better. No matter how implausible. Tears are just the icing on the cake. It can’t be hard to squeeze out a few if you’re staring life imprisonment in the face. Poor me. Look what she did to me.

I once knew a man who’d been bullied in school. He was fifteen when it dawned on him he didn’t have to take this any more. He punched the bully. Knocked him out cold. Or so he told me. A light bulb moment. He’d never been bullied since. Instead he’d gone through life fists up. Always first to throw a metaphorical punch. Never letting anyone get close enough to hurt him. But he’d never stopped seeing himself as a victim. A frightened child. And a frightened child who’s six foot and eighteen stone is someone you don’t want to mess with.

Fear tells horrible lies. It told Reeva Steenkamp she’d be safe behind the locked door of the bathroom. It told her killer that Reeva wasn’t to be trusted. He had to subjugate her. And if she died in the process? Collateral damage. That’s what they call it in Gaza isn’t it? Once fear’s in the driving seat, empathy goes out of the window. Compassion. Humanity. We revert to blind animal instinct. Fight or flight. Not a good way to conduct intimate partnerships. Interactions with neighbours. International negotiations. Fear’s a liar. Fear’s a killer.

A couple of paragraphs back I snuck in the words I left Charlie five times. Five times. Stands to reason I’ve been interested in the hashtag trending on Twitter this week #WhyIStayed. Anyone who’s been abused will recognise the rollercoaster. The decision to stay, or to return to an abuser, is rooted in fear. It also flows from an optimism just as insane as the fear. I refused to believe there was nothing to Charlie but the monster. I knew there was more. I’d seen the good. I didn’t want to believe the evil would win the day. I don’t think he did either.

One evening in the kitchen. Roast lamb. Charlie was always a good cook. We worked well together. Pans clattered as I rooted through the cupboard. I finally found what I wanted. Stood up. Charlie wasn’t there. My stomach knotted. If you’ve ever lived with a hardcore abuser you’ll know about The Silence. I found him in the bedroom. Tears pouring down his face. Instead of the usual rebuff, he looked up. Helpless.

I can’t trust you.

Of course you can.

No. You don’t understand. It’s me. I can’t trust you.

He was right. No matter how hard I loved him. No matter how much he wanted to. He couldn’t do it. He wasn’t capable of trust. Fear’s a thief too.

I wish I could paint a fairytale ending. The moment of truth that set us free. We walked off into the sunset hand in hand … We didn’t of course. I cooked the lamb. He refused to eat it. The rest was messy. Because where domestic abuse is concerned, happy ever after is just another lie.

All the names in this piece have been changed or omitted, except those of the victims of domestic abuse. I see no reason why our abusers should steal the limelight as well as our lives.

Fear is a Liar

Blues in a tea cup: Currently blogging as part of a charity fundraiser forOne25 Charity supporting street sex workers in Bristol. I’ve given up ‘not being a writer’ for 125 days as a sponsored challenge. I plan to continue writing and blogging well beyond the challenge. Themes variable. I’m a lifelong feminist, but I’ve never toed any particular line. I’m an older woman. My writing inevitably reflects this. Domestic abuse and dysfunctional relationships are recurrent themes because of my personal history.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius: Not a question of fact, but perspective by @Glosswitch

Cross-posted from: Glosswitch

When women are killed, we remain just as dead as any man in similar circumstances. It cannot be argued that we have not really died, that the bullet that went through our skull didn’t really hurt us. Our death is an objective truth. It’s just the years leading up to it – all those experiences, thoughts and feelings – that can never quite be verified. For how does one know whether a life has validity unless it was lived by a man?

A man’s story belongs to him. He is more than “just the women”. As Judge Thokozile Masipa said of Oscar Pistorius, not guilty of murder despite firing four shots through a locked bathroom door, “the accused is the only person who can say what his state of mind was at the time he fired the shots that killed the deceased”. His experiences are inviolable. And as for those of the deceased? Alas, she has but one experience: that of being dead, and before then, her experience was that of being the other half; the complement, the accessory, the essential blonde girlfriend in the Blade Runner Story. Oscar Pistorius Charged With The Murder Of Model Lover. What experiences would a model lover have, anyway? None, were it not for the man who magics her into existence. Look! There she is, on his arm! How clever of him to find one like that!

Reeva Steenkamp — model lover, deceased, whatever – confessed to fearing the man who would eventually kill her. It’s almost as though she had an inner life and words of her own, not that these matter. According to Judge Masipa, “normal relationships are dynamic and unpredictable sometimes”. Whatever Steenkamp felt came and went; it is not being felt any more. Meanwhile a man can rewrite the past. Oscar Pistorius did. Even so, the assumption that just because he was untruthful, he must therefore be guilty of murder “must be guided against”. Of course. There is, beneath the fog, some rock solid truth that no one on the outside may question. We simply cannot know.

When women feel anger and dismay at verdicts such as those delivered today, we are told not to generalise. We must stick to the facts. We must also be reasonable. Here are some things that are facts, not generalisations (whether or not they are reasonable is another matter):

You can piece together a story from this, if you want to. You can identify a pattern. Nonetheless, whatever you do you will be dealing with lives which don’t carry the same weight as the lives of men. They simply don’t make the same impression. As women we are used to being talked over, corrected and ignored. Even if we die a thousand deaths each one will be separated out and filed away neatly. A woman’s death becomes a detail in the life story of the man who kills her; god forbid that we group the many deaths together and see a different story, that of a culture which tolerates and excuses male violence again and again.

#Ibelieveher matters, not because women never lie, but because our stories are always seen as provisional and in need of external verification. If something happens to us and a man cannot confirm it, has it really happened at all? How can anyone be sure? The stories of women form a backdrop to the lives of men. When they become obtrusive or inconvenient, they can be discarded. It’s not rape if areasonable person would have believed consent was given. It’s not murder if areasonable person would have felt under threat. Men, of course, are reasonable; women, less so. When we hide in toilets, behind locked doors, when we profess to feeling scared – well, who knows what that means? Every word, feeling and memory is left hanging in the air, waiting to see if a man will walk past and give it shape. And if he doesn’t? Well, we might as well not exist.