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Thursday 11 September 2014

Oscar Pistorius, Janay Rice and Doug Guyatt: The complicated nature of Domestic Violence

by Stephen B.Chadwick, MA Counselling Psychology.

Reeva Steenkamp & Oscar Pistorius (The Blade Runner)
With the announcement today of Oscar Pistorius' verdict in South Africa, (on September 11th, no less! )which is for the most part not guilty, however the courts are awaiting a hearing on "culpability",  many are reeling with the decision. It comes on the heels of no more than a week where Janay Rice, wife of yet another athlete, this time in America who "stood by her man" and yet has been criticized soundly and she in her turn has struck back.

Here in Canada, specifically, Victoria, in the province of British Columbia, The Victoria Colonist newspaper wrote today that a man by the name of Doug Guyatt, who murdered his wife by beheading years ago has finally died in jail.

It makes one wonder why some women "put up with this abuse" (almost) to the point of death. What is behind it? In a nutshell, "connection, relationship and history" and those who look from the outside cannot understand why the abusee does not simply leave. It is complicated. It is not black and white. And without minimizing, excusing, or condoning the violence, it is also useful to understand how sometimes it is hard to leave such relationships even when the individual KNOWS it is dysfunctional.

Tragedy then, Tragedy now: Shakespeare's Othello repeated

So, we know of Oscar Pistorius, angry, aggressive, determined, possibly obsessed with guns and power. He was (according to media reports) willing to blame-shift when necessary.  And his beautiful, model girl friend Reeva Steenkamp who died from gunshot wounds.

It seems to me that this incident, when it first occurred, reminded almost of the now-infamous O.J. Simpson case. Once again it was a polished, famous athlete, determined, successful with a wife with model-good looks.

Even in the case of Nicole Simpson, she chose to stay with O.J. for many years after the abuse had started and hung in there until at some point, she split from him.... which is when he (most likely) became unhinged.

Even at the time of the O.J. Simpson trials, I was reminded, by virtue of the relationship triangle of O.J., Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman of another famous triangle from Shakespeare's Othello, that is: Othello, Desdemona and Iago. Tragedy then, tragedy now.

Janay Rice
But why one might wonder would Janay Rice, who is still alive, although quite possibly heading down the same road as Reeva Steenkamp and Nicole Simpson defend her husband?

With all the wonderful advances in womens' rights and widespread feminism and gender studies and gender relations, why on earth would Rice come out swinging FOR her man rather than AT him, given that... well, her husband took a swing at her!

One wonders.

One does not betray a loved one for an ideology

 I think quite simply the reason why she does not or did not and may continue not to do so, is simply because despite everything she may love her husband, complicated as it may be. Of course, for us looking in, it seems absurd, but think about it. What mother, indeed what father would not defend his or her children against even wild beasts, despite how naughty they might be. Of course naughty children are nothing like big, strong men who can knock a woman unconscious. Of course not. But the concept still applies. Unity, connection, relationship.

This is why perhaps it is sometimes so hard, so difficult for some abused women (or men, let us not forget) to leave relationships. It is only sometimes through a long process that eventually the person finally gives up any hope that the other partner will change and thus leaves them. Because at some point in the past both of them loved one another, however dysfunctionally.

Of course there are also other reasons why women or persons in an abusive relationship remain in that relationship. So for example, they may become perpetuated to the abuse, like the proverbially frog boiled in water. Or they may be of such low self-esteem that they (or more likely their tormentor) has conditioned them to believe that they deserve the abuse. Or they may be financially stuck or isolated and thus have no other option.

And their process and/or decision to leave or stay in a relationship must be respected. It is for us to understand why. In the reference to Doug Guyatt, the Victoria, B.C. man mentioned above who beheaded his wife Shannon Guyatt, according to an article by Louise Dickson in the Victoria Colonist, it was noted that Shannon Guyatt, according to family members had had a rather inconvenient habit of picking (or picking up) rather "creepy" guys, according to the paper, see link here for article:

So all the lessons and the ideology in the world will not change a heart, unless the heart wants to. And finally one last note. I mentioned parents who would brave wild beasts for their children.

In Soviet times, in the USSR, children were indoctrinated by the state to denounce their parents to the state if their parents had "subversive" thoughts or ideas that were antithetical to the state's belief in utter adherence to socialism/communism. (Sounds rather eerily similar to what is happening currently in Russia). However, most children, I would think, would be far more likely to protect their family and parents than betray them to the secret police. Why? Quite simply because: good or bad, functional or dysfunctional they love you.
 Therefore, one does not simply betray a loved one for an ideology. It is far more complicated than that.

Take Care,


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