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Her Name Was Reeva Steenkamp

October 26, 2014

Reeva Steenkamp

The following article is by Kat Lister a Freelance journalist and writer living in London…

I’m going to start by naming the victim. Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. I’m starting with Reeva because, like so many female victims of violence and abuse, her name has been lost, worse still: voluntarily disregarded.

In a Twittersphere where language is edited and words counted and capped, it is language that has most shocked me today, the day that Oscar Pistorious was sentenced to five years for the ‘culpable homicide’ of his girlfriend, Reeva. He will probably only serve 10 months.

If you think the South African judiciary system has failed Reeva, it has company: language has failed her too. It fails women time and time again.

In South Africa, a woman is killed by domestic violence on average every eight hours. In the UK, on average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner. Yet how often do we speak their names?

This very question racked my brain when reading today’s Guardian piece entitled ‘Oscar Pistorius should not be going to jail’. I had to read it twice, thrice and then again. I read it out loud, I read it in my head, I shouted it at my husband for good measure.

‘Men such as Pistorius have had their lives ruined…’ There it was again. Perhaps I was reading out of context, I thought? I kept reading, Simon Jenkins kept omitting: ‘…No one will be more or less “deterred” by the length of his jail sentence.

Finding why he behaved as he did, and working to prevent others doing likewise, would be the most useful outcome of his crime.’

His jail sentence, his crime, his life, his guilt. The language of the perpetrator is everywhere, yet the language of the victim is nowhere to be found. 439 words and Reeva isn’t named once, referred to singularly at the beginning with poetic abandon:

‘He killed his girlfriend.’ What we have here is an insensitively-timed rumination on prison reform at the expense of a ‘girlfriend’

Simon Jenkins didn’t even have the consideration to name. Spectacular timing in a year when it was revealed around 90% of all reports of domestic violence to police forces in England and Wales are taken no further.

I would love to conclude that Simon Jenkins’ words are an isolated occurrence, but I know the truth is that they aren’t.

You only have to google the name ‘Ched Evans’ to realise it is the male narrative that dominates our media outlets. The former Sheffield United striker was jailed in 2012 after being convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel.

Over the last few weeks following his subsequent release, our language has once again been saturated with ‘he’: His jail sentence, his life, his proclaimed innocence.

Another victim lost, another headline: ‘Like all rapists, Ched Evans will never be really free’.

The same could be said for Ched’s 22-year-old victim, forced to change her name and move house after her true identity was outed by internet trolls.

Ched’s victim was named 6,000 times alongside labels such as ‘slag’, ‘tramp’, ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’. If we’re discussing freedom, one might consider lifelong anonymity and online abuse the real prison here.

So why is her freedom less of a consideration than his? When will the narrative change?

There are some days when ‘hashtag feminism’ seems insubstantial to me and I question its value. Like so many of us, sometimes I forget about the collective power of words when it’s preceded by a hashtag.

Not today. There is a reason why #HerNameWasReevaSteenkamp is trending today and it has nothing to do with commercial gain and everything to do with remembering there is a ‘she’ who lost her voice on Valentines Day and her name was Reeva Steenkamp.

Her life, her death, her name. Let’s not forget her.

 

 

 

 

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. TB Queensland permalink
    October 26, 2014 10:27 am

    Powerful stuff, well done for putting this up, sreb …

    … it was revealed around 90% of all reports of domestic violence to police forces in England and Wales are taken no further

    And no-one knows how many are NOT reported!

    I grew up in the household of a wife beater and to this day I can’t understand why no-one … not a family member, no friends, no-one did anything about it …

    I finally stopped my old man when I was about 23/4 … I got a phone call and raced to my parents home, Mum was huddled in the corner of the kitchen covered in blood – he’d heard her making the call and started into her again …

    I shoved him up against a wall with my forearm across his throat and told him, “If you ever touch, Mum again, I’ll fucking kill you” … he never did … but she wouldn’t tell anyone … my sister (seven years my junior) still denies he ever did anything … he used to beat the crap out of me as kid but didn’t touch her …

    My first attempt at stopping him was actually funny in hindsight … I was 11 … he was pissed and I just charged at him … he was standing in front of a crate of Babycham bottles and went A over T backwards … I can recall now standing there and getting really scared at what I’d done … strangely there was no retaliation – in fact it wasn’t discussed – ever.

    I guess my point is that there are far more incidents than those reported to the police and not actioned …

    And there is far too much denial and protection for the bastards!

    (Apologies to those who may have read this tale before but I still get angry about it – both my parents are now long gone)

  2. Tom R permalink
    October 26, 2014 10:42 am

    And there is far too much denial and protection for the bastards!

    Too right. And I don’t see it changing any time soon, with one of the main reasons being societies general tolerance about it (shit happens?) and the issue highlighted in the article above

    And personally I like reading your anecdotes TB, so don’t apologise to me.

  3. TB Queensland permalink
    October 26, 2014 2:07 pm

    Thanks, TR … I often wonder (I have been … erm … chastised in the past …) 🙂

    Would be good if more people spoke out about it … The Minister’s sister had the same problem … she used to come round and tell us what had happened … I’d had a couple of discreet “discussions” with my B/I/L (for her sake) … but she fixed the bugger … she threatened him with a bloody great sabre they had behind the lounge (long story) ..

  4. armchair opinionator permalink
    October 26, 2014 10:34 pm

    Thank you for this post reb.

    yes, her name was reeva.

    All I can see is a smart, gorgeous young woman, radiant and full of young life.

    That a man can feel he has the right to snuff out such a bright flame because of his own inadequacies is just a shameful indictment of culture and society.

    Nothing in that court case convinced me that pistorius shot her by accident and if he manages to reclaim his career, sponsorships and business deals after 10 months in protected prison, it will be a travesty of justice.

    I liked this tweeted headline about a high profile wedding.

  5. October 27, 2014 7:11 am

    You’re welcome AO… 🙂

  6. armchair opinionator permalink
    October 27, 2014 11:47 pm

  7. Tom R permalink
    October 28, 2014 8:25 am

    I have been … erm … chastised in the past …

    Yea, but was it by anyones whose opinion you care about? 😉

  8. October 29, 2014 11:31 am

    ””there is far too much denial and protection for the bastards!””

    #ditto tomr/tb (there`s a lot of it going around on all topics)
    ______________

    ””Ched’s 22-year-old victim, forced to change her name and move house after her true identity was outed by internet trolls.

    Ched’s victim was named 6,000 times alongside labels such as ‘slag’, ‘tramp’, ‘bitch’ and ‘whore””

    #there seems to be too many sick fcuks around, all too willing to spread `hate`, lies and intimidate. Don`t they know that`s canberra`s job.?
    _____________

    Nice find reb-a-roo 🙂

  9. TB Queensland permalink
    October 29, 2014 3:12 pm

    Yea, but was it by anyones whose opinion you care about?

    I’ll get back to you … 😉

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