Alan Carr; “Not My Nigel” – Justin Lee Collins edition.

Dear Alan Carr,
 
You can harp on about how the Justin Lee Collins who assaulted his partner wasn’t the Justin that you knew, but the truth of the matter is that he was.
 
See, this is the kind of talk that silences abuse victims. Talking about how it was a “toxic” relationship. Minimising the abuse. It’s telling victims that their experiences of an abuser aren’t accurate, because yours are different.
 
Abusive men are good at hiding who they are. And often, they put on a front of being a “Good Man TM” to the general public. They might volunteer for charity. They might be that bloke you have a laugh with, day in – day out. They might be the chap in the office who has a wife, kids, and hell – they might even say to your face that he’s a good guy. They’re trained to, because society tells us – on a daily basis – that if a man abuses a woman, she can be – in someway – blamed for it. Abusive men rarely show their abusive nature to people they consider their equals. Once they meet an inferior, however, it’s a different matter.
 
(With my ex, it was me. It was Muslim taxi drivers who didn’t pick up his fare. It was a homosexual man I considered a friend. A colleague who went out of his way to be a kind and considerate individual at every turn. And – it took me a long time to admit this – it was his Nan. To every person my ex abused, to every person for whom I wish I had stepped up and defended, I’m sorry.)
 
But these men survive on these fronts that they put up. On the exterior that their peers buy into. After all, abusers rely on confirmation that their actions are justified, that they must have been pushed into acts of violence. It means that they can refer their victim to all these people who can vouch for them. They can point you in the direction of a well-meaning police officer who will point out that your abuser was drunk, very remorseful, and who’ll call you the morning after your abuser was arrested, asking if he can come home.
 
But minimising the abuser, talking about their good sides, is a dangerous game. It leads to the victim accepting the abuser back into their lives, because the narrative that surrounds them is one of blame. It leads to the victim wondering if their abuse was “really that bad”, as other women have it so much worse. It leads to victims wondering if they are the reprehensible individual that their abuser leads them to believe they are, as they’re the only people who witness the abuse. It leads to families pushing victims back to abusers for the sake of the children, because “all children need a father in their lives”. Oh, what bull that is.
 
You may not have recognised the man that abused Anna Larke. But I do. The women who are experiencing abuse right now, or the women who have survived abuse – the women who have died as a result of abuse do. Because we see both sides of abusive men. We see the sides that you recognise, the sides that you applaud and that you’re comfortable with.
 
And we recognise the sides that are held up in court, the same way that many of us come to recognise the defences that come along with their actions.
 
It’s not a “toxic relationship.” It is, quite simply, male violence against women; it is systematic, it is universal, and it is deadly.
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#HerNameWasReevaSteenkamp; This is a Story Of Male Violence – Let’s Remember The Victim

This morning, a South African friend broke the news of Reeva Steenkamp’s death. At the time, an idea was floating around Facebook that her killer, Oscar Pistorious, had mistaken Reeva for a burglar. The two were in a relationship, and over the past few hours, details of the abuse Reeva endured at Pistorious’ hands have begun to surface. After posting a link to my own facebook profile, a friend informed me that Pistourious had shot Reeva four times. It was becoming clear that this was no accident.

As I headed over to twitter this evening, I was disappointed to see Pistorious’ name trending, alongside jokes. This is the last time I’ll use his name in this post.

See, Reeva Steenkamp should be the name on everyone’s lips. But her name was missing from the trending topics. Hell, I saw tweets referencing her death that failed to even mention the fact a woman had been killed by male violence, let alone Reeva’s name. She’s been dead less than 24 hours, and the patriarchy is already erasing her. Fancy that, eh… This would be the same patriarchy which failed to mention Andrea Johnson by name when reporting how her husband had murdered her before killing himself. The same patriarchy which sees women silenced, and ignored when they try to speak out against men’s violence against women. The same patriarchy which sees the murder of the prostituted class ignored, and women blamed for their own murders. Women are not allowed to live a life free of blame; the patriarchy won’t allow it.

We’ve heard how Reeva was an FHM model. The fact she was a law graduate was ignored. The fact she spoke out against violence against women has been ignored. Even in her death, Reeva has been objectified. Googling “Reeva Steenkamp” in the news section of Google relays, at present, 2,350 results. Images added to the search engine database, following her death, included an FHM cover, as well as various photos of Reeva in a bikini. Googling her killer’s name leaves us with 201,000 news results, although I’m unable to determine how many of these were added today. All I can say for certain is that I got 27 pages in to the results, and gave up.

We do not need to know Reeva was a model to feel saddened by her death. But objectifying her following her death remains a huge kick to the teeth. We need to remember her name, and we need to keep Reeva’s name at the forefront of our minds. It is time we stopped glorifying men who kill women, no matter how unintentionally we do so. Our conversation should not erase the victims of men’s violence against women, but instead, they should become the forefront of our discussion. We cannot end violence against women when the women killed by male violence are forgotten.

Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. And we must not forget that.

*Edit: Google is now displaying more results for Reeva in the news. The stats above were what I found at 23:01 on 14/2/2013