Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Who, exactly, is the victim here?

I have read a lot of novels. I like reading. So I may be forgiven for wondering if the Guardian had accidentally published the first page of a novel instead of its article on the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, who shot Reeva Steenkamp dead.

Let’s start with the title: “Oscar Pistorius’s emotional apology to Reeva Steenkamp’s unmoved mother”. Let’s not forget that this is a man on trial for murder. Why should he expect his victim’s mother to be “moved” at his words? And for all I know, Mr Pistorius could be a consummate actor – the issue of how “emotional” he may or may not be now is irrelevant to the issue of what happened when he shot Ms Steenkamp.

The Guardian article goes on. It reminds us that Pistorius is a successful athlete, who has “thrilled stadiums”. What bearing does this have on the case? Are successful athletes less likely to be guilty of murder? It tells us his voice “quivered and cracked”, that his voice was “tremulous and boyish”. This strikes me as being a blatant attempt at garnering sympathy for Pistorius by painting an image of innocent naivety and heartfelt remorse. I need not remind you that Reeva Steenkamp’s voice can no longer be heard, can no longer be tremulous or joyous or however she might choose – and whether or not he is found guilty of murder, there is no dispute that Pistorius is directly responsible for her death. Why does the Guardian not tell us simply “Pistorius stated/ said”.

We are told that Pistorius is “fighting back tears” – a clear value judgement, as the journalist has no way of knowing whether Pistorius was really close to tears or not – perhaps he is just good at projecting an image of himself.

All we learn about June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, is that she was “impassive”. Not “understandably impassive”, or “unable to express her grief in the face of her daughter’s killer” or anything else, considering the emotive language employed for Pistorius, just “impassive”. Compare that with “Pistorius’s despondent figure” or “the devastating effect” Ms Steenkamp’s death has had on him. Devastating effect? The article is accompanied by a picture of June Steenkamp that to me shows a woman filled with grief – consider the “devastating effect” on her, if not on the victim herself. Impassive does not come to mind. Emotive, sympathetic language for the perpetrator, disregard for the victim.

Has journalism ever been objective? Or are all articles this lacking in balance?

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2 thoughts on “Who, exactly, is the victim here?

  • Hecuba says:

    The Guardian article is not objective reporting, rather it is a deliberate attempt to persuade the female/male reader that the actions/behaviour of Oscar Pistorius are justified.

    Pistorius is on trial for the crime of murder and yet Guardian report engages in a subjective article wherein it is the writer’s views which are promoted.

    This is not objective neutral reporting of a court case but a clear attempt to erase the facts. It is irrelevant that Pistorius was supposedly ‘fighting back tears.’ The correct terminology is Pistorius was crying as he gave evidence and this phrase merely reports the facts not an individual writer’s personal view.

    Pistorius’s personal career history is irrelevant and not evidence therefore it should not have been reported by this biased journalist. The journalist needs to undertake training in how to report court cases from an impartial and factual standpoint.

  • Red says:

    Great article and observations, nothing like an emotive newspaper article to try and sway the readers. This is not journalism.