This post is written by Senior Fellow Nancy Cabelus, DNP, MSN, RN, is an international forensic nurse consultant currently working with Physicians for Human Rights on a program addressing sexual violence in conflict zones in central and east Africa.
I am sure that many shared my feelings of sadness and disappointment after hearing that Olympic champion Oscar Pistorius was accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steencamp on Valentine’s day. The incident reportedly happened in Pistorius’ luxury South African home when Pistorius repeatedly fired a gun through a bathroom door at what he allegedly believed was a home intruder. Pistorius was arrested and released on bail and is restricted from re-entering his home, an active crime scene.
Pistorius, a double leg amputee who runs on carbon fiber blades, is nick named the “Blade Runner”. Just months ago Pistorius competed in the London Olympics where he won 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal as a sprint runner. Reeva Steencamp, a model and aspiring reality TV star reportedly spent the night at Pistorius’ home before an intended business trip the next day. Witnesses stated that they had heard arguing in the hours before Pistorius called the police to report that he had shot his girlfriend.
What makes this case sensational is that the crime was committed against a glamorous young model allegedly by an Olympic athlete who had won the world over as a physically disabled champion and an awe- inspiring human being. What makes this case terribly common is that it is yet another apparent act of domestic violence committed against a woman by an intimate partner… a case about a young woman who was tragically and senselessly killed, taken from her family, and stripped of her life by a man with a violent streak.
South Africa has the highest rate of women killed by an intimate partner according to a South Africa Medical Research Council report. Professor Rachel Jewkes reports that homicide rates have dropped in South Africa but the number of women killed by intimate partners has increased.
While the media will not have knowledge of all the facts, information and evidence while the investigation is ongoing, the media has informed the public that the lead investigator in this homicide case has resigned with the possibility of facing negligent homicide charges of his own. News reports have indicated that neighbors heard shouting and gunshots but failed to call the police. This is likely because there have previous accounts of disturbances at the Pistorius residence. Domestic violence has apparently become normalized even in nice neighborhoods in Johannesburg, South Africa.
As a former police detective and a forensic nurse, I have a lot of questions for Mr. Pistorius. I am sure the officers investigating the case have many questions, too. Until the investigation is complete and the case goes to trial, we can only speculate what happened. For those who can’t wait to find out, DStv in South Africa will be airing “Oscar Pistorius: What really happened” on March 24, 2013 at 20:55 hours.
Written by Nancy Cabelus