It’s odd that some people find murder-suicides so glamorous; so understandable; so noble; so deserving of sympathy.
Not for the murdered, necessarily; but for the perpetrator.
It’s particularly the case when the killer is a sportsman.
Take the case in the US in December 2012, where football player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins before shooting himself in the car park outside his team’s ground. Column inches were devoted to assessing his mental state.
On my Facebook news feed, I saw sports fans shake their heads and say how terrible it was that the young child of the couple would be growing up an orphan; what a waste of a talent, a promising career thrown away.
Nobody mentioned Kasandra.
Further back in time, wrestling fans still think fondly of Chris Benoit, a brilliant grappling superstar who died too soon. His friends and colleagues have offered their own explanations about his psychological demons; whether it was too many head injuries that sent him into a spiral of depression, perhaps. They speak about how much in love Benoit was with his wife Nancy; and how he worshipped his family.
Benoit killed his wife and their son Daniel before killing himself.
This morning I woke up to the news that Oscar Pistorius had been arrested on suspicion of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Already the word was circulating that perhaps this was a Valentine’s Day surprise gone horribly wrong; he thought she was an intruder.
But I noticed that the BBC was reporting that Pistorius wasn’t the person who called the emergency services. Was it Steenkamp who had tried to get help, which arrived too late? Or a neighbour, worried about what they could overhear? The local police (rather surprisingly) later confirmed that they had been called to the property on several previous occasions to intervene in “domestics”.
Ah, it’s a “domestic”. If a woman dies but not her partner, it’s a “domestic”; or maybe, even more excitingly, “a crime of passion”. It’s not a terrible, awful murder-suicide resulting in the loss of a sporting talent.
It’s just “his girlfriend” who’s been killed; Pistorius is still alive, so he’s not “tragic” – he can be the butt of jokes (mostly focusing on his disability, though there are also some about the fact that this happened on Valentine’s Day), and Steenkamp is simply collateral damage, mentioned – if she’s mentioned at all – as “his girlfriend”.
On my Facebook feed today, I’ve seen sports fans snickering at those jokes. But a woman – a woman named Reeva Steenkamp – is dead, shot in cold blood. And it’s not funny in the slightest.
One billion have been rising today to protest the continual violence against women across the world. Seven billion of us saw today just why these protests are still needed.