Tag Archives: violence against women

What’s She Worth? (Part 5)

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.

rockofcashel25In 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.


What’s She Worth? (Part 4)

So, yesterday, we talked a little bit about why women stay and the reason that they give over and over is fear – fear of being alone, fear that their abuser is right and that they are worthless, fear of not being able to make it financially and, of course, fear of violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some sort of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. One in five women and one in seven men have experienced some severe physical violence at the hands that intimate partner. Think of all the people you know, then plug those formulae in. Kind of shocking when you think of it that way, huh? You probably don’t know just one person who has been the object of violence, you probably know several. But, regular reader, even if you really don’t think you know anyone, you know me; so, yes, you do know one.

The Goddess is One

abused goddessSeveral years ago, I dated a man (we’ll call him Michael on account of that was his name) for just a few months. The relationship wasn’t really serious; but, it was fun. Although he was a burly guy, he had never hurt me or been aggressive in any way; he was just a guy. One evening we had plans to get together and cook dinner at his place. He had been out playing golf all afternoon and drinking beer; but, I thought nothing of that since I’ve spent lots of time with people who both golf and drink beer and have never had a problem. When I got there, I noticed that his behavior was a little more aggressive than usual; but, I didn’t think a whole lot about it. After dinner, though, things got a little weird and, eventually, very bad. I won’t go into the details because you don’t need to know them all and, frankly, I don’t want to relive them all. Suffice it to say that he assaulted me.

Now, MANY years ago, I took a women’s self-defense class that I called my Wednesday night kick and scream. It was fantastic and was very instrumental in getting me through this episode. After the initial shock, I was able to return to a relatively calm mental state and assess the situation. Could I defend myself? What would happen if I tried? I determined that I would be unable to incapacitate him and would likely only enrage him with my efforts; so, I switched gears. You see, I knew that there was a loaded handgun in a drawer that was very near to him, but too far away from me. I didn’t want to give him a reason to reach for it; so, I watched my own behavior to see what I did that made him worse and I stopped doing those things. I told myself over and over that all I had to do was to get home. And, get home, I did.

And I did not file a police report.

Before you get all indignant, you need to know that he left no visible marks on me that could not be explained. In the end, it would have been his word against mine, and although I’m sure I could have made him leave marks that would have bolstered my story, I was afraid to. So, I just left and told him the next day (from a safe distance) that he was never to contact me again in any way. He knew where I lived and, for months, I was terrified that he would be waiting for me when I got home from work after dark. In fact, I often ran from my car to the front door. However, I was one of the lucky ones, he never came after me.

For far too many women (and men) this is not the case – their abuser stalks them. In the case of one woman I know, her abuser stalked her for years! He terrorized her on the subway, walking down the sidewalk, around her work and her home. He never let her forget that he was there. One in seven women and one in thirteen men have been stalked by a former intimate partner in such a way that they feared for their own safety or for the safety of those they loved.

So, think again of all the people that you know. Many of them have lived this nightmare; but, no one around them has any idea. We don’t talk about it and because we don’t talk about it, the abusers live freely in the silence.

What’s She Worth? (Part 3)

Oscar Pistorius’s own friends described his temper as volatile. They gave testimony regarding him firing guns in public, once in a restaurant. Maybe they’re telling the truth, maybe they aren’t. I don’t know. All we do know is that he killed her and that he says it was by mistake. (You can read his statement here.) The couple had been dating for four months. Steenkamp’s mother says that her daughter’s bags were packed and that she was leaving the man who killed her. If, as her mother claims, Steenkamp was afraid of Pistorius, why didn’t she leave before? Why did she stay? Why does any woman stay?

stay or goThat Doesn’t Happen In Real Life

While watching the movie Sarah’s Key, my son asked me why the Parisian Jews meekly went to the Vélodrome d’Hiver to eventually be sent to concentration camps and killed. Why didn’t they fight back? Because what was going to happen to them was unthinkable. The Jews had been displaced and despised before; so, many of them were prepared for that. They sewed their valuables into the hems of their clothes preparing to having nothing but literally the clothes on their back to start over with; but, they certainly didn’t expect to be exterminated. I mean, who would? That doesn’t even make sense in a civilized society that people would be rounded up like that and murdered. Of course, if the same thing were to happen now, the response would be different. It’s been done before; so, it’s thinkable. Like on 9/11: it was unthinkable that aircraft would be used as missiles; so, there was no resistance on the first three planes. The passengers on the fourth plane knew what had happened to the others and they resisted.

I think that the same kind of thinking goes into situations of domestic violence. None of us has ever been killed before; so, we don’t really think that anyone we know would kill anyone and certain that they wouldn’t kill us. But, it’s not that simple.

Abusers don’t start relationships being abusive. There is a definite pattern to how they go about isolating and tearing down their victims. By the time the actual beatings start, the victim often believe they deserve it. They believe that they have no place to go, that no one will take them in. They may have no money or they may be too embarrassed to seek help. More often than not, they are just too scared.

They are scared to stay; but, scared to leave. After all, what protection does the law really afford them? Newspapers and televisions are full of stories of women who left their abusive partners only to be killed by them shortly thereafter. I’ve attached a video of the Dixie Chicks’ very bouncy “Good-bye, Earl.” Its tell us that after Wanda filed for divorce, “Earl walked right through that restraining order and put her in intensive care.” It’s catchy and it’s sadly true. According to one report, 75% of women who are killed by their partners are killed after they leave. According to another, a woman is 70 times more likely to be killed by her partner in the two weeks after she leaves that at any other time in the relationship. By those metrics, the woman is safer if she stays!

Fear, folks. Plain and simple. Fear is why most women stay and the fear is not only real, statistically, it’s valid. The woman is right to be afraid. She’s literally betting her life on him letting her go.

And even if he physically lets her go, the fear is ever present. For one friend of mine, it’s still there 28 years later.

What can create a fear that paralysing? I’ll share my own limited experience with you tomorrow.


What’s She Worth? (Part 2)

Reeva Steenkamp – model and Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend. That’s all we know about her – well, in the States, at least. Maybe in South Africa the media has given more information about her than just those surface facts; but, in my searches, I haven’t found it. I really would have hoped to have found several articles about her – about who she was, what she accomplished and what she dreamed. Instead, I found lots of ink labelling her a model and, thus, essentially dismissing her. She becomes a cardboard cutout and, thus, nothing more than a supporting cast member in the life of paralympian hero Pistorius.

I’m not sure which urge is stronger for me at this point: to gag or to sob at the tragedy of this.

henry6warwickFirst Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

Perhaps Pistorius is a fan of Shakespeare’s Henry, VI (Part 2) and agrees with Dick when he makes this pronouncement in Scene 2 of Act 4….. Nah, I don’t think so, either. Still, Steenkamp was more than a supporting cast member. She had a favorite color, a favorite food, a favorite song. She had a mother who adored her. She was a full-on human being with all that entails. She actually was a lawyer, having graduated with a law degree from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Now, I don’t know if South African law degrees are the same as ours in the US and, while I can find statements saying that she was studying for the bar and working as a paralegal, I cannot find any that say that she actually passed the bar or practiced law as an attorney. Regardless, I’m fairly certain that their law degrees aren’t handed out like handi-wipes at Buffalo Wild Wings any more than ours are. The woman had a brain in her head and, before she turned to modeling and television, she worked to get that degree. And, according to a friend, how did she plan on using it? By helping victims of domestic violence.

Is that irony or just a really bad cosmic joke?

In addition to being an intelligent woman, she was a determined one. While in her early 20s, she was injured in a horse riding accident. She broke her back and had to learn to walk again. That takes some grit! Never having had to learn to walk after a broken back myself, I did a little research. Not in any piece I read did I find the words “easy,” “painless,” or “quick.” Recovering from those injuries takes a lot of time, a great deal of determination and dedication. The process is grueling and painful. And it’s a process that this “supporting cast member” survived.

Recently, Steenkamp’s mother June has opened up about some things her daughter told her (or, in the effort to be unbiased, things she says that her daughter told her). She says that although Reeva had been seeing Oscar for four months and was sleeping at his house, the two did not have a sexual relationship. June says that Reeva was uncomfortable taking the relationship to that level and, in fact, was going to leave Oscar when he killed her. June says that Reeva’s bags were packed which backs up her claim.

Even if June is incorrect and is stating more of what she wants to be true than what actually is true (and I’m not saying anything either way since I know only what I read), one does wonder why a woman who had been passionate about helping victims of domestic abuse would stay in a relationship with a man who has been described by his own friends as moody and who had a well-documented history of firing guns in public.

Why didn’t she just leave?

We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

What’s She Worth? (Part 1)

Fair warning: I’ve had the subject of a woman’s value on my mind for a few weeks now and I’m going to share my thoughts with you over the next few days. I’ve been trying let my thoughts settle and gel into one cohesive post; but, they’re jut not doing it. My thoughts are coming from several directions and just won’t boil down to 700 words or less. While I not a professional writer, I have learned not to try to wrestle my thoughts into submission. I have to let the story tell itself or else I’m not happy with it at all. Thus, I’m just going to put my thoughts down in the way they’ve been demanding and we’ll just go from there.

audrey-on-seat_395On The Face Of It

Renee Zellweger was the talk of the internet recently when she showed at at an event looking quite different from before. Now, bear in mind that she’s been out of the limelight for a little while now; so, it’s not like there were photos from last week to compare to. A few years have passed; but, there was a great deal of speculation about what kind of work she might have had done and popular opinion seems to be that she had an eyelid lift or some such thing. One talking head at TMZ seemed to lament the change in her eyes, saying, “This is the thing that made Renee Zellweger herself.”  Really.

You may be surprised to hear that I am a big fan of Russell Brand. While his style of expression is certainly different from my own, I think the man is brilliant and I certainly would not want to be the focus of that razor brain of his. In response to the talking head, Russell lampooned that it was, indeed, her eyes that made Zellweger herself,  “not any kind of essential relationship with an unknowable entity, not her personal experiences that she’s been through, not her talent or her charm, or her individual experiences as a woman. It’s her eyes. That’s what made her herself.” (I’ve attached the video where Russell sounds off below. It’s brilliant. Check it out.)

Certainly, Zellweger is an actress and, as such, is judged largely on her appearance; however, this whole hoopla reduces her to even less  than a cardboard cutout. She is just the eyes of a cardboard cutout. I’ve seen several of her films and have to say the the Bridget Jones ones usually mentioned with her are probably my least favorites. She was great in One True Thing, Deceiver, White Oleander and Chicago. And, honestly, she made Cold Mountain for me. Without her character Ruby, that just would have been two hours of my life I’ll never get back! My point is this: the woman is talented and is more than just the eyes of a cardboard cutout.

Another woman who has been reduced to a single dimension is Reeva Steenkamp. Think about the news reports. What do you know about her?

  1. She was a model.
  2. She was dating Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius.
  3. She was hiding in the bathroom when Oscar shot her to death.

Three things – and two of them are related to Pistorius and have little to do with Steenkamp herself! So. She was a model. That’s it. She was a pretty face and nothing more. Except that she was more. Her murder and his sentencing are what started this whole line of thought in my head. I’ll share more about that with you tomorrow.