Reeva Steenkamp: Another Woman Needlessly Dead

Office on Violence Against Women logo
Office on Violence Against Women logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While everyone is in shock over the murder of Reeva Steenkamp allegedly by “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius, I am more in shock that domestic violence against women is still such a major problem in this world.

It is hard to believe the story that Pistorius offered about what happened at his home on Valentine’s Day, but it is not hard to believe, or to conjecture, that the couple had domestic violence issues before that fateful night.

What many women do not understand is that domestic violence is not just physical; it can be emotional, verbal, or psychological as well.  We women too often take treatment, or endure treatment, that demeans us, thinking that somehow things will get better or, worse, that we are somehow to blame for the violence our mates are heaping upon us.

Lisa Ling did a program about a year ago, with a follow-up last evening, on the OWN network about human trafficking. The whole issue of human trafficking is a subject for another time, but the mindset of the young girls and young women that makes them vulnerable to being used by pimps and johns is not unlike the mindset of women who stay in abusive relationships.

Last night on the program, a young woman who managed to get off the streets and get back into school with plans to go to college was trying to help another young woman, who wanted to get out of the business but was afraid. The young woman who had made it out said to her ( and I am paraphrasing) that when a guy tells you you’re pretty, don’t believe it. You tell yourself that you’re pretty. You believe it yourself. You don’t have to depend on others to define you.

It appears that far too many women, no matter how educated or attractive or capable, have low opinions of themselves and they do in fact depend on their men or partners for their definitions of themselves.  The men or partners can sense the insecurity and, like the predators they are, prey on the weakest part of the women they say they love. Even the act of preying on one’s weaknesses is an act of abuse and bullying.

The result is that far too many women end up being used in the course of being abused. Some men use women as “prize wives,” not respecting them for themselves but instead using them for their professional advancement. Others use women as their security; they do whatever they want but they dare their women to run out on or leave them. There are a host of reasons why men abuse women, and the world is becoming less complacent about it, but the world is doing too little, too late.

The young woman who was gang-raped on a bus in India, and who eventually died, pointed out the arrogance many men feel when it comes to the way they treat women. Whatever made those men feel like they could do that and get away with it? A silent society…

Women are brutalized every day, in front of their children, in public places, anywhere a man or partner feels like he or she wants to do it.  The society has to do more to address the problem, but we, the women, have to address the problems in ourselves that make us stay in abusive relationships.

Being lonely is not an excuse to stay; wanting to maintain a certain lifestyle is also not a reason to stay. It is said that Nicole Simpson, the wife of O.J. Simpson,   had filed charges against her husband for domestic abuse several times, but she, like so many other women, always went back. Was it the lure of fame, of her husband’s fame, that kept her going back?  Tina Turner endured abuse from her husband Ike; Rihanna, it seems, is still enamored with Chris Brown, despite his physical abuse of her.

If Reeva Steenkamp had encounters with Oscar Pistorius that were abusive, verbally, emotionally or otherwise, it is sad that she chose to stay.  A person who abuses another doesn’t love that person; he or she wants to control that person, and is afraid of losing that same person. We, the women, have to make the changes, “do the work,”  as Iyanla Vanzant says, of fixing our spirits and our resolve so that we care too much about ourselves to let any person treat us as objects. The United States Senate passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, with no help from the Republican senators, but its ultimate fate lies in the hands of the GOP

led House of Representatives. ( That anyone would think this issue is not worth their time is infuriating. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) thinks the problem is so serious that they are doing important research. ( It is way past time to take this issue more seriously.

Perhaps those who think there is no need to have the government step into this issue. According to an article that appeared in The Atlantic, some Republicans think that the act represents government overreach and is a feminist attack on family values. (


So, abusing women is an accepted value in American families?

That cannot be the case.

Whatever the House decides to do or not to do, we, the women, have got to take this problem by the horns and deal with it as we have never before. Reeva should be alive. So should thousands of other women who died at the hands of abusive mates. Women in prison who decided to defend themselves ought not be there. At the least, there ought to be a national “stand your ground” law that women who fight back can have to protect them.

This has got to stop…now.

A candid observation…


A Death in the Family

My sister died yesterday.

Her death was not unexpected; she had battled cancer like a trooper, the first time, 20 years ago, and then again, last year this time, when it came back.

She was tired of fighting, tired of going back to the hospital, tired of getting blood and medicine and more blood. I think she just said, “OK, already. Enough.”

She is the first of our siblings to die. My parents both died years ago. We five children have always had each other. Now we are five, minus one. It feels strange.

I have learned not to despise death, or even fear it, but rather, consider death a part of our life cycle.  I keep thinking of John Donne’s sonnet, “Death Be Not Proud:”

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so,

For, those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,

Die, not, poor, death, not yet canst thou kill mee.

I can rather hear my sister saying that to Death as it approached her. She defied death and the doctors, from the first time she was diagnosed with cancer until the end. Doctors said she would be gone much sooner than now; my sister told them both, “I think not.”

When I saw her in April, we were able to talk and laugh and share. What she wanted most was a cup of coffee from McDonald’s. I ran out to get her a cup and the last thing I did before I left that time was to bring her another cup of that coffee. It felt good to give her something she wanted. I took a picture of her, in her hospital bed, with her bald head and IV…and cup of coffee. That picture will forever make me smile.

I am, as a pastor, very familiar with losing people I love. I am even more familiar with the loss death deals as a member of a family. Death doesn’t affect the one who dies nearly as much as it wrangles those left behind.

This coming Monday would have been her birthday. Well, I guess it still is …it’s just that she’s celebrating it in a different space.

Is she gone? Well, physically, yes, but her spirit is all over the place. No life, once shared, is ever fully gone. I took a walk this morning and saw two amazingly beautiful Blue Jays. It was if she had sent them into my space to remind me that her spirit is forever.

There is a comfort I feel, remembering my tenacious sister and John Donne’s poem: death didn’t beat her. She took Death by the hand and led it to where she wanted it to wait until she was ready to go.

Death clearly, in this case, cannot be proud.

That would be a candid observation.