25 March 2014
PRESS STATEMENT - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Yesterday the state lead evidence in the Oscar Pistorius trial suggesting Reeva Steenkamp might have been experiencing domestic violence in her relationship with the defendant. Instant messages on Reeva Steenkamp's phone described jealous and possessive behavior by the defendant, and it also emerged from the messages that she was sometimes scared of him.
Domestic violence is a pervasive and often silent form of violence against women. It is a common misconception that domestic violence is only physical abuse, but the Domestic Violence Act of 1998 defines domestic violence widely to include emotional abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, and any other controlling or abusive behaviour that causes imminent harm. It affects all sectors and demographics of our society, as the Pistorius trial is demonstrating.
Research indicates that almost a quarter of South African women have experienced abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, and a staggering half of all South African women have experienced emotional and financial abuse. It is therefore telling that the first witness for the state assumed there was a burglary in progress when she allegedly heard the screams on a woman on the relevant night, when in fact it is far more statistically likely that screams emanating from a South African home are as a result of domestic or intimate partner violence.
"A staggering 40% of South African men have admitted that they have been physically violent towards their intimate partner," said Jennifer Williams, Director of the Women's Legal Centre.
"It is not surprising that our public is so ill informed about the prevalence of domestic violence, and its different forms. The way in which we gather crime statistics in South Africa hides the size of the domestic violence problem. When SAPS releases its annual crime statistics, there is no category indicating incidents of domestic violence, and instead the incidents are counted as assault, sexual offences and ultimately, in many cases, murders. This makes the problem completely invisible," said Sanja Bornman, attorney at the Women's legal Centre.
For more information, contact:
Jennifer Williams, Director: 078 803 3110
Sanja Bornman, attorney: 083 522 2933