Pistorius Trial Casts Spotlight on Violence


Take a superhuman athlete who has overcome all odds to become the darling of the Olympics and the press, and you have Oscar Pistorius. Then take a beautiful, blonde supermodel and you have Reeva Steenkamp. Pair them up, and you have a super-couple – for a while.

Then something goes wrong. Couples split all the time, but in this case, the split turns fatal. Ms. Steenkamp lies shot to death in her boyfriend’s home, and he is accused of murder. The case goes to trial in Mr. Pistorius’ native South Africa, and the former media darling finds himself fighting for his life in a trial that’s playing on the world’s stage. Did he or didn’t he? Only time will tell if a jury finds him guilty or innocent of murder.

Ironically, some aspects of this trial recall memories of the OJ Simpson trial. No matter what the verdict, some members of the public will always believe in Mr. Pistorius’ guilt, and others will always believe he was innocent. Beyond that, the trial is a microcosm of the two major issues plaguing our times: domestic violence and neighborhood violence. If one believes Mr. Pistorius is guilty, then the spotlight is cast on domestic violence. If one believes he is innocent, this means that he justifiably shot his girl-friend, believing her to be an intruder. Hence, neighborhood violence.

A key issue in the trial: why did he have a gun at all? The defense argues that Mr. Pistorius was worried about intruders and kept guns in the house – even though he lives in a protected, tightly-secured complex which has never had a break-in. The prosecution, on the other hand, argues that women are routinely attacked and killed by their domestic partners. They claim that was the situation here. Whether the shooting was accidental or not, one thing is certain: jealousy and guns can too easily become a lethal combination. We all like to believe that in our romantic lives, we are safe from harm. Those can be fatal assumptions.


About Gemma Allen

Gemma Allen is a partner in Ladden & Allen, Chartered, and has practiced family law for most of her career. Ms. Allen has written more than 50 articles and lectured on topics that include divorce, child support, maintenance, mediation, cohabitation, women and money, and reconciliation. She co-authored The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On! and helps you navigate modern relationships in “Relationship Gems.”