Another Star Athlete Gets Away with Gender-Based Violence as Pistorius Found Not Guilty of Murder

Oscar Pistorius has been found not guilty of the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in a lengthy verdict, despite the judge calling him a “very poor” and “evasive witness,” the Daily Mail reported.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said there were not enough facts to support a finding of murder, but she felt Pistorius was negligent in the shooting death of his girlfriend, raising a possibility that he will be convicted of culpable homicide or a negligent killing charge which could carry a 25-year-sentence.

The verdict once again highlights the prevalence of violence against women by sports stars and raises the question of when society is going to stop tolerating this deeply entrenched culture of impunity when it comes to domestic abuse.

This week the NFL came under fire for initially suspending Ray Rice for a mere two games when it was clear he had abused his then girlfriend, Janay Palmer. The league banned him only after a graphic video surfaced showing footage of the Ravens star knocking Palmer unconscious with a single blow during an argument in an elevator. 

Despite the fact that Ray Rice's contract has been terminated following national outrage over the video, his actions have been defended in sports media and by the men’s rights movement, which blames Palmer for the assault. Ironically, while Rice has remained silent, Palmer has been criticized for her actions, as well as for apologizing for the incident.

Meanwhile, across the shores in South Africa, the whole world has been transfixed by the murder trial of para-Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year. The prosecution has long asserted that the star athlete intentionally killed Reeva Steenkamp after an argument, which ended in his firing four shots through the bathroom door in his home. Pistorius has repeatedly said he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder.

Like Rice, Pistorius’ violent temper toward women has also been excused in the media and in the courtroom, on the grounds that he had a troubled childhood, despite numerous heated text message exchanges between the couple clearly showing Pistorius had a jealous and possessive nature and demonstrated consistent patterns of abusive behavior. A website titled "Support for Oscar" portrays him as a hero.

As Huffpost sums up, the similarities between the two cases don’t end there. Both clearly illustrate how sports and media culture work together to ensure that those who perpetrate violence against women are seen to be the underdogs, while the real victims, like Janay Palmer and Reeva Steenkamp, continue to be victimized.

“Ray Rice and Oscar Pistorius are bound by high-profile domestic violence incidents—both ended with the loss of a career; one ended with the loss of a woman's life. How many more times are we going to watch this happen and have the same tired, discussion about who is to blame instead of what's to blame and fixing the problem?” Nsenga Burton writes.

It is a valid question. Until society decides to care more about the lives of women rather than the enjoyment of superb athletic performance, the cycle of violence will continue and the issue of intimate partner abuse will be sidelined.  

The judge is expected to deliver her full verdict on the Pistorius case by the end of the week. 

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