Any story or commentary about the murder accusation against the inspirational Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius must begin with the presumption that he is innocent. Police arrived at Pistorius's home to find the disabled runner's girlfriend in a pool of blood, dead from bullet wounds. It doesn't look good, from the initial facts, but then, we don't yet know all the facts.
What is disturbing, however, is the media focus on the tragedy as a story of a hero's downfall, an extraordinary tale of a man who managed to become an Olympic sprinter despite having prosthetic legs from the knee down. Yes, many of us cheered for Pistorius, who indeed was an inspirational example of overcoming heavy odds to succeed.
But perhaps this story is about something much less Shakespearean and sadly, much more common: the easy availability of guns and the scourge of domestic violence. Pistorius's home of South Africa has become an increasingly violent place, with guns easily acquired. And women are often victims—some 2,500 women are murdered in the country every year. Further, Pistorius has a history of domestic violence complaints. Was the murder of Reeva Steenkamp an accident of some sort? Or was she just another—albeit, more famous and famously-connected—victim of a far more widespread problem?
Domestic abusers aren't all in poor or working-class neighborhoods. They're not all drunks or mentally unwell people who snap and take out their frustrations on the women they supposedly love. Domestic violence has to do with rage and a desire to control—even when the only way to assert control is to take a life.
The story has gotten more attention because the alleged killer is a hero-athlete. But this tragedy isn't about Pistorius. It's about Steenkamp—and all the victims who came before her.
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