Article Navigation

DAFUQ? An Oh!-pinion on the Oscar Pistorius verdict


I got out of bed this morning, swore loudly as I realised that the missed call on my phone was from my son's teacher which means he's probably done something that requires me to act parental; grabbed my coffee and started checking out the headlines.

Which is when I saw that Oscar Pistorius had been acquitted of murder charges.

What. The fuck. Is going on?  Did all the people responsible for this similtaneously blow out their own brains before delivering the verdict, because clearly - there is not a god-damn brain cell left between them.

Let me be clear - I already, before this, had zero faith in the system.  I grew up in what I nostalgically refer to as Shit Town.  The neighbour kids stole bikes and chucked them in the Brisbane River when they were done to avoid having to deal with the cops. Every day I watched (or was the unwilling participant of) people kicking the shit out of each other.  Drugs, violence and abuse was my norm...

But I also watched good people struggle through it.  I saw some of those same people get tossed into the system, put away - not because they were bad, not because they'd committed crimes, but because they couldn't afford legal representation that cared whether their client stayed out of prison.  To the average publicly appointed legal defender, you're just more paperwork, and to the average jury member 'innocent until proven guilty' matters less than a societal bias of  'if you got arrested, you probably did something, right?'

As a society we have a need to believe that if you got arrested, that if you're in a courtroom,  you must be guilty of something. Because the alternative is, if you are innocent, if you could be here just because you look like you fit and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time... well then what's to stop any of us ending up in a courtroom?  The only way to feel 'safe' is to believe you'll be ok as long as you keep your nose clean.

Unfortunately, that is not how our world works... But in the case of Oscar Pistorius, it just might be, and an outcome of 'not-guilty' is a step backwards for the gender issues of both men and women everywhere.  How?

It equals 'no justice' for women and 'no support' for men.

The Oscar Pistorius case is based on a domestic dispute, which essentially makes this a spotlight for domestic violence and how it is societally perceived even if it is a murder case.  If you didn't know already - when I'm not focusing on the LOLs and celeb gossip, I spotlight gender issues over at, a place where I try very hard to keep my tone neutral and professional. I have no need for either of those things on this page so get ready for some tone.

Toss this guy in a cell, and never let the prick out. When tomorrow's verdict is given of whether he is guilty of 'culpable homicide' - essentially manslaughter via negligence - bury him and throw away the key. Domestic violence is an issue that already has such skewed misconceptions that it is more important than ever that any case with a media spotlight on it be handled well and here's why:

  • Domestic violence in most countries primarily affects women.
  • It's recognition as primarily a woman's issue however means that funding and support services for it disproportionately service women.
  • The societal perception of 'women only victims' and 'male only perpetrators' means that men affected by domestic violence recieve almost no public recognition, no voice, no support and are often ridiculed.

What does disproportionate look like? In Britain around 35% of Domestic Violence victims are male. There are over 4000 shelters for victims of domestic violence in Britain.  Eleven of them cater to men (Some stats on British domestic violence).*

In America a misconception that refuses to die is that 22-35% of women admitted to the emergency ward are there for domestic violence related issues - it's actually less than 0.05%
(source 'Time Magazine').  America actually suffers similar numbers to Australia (1 in 3) as to which gender is the target of Domestic violence and has a similar number of support services as Britian for victims (around 4000 centres) with almost none of them catering to assist men (source Web MD).

In Australia 1 in 3 victims of domestic violence are male (source 'one in three campaign'). I have no idea what the numbers of support services are here in Australia, but what I can tell you is how it is received.

When I was a young man I desperately wanted a strong, equal partner.  I couldn't understand how anyone would want to raise a family with a human being that you couldn't be certain would be fine to raise your kids without you, in the event that you died (my family has a bad luck history of men getting killed. I am one of three surviving sons, there were five). At that age I often confused 'strong' with 'angry'. The outcome was one of my girlfriends getting drunk and punching me in the face.  My girlfriend was 5'4'',  I'm 5'10'' and I weighed twice what the girl did... I was unfortunately at that moment standing on the lip of the top of  a flight of stairs...  As I was not exactly expecting to be punched in the face by my partner, I ended up falling down the flight of stairs.

She was very apologetic once I hit the bottom,  She explained thgat she hadn't meant to actually connect, she just wanted to scare me with the punch but she was drunk and -

... does this story sound familiar?  It's basically the same one you hear of every battered woman and yes like most of them, I stayed (and no this was not the last or only incident). The difference is this:

When I tell people that story - men laugh, and women ask what I did to upset my girlfriend that much.  While victim-blaming is common in female domestic abuse stories, following that victim-blaming with jokes that make the victim the butt of ridicule is not.  That should tell you a lot about how domestic violence against men is perceived particularly here in Australia, a land over-run by male gender role.

When people like Oscar Pistorius go free, it reinforces the idea that we live in a patriarchal society, that the laws and decisions handed down by 'authority' are done in a fashion that promotes the best interests of men, that our society preferences men over women.  Take a look at those figures on support for male domestic violence victims - the men at the top are not making decisions that help or favor the men at the bottom;  'men' are not a united consensus working in tandem.

But when you look at cases like Oscar's - it sure as hell looks that way doesn't it?

*The source for this was a televised piece of British news as part of something called 'The Everyday Sexism Project' so unfortunately I don't have a link to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment