James Ellroy, best-selling author, was ten years old when his mother was raped, murdered and dumped on the side of the road near Los Angeles. Ellroy ended up a homeless drug addict until he turned his life around. His book My Dark Places chronicles his work with LA cold case detective Bill Stoner. In his decades of experience, Stoner has come to the conclusion that, generally, women kill men to stop the abuse. Men kill women over a scorched grilled cheese. (He said it better than that; but, you get the idea.) Of course, there are some women who are just as deadly as men; however, statistically, women are more often the victims in domestic violence cases. The man who raped and murdered Ellroy’s mother was never caught. Her son was the only one who paid dearly for her death … and he had nothing to do with it.
The Price to Be Paid
Reeva Steenkamp paid with her life for dating Pistorius. As tragic as that is, the fact is that Reeva’s suffering is over. However, the suffering of those who love her continues with every day and every breath. They continue to pay the price.
One of my favorite authors is Peter Tremayne (penname of Peter Beresford Ellis) who writes the Sister Fidelma mysteries set in 7th century Ireland. Tremayne is an Irish historian who stealthily and shamelessly inserts educational information into his fiction. I was fascinated by how the ancient legal system dealt with murder and the whole Pistorius situation brought it to mind.
In 7th century Ireland, a murderer was required to pay the family of their victim an honor price which was based on the victim’s standing in the community. Obviously, the honor price of a king would be much greater than that of a farm worker. Whatever the price, though, the murderer had to pay it. If they could not or would not, they would be turned over to the family of their victim. The family then had three choices: 1. await payment, 2. sell the murderer into slavery, or, 3. kill them. If the family chose to kill the murderer, there could be no penalty exacted on them. But what if the murderer fled?
In that event, the family launched a blood feud (although I’m still foggy on exactly what this means) and the murderer became an outlaw. Being an outlaw did not mean that the murderer had no respect for the law (that had already been clearly demonstrated), rather, it meant that the outlaw lived outside the protection of the law. Anyone could do anything to an outlaw with complete impunity. No outlaw could hide behind the very laws he broke.
This ancient practice was brought to mind specifically when I read that Pistorius had offered Steenkamp’s family a one time payment of 375,000 rand (roughly $33,154 ). Steenkamp’s mother refused the “blood money;” but, citing economic hardship, she did accept monthly payments of 6,000 rand (or 530.46) from Pistorius. When considering these figures, I cannot help but imagine that during the very early days of their relationship, Pistorius told Steenkamp how special and valuable she was to him. Well, it turns out she really wasn’t all that valuable. She was really kind of a bargain at $33K.
Tragically, many women aren’t worth even that much to their partners, their communities or their governments. They are decorations and props to be controlled emotionally, physically and sexually.
And that’s what makes my blood boil.