I learned a new term, intimate femicide, and it’s been haunting me ever since. Reeva Steenkamp – ring a bell? She’s a young South African woman who was shot dead by her boyfriend/lover Oscar Pistorius on Valentine’s Day of this year. Reeva was a drop dead, incredibly sexy model and a rising star. She happened to have a law degree and spoke up against violence against women. Oscar is an Olympic sprint runner who happens to be a double amputee who lost his legs before he entered toddlerhood due to a congenital illness. He reminds me of Lance Armstrong – a man everyone so badly wants to believe in.
Oscar killed this woman, of that there is no doubt. His defense is he woke up in the middle of the night, thought there was a burglar in the house, and shot him three times. Then, realizing he had killed his girlfriend, broke the door down to the toilet with a cricket bat, held her, and called an ambulance. According to nearly everything I read on the Internet and in magazines, this was a crime of passion. This woman was murdered intentionally, and this sports hero is just some maniac on steroids.
According to this month’s Vanity Fair article covering this story, a South African woman is killed every 8 hours in what is known as “intimate femicide,” a murder committed by a spouse or partner. Every 8 hours. The term runs through my head and I just can’t seem to get over it. I think about this woman locked in the toilet in the middle of the night, cell phone in hand, probably begging for her life. And I wonder what it felt like to know that in the end there wasn’t hope and that she was going to die. I am willing to admit her beauty plays into this. How can someone so gorgeous and vibrant just, poof, go away? Many of the articles I’ve read cite Reeva’s Twitter and Facebook accounts – both still open. It’s haunting.
My life goes on as normal, but I’ll admit I’m preoccupied with this whole thing. As the story relates to South Africa, it seems like the Wild West. Terribly violent and corrupt. That’s no secret. I wonder if there is a lot of anger and shame over this. Are citizens incensed over this? What parts of the story get lost in translation between the African continent and mine? And I wonder if this murder will mean something. I think it will. After all, it took one woman’s death halfway across the world to inform me of intimate femicide, which I will certainly never forget. Reeva Steenkamp apparently spoke about the importance of an exit. How terrible the circumstances of her death – maybe there’s some truth.