This was my exact reaction after reading Oscar’s affidavit on Feb. 19. Until his official version of the incident came out, I was holding back on forming an opinion, as I said. But when I realized I could potentially believe his version, my paradigm shifted. I had been so focused on Reeva – and rightfully so – that I hadn’t even been able to attempt to empathize with Oscar. I experienced some very strange emotions that day; the whole situation is so tragic it’s like a mindfuck to even try to comprehend. Still, based on the established facts regarding that night, I can believe that Oscar made a horrendously stupid and ultimately fatal mistake in a moment of panic. I am less inclined to believe he decided to murder someone he cared for and simultaneously destroy his career over an argument. As improbable as Oscar’s statement is, I find the accusation of premeditated murder more far-fetched. As Mary Carillo said, I feel heartsick over the entire case.
I know lots of people disagree with me, and I’m going to address that in this post. Please hit the jump and read the whole thing before responding to it in any way. Anyone addressing this post without reading it will be wasting time. (TL;DR? Fine, just move on.)
I realize that my opinion carries little if any significance in the media shitstorm following this case. As a side note about that, I’ve found The Guardian to be the best resource for comprehensive and balanced coverage. All the articles about the case/hearing are categorized as they should be - under “Reeva Steenkamp shooting.”
Listen, I’m a feminist – a proud, unapologetic one. I understand the feminist response to a(nother) story about a man killing his girlfriend, because I experienced a version of that response myself. As soon as the news broke on the morning of Feb. 14, I was exponentially more horrified that a woman was dead at the hands of someone she presumably loved and trusted than at the fact that someone I had deeply admired was charged with that same killing. I texted a good friend I met through this blog and said, “Oh my god, did you hear about Reeva? I’m in shock.” I was more than skeptical of the rumored “intruder” excuse, and I advocated for the victim. The only thing I tweeted that day was #JusticeForReeva, and you’ll remember that I used the same hashtag in my post here. I still stand by that hashtag and my subsequent statement that Reeva’s death is the tragedy in all this. In fact, I feel certain that Oscar would agree with that.
I respect everyone who is advocating for Reeva. I am also advocating for Reeva. I understand the importance of advocating for the victim and her loved ones. But I don’t believe that advocating for her means that I must condemn him, just as I don’t believe that advocating for him means I care less about her death. I can’t accept that being a feminist means never advocating for a man. I’m relieved that he was granted bail, giving him this time with his family before the trial.
Let me be clear that I’m not saying Oscar is “innocent.” As we all know, the question is not “did he kill her,” but “did he INTEND to kill her.” And for now, I believe the answer is no. I don’t know, but I believe. The possibility of the charge dropping to “culpable homicide” has come up a few times. Culpable homicide describes a killing where the individual should have logically foreseen that his/her actions would lead to the other person’s death even though he/she didn’t intend or want to kill that person. Based on that definition, I don’t think anyone could argue that Oscar isn’t guilty of culpable homicide.
I have been repeatedly alarmed and confused, if hardly surprised, by the way it seems so easy for so many people to label him a murderer when prosecution’s case was anything but convincing. (It’s worth noting that plenty of others have supported Oscar from the first day, regardless of the fact that they’ve never met him, and I don’t fully understand that either.) The since-removed police detective Hilton Botha even admitted during cross-examination that he had no evidence to refute Oscar’s statement. Some people latch onto Oscar’s purported propensity for violent/aggressive behavior even though the prosecution failed to provide anything more than anecdotal evidence for that claim. Lots of people even believed the completely bogus “steroids” and “head bashing” claims without so much as two more seconds of reading (say it with me: headlines are not the news). Again and again, it seems like lots of people want him to be guilty.
It made me wonder: why is it so easy for so many people to believe the worst about someone? Why is it so easy to hate? Based on my own roller-coaster experience of this case, I have a theory about why some people are so eager to believe that this was a murder: outrage is easier than heartache. Here’s an analogy: Imagine hearing a story on the news about a man who purposefully set his dog on fire, resulting in the dog burning to death. Feel that emotion. Now imagine that you hear about a man killing his dog, but because he forgot to lock the gate and didn’t know the dog had come out of the backyard and was standing behind his truck when he pulled out of the driveway, and then he held it and cried as it breathed its last breath. Now feel THAT emotion. The first one would make me furious and horrified. The second one made me cry while I was writing it.
From the time the news broke, I was considering the possibility that the Oscar we thought we loved and supported was just a facade for the cameras and reporters, with a much more sinister and dangerous person underneath. That was extremely unsettling, but if his account of what happened is the truth, that is exponentially more gut-wrenching. If Oscar isn’t the villain in this story, it means that the same guy we cheered for last summer mistakenly pointed a gun at a woman he loved and killed her. It’s such a stupid, tragic mistake that I would likely dismiss as unrealistic if I saw it on TV or read it in a book. But real life IS stupid and tragic.