Before Killing, Pistorius Resembled Abuser

Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar Pistorius

Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar Pistorius

South Africa’s Olympian sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. She had locked herself in the bathroom of their apartment when he shot her. He claims he’d mistaken her for an intruder. A verdict is due next week.

I can’t say for sure that he’s a murderer, but abusive men are more likely than others to kill their mates. And he definitely sounds like an abuser, as suggested by text messages sent in the weeks before the killing.

The warning signs could caution others in similar circumstances.


Abusive men often accuse their partners of sexual indiscretions. It’s a convenient excuse to punish the women — and in a way that is meant to communicate, “I love you so much that I am THIS jealous.” If he seems to love her THAT much, she’s more likely to stay with him.

In the weeks before the killing, arguments and jealous outbursts erupted in front of others. And jealousy and punishment run through Reeva’s words as she texted:

I’m sorry if you truly felt I was hitting on my friend’s husband… I was not flirting with anyone today…

… your impression of something innocent blown out of proportion and f****d up a special day to me… I’m terribly disappointed in how the day ended and u left me… I have been upset by you 2 days now. I’m so upset I left Darren’s party early. SO upset. I can’t get that day back.

Every 5 seconds I hear how you dated another chick, you really have dated a lot of people, yet you get upset if I mention ONE funny story with a long term boyfriend.

Charm Offensive

Abusive men often put on a charm offensive that makes their partners fall deeply in love, and makes it harder to leave. Charm also bolsters the storyline that insane jealousy comes from that place of intense love. That may be the case here, after all Reeva says,

You make me happy 90% of the time and i think we are amazing together but…

Controlling + Emotionally Abusive 

Abusers tend to be control freaks. And the control can even work to lower a partner’s self-esteem and make her feel like she “deserves it.” And maybe make her feel like she can’t get anyone better. So abusers routinely find ways to put down their partners, call them names and blame them. In Reeva’s words:

We are living in a double standard relationship where u can be mad about how I deal with stuff when u are very quick to act cold and offish when you’re unhappy.

You have picked on me incessantly since you got back from CT (Cape Town)…

I get snapped at and told my accents and voices are annoying…

I touch your neck to show you I care, you tell me to stop. Stop chewing gum. Do this, don’t do that.

Victim Walks on Egg Shells

Reeva’s careful in each step she makes to avoid getting Oscar upset, because she fears him. Her words:

I do everything to make u happy and to not say anything to rock the boat with u. You do everything to throw tantrums in front of people.

I’m scared of you sometimes and how u snap at me and how u will react to me.

I can’t be attacked by outsiders for dating u AND be attacked by you, the one person I deserve protection from.

It all leads to plenty of unhappiness:

I just want to love and be loved. Be happy and make someone SO happy. Maybe we can’t do that for each other. Cos right now I know u aren’t happy and I am certainly very unhappy and sad.

On Valentine’s Day last year Oscar shot Reeva, who was (hiding?) in a locked bathroom in their apartment. Witnesses said they’d heard gunshots and screams from both a man and a woman.

It’s not unusual for abuse crimes to be committed on holidays. In may be Christmas Day or Thanksgiving Day or a birthday. It’s supposed to be the best day and you make it the worst.

Batterers don’t all exhibit the exact same symptoms, but possible warning signs are listed below. I’d be concerned if someone you were dating expressed some of these traits.

Warning signs your partner may be an abuser

1. Jealousy of your time with co-workers, friends and family.

2. Controlling behavior. (Controls your comings and goings and your money.)

3. Isolation. (Cuts you off from all supportive resources such as telephone pals, colleagues at work and close family members.)

4. Blames others for his problems. (Unemployment, quarrels – everything is “your fault.”)

5. Hypersensitivity. (Easily upset by annoyances that are a part of daily life.)

6. Cruelty to animals or children.

7. “Playful” use of force in sex. (May start having sex with you when you are sleeping or demand sex when you are ill or tired.)

8. Verbal abuse.

9. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. (Sudden mood swings and unpredictable behavior – one minute loving, the next minute angry and punitive.)

10. Past history of battering. (Has hit others but has a list of excuses for having been “pushed over the edge.”)

11. Threats of violence.

12. Breaking or striking objects.

13. Uses force during an argument.

Don’t warn abusers that you are leaving. That is the most dangerous time — the time he is most likely to kill.

Secretly make a plan. For support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (TDD: 800-787-3224).

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Grooming Women for Battering
What Abusers and “Pro-Family” Conservatives Have in Common
Assaulting Daisy to Create “Male Superiority”

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 5, 2014, in feminism, psychology, sexism, violence against women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. And those are the reasons he’s never bothered to get help, whether therapy for his past or anger managerment class, for boiled up anger from his childhood that perhaps created his trainted view and hatred of women or distrust leading his self acceptance of hitting women.

    • You’re right. The most common thing that batters share is growing up in abusive homes. They learn misogyny from their fathers. And they also learn to be helpless, Which is not manly, And they seek ways to get their power back. And hitting a woman can make them feel powerful– As though they get their power back. Interestingly, it’s usually very traumatic for children to watch their mother get beaten up, Which is largely why they feel such a strong sense of powerlessness. And when it happens in early childhood you can have deep and long-lasting effects.

    • Some people never feel secure no matter what, it’s so deep inside. Early upbringing can have a huge effect on our sense of self. Or maybe he just has a screw lose. Or both. Depends on the pattern of violence.

      • probably both

      • Well it might be something due to his relations with his dad. I watched an interview with howard stern interviewing him and howard asked, if he he hated or resented his dad. As since mayweather was a young boy, his dad grilled him hard and hard him train relentlessly. So mayweather was kind of robbed of a childhood, and spent most of his childhood and youth years just training so he can one day be a pro boxer. I guess that training paid off in that it made him a very rich, successful boxer. He denied resenting and hating his dad when asked, but it might be sub conscious too, this boiled up anger inside from his childhood past.

        I think his father hit him at times. And I just found this, wow, interesting, sounds like mayweather had quite the rough past and dysfunctional family. Unfortunately it can be a cycle with some buys who see their dads be abusive to their moms or women or disrespect women, they sometimes carry that on when an adult. .I found this quote to be quite the indicator here..

        “There is a distrust of women that is certainly shared by father and son and obviously the loose cannon that is Roger, who, by the way, has made threatening remarks about member.” His father has been in jail and a volatile man and his mom with drugs, pretty fucked up. The thing is, while I have some understanding of how he could possibly become such a person, I can never emphatisize such actions or the fact he doesn’t care or never went to get help. I don’t know if he knows it’s wrong to beat women up, doesn’t care, or simply doesn’t think he’s a woman beater and in denial and finds various reasons that he had to abuse the women during those certain incidents.

        Here’s the link.

  2. I thought I’d write about this, even though I’ve already talked about ray rice. But I was watching espn today and they were talking about the big fight with floyd Mayweather and manny pacquiao. I don’t follow boxing, but I wish Manny would knock Floyd’s ass out. He;s such a scumbag. And it’s said that the boxing commission has just put a slap on his wrist for his crimes over the years. He’s exempt because he’s a star, famouse, pro boxer. But I was watching outside the lines and I knew of his domestic violence incidents as far as the recent one, but I’m not surprised, but outside the lines from epsn showed from police reports that he’s been quite the serial woman abuser. Over the span of 14 years he’s had 5 documented abuse reports, and he’s more likely had more but which the women didn’t report. The scumbag beat his fiancee and mother of his children in the back of her head infront of their children and threatened them and she was taken out on a stretcher.

    He punched out his gf’s girlfriends. It’s sickening, he did got to jail one time, what was to be 90 days, but shortened to two months so he could have a fight he was scheduled for ha. He’s also a racist prick too, as he called manny racial slurs. He seriously makes ray rice look like saint in comparison and that says a lot since we know and have seen the dirtbag ray rice is. You know what’s crazy is where this violence comes from? A lot of times they say it’s insecurity and I wonder why. How can a man so rich, so successful, has everything in his life and seems pretty proud and confident be so insecure that he feels he needs to control and abuse women to get this “power”. Does he not already have power, considering he’s the best boxer in his weight for his time and undefeated. What does he have to prove? Why the control and violence to control, which must be some insecurity root to it. Though I have heard Mayweather is illerterate, i don’t know maybe some insecurity with that, I don’t know.

    Some might say a violent sport might turn on a switch that some men don’t turn off like in football anf boxing. But I don’t know, there are plenty of football players, boxers and mma guys who would never hit a woman. I watched some mma and muay thai fights with my friend who trains and his team and his trainer and his trainer’s fighters were all nice guys and good guys.

  3. Bob,South Africa is a cesspool of official and business corruption,to say nothing of a stupidly macho society where abuse of women is accepted,even almost WELCOMED in certain quarters.Pistorius seemed GUILTY AS SIN to my buddies and me.(Incidentally,Mr. Mandela must be SPINNING IN HIS GRAVE to see what happened to the South Africa for which he was prepared to die to save it from apartheid’s brutality,only to watch it become EVEN MORE THUGGISH under black majority rule!!!!

  4. I WONDER IF REPEATED,NOT ONE-OFF abuse isn’t the true picture of the Ray Rice-Janay Palmer Rice cause celbre.It’s hard for me to believe this creep only battered his fiancée,now wife once.Likely,Mrs. Rice’s begging to be left alone for the pair to work out their problems and her willingness to accept “blame” for her role in her beating suggests Mrs. Rice might be accustomed to her husband’s oily promises to reform,only to revert to type,plus the fear of losing Rice’s munificent NFL salary,which happened when the Raven released Rice after a tidal wave of opprobrium from all quarters condemning the Ravens’ original decision to support Rice,and the NFL’s insulting-to-the-intelligence two-game suspension before his now-indefinite banishment.

  5. But then here’s something like we talked about before, even after this. Some women supporting Rice.–abc-news-topstories.html

  6. The one thing that I think could be positive about the ray rice thing is the awareness its creating as in, it’s not hidden and out in the open. People are talking and discussing the problem culturally and in masculine places like sports league. I think you might like this article

    Tony Porter who is part of this and written “A Call to Men”. Is not working with and talking to men in the nfl, especially what he calls, “hypermasculine men”. And discussing a new train of thought to how men to think about things, as men especially in hypermaculine situations are more likely to abuse women.

  7. Apparently Pistorious was found not guilty. Rich, powerful men getting away as usual.

  8. What’s bothering me too. Is the lack of effort by the organization. True the nfl eventually created a 6 game suspensioon for first offense and then out of the game after second. But this was after tons of public pressure and scrutiny. I feel it was simply done out of PR purposes solely and not from actual concern or care about domestic violence. And the ravens kept the player and then got rid of him after the second video came, though police reports are exactly what happened in the second video. Roger Goodell the comissioner needs to go, they have been reactive instead of proactive

  9. I just watching the Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice video released by TMZ. It is truly pathetic, not to mention sickening. Just how a guy could do such a thing, with under the influence of alcohol or not, is beyond me. Honestly, it really angers me.

    I reside outside Baltimore, though I am not a fan. I am going to watch what the Ravens team and NFL have to say about this. It is shameful that a player gets suspended for more games for smoking pot than domestic violence.

    When I saw his now wife at the press conference, I thinks she is a young woman who is just happy to be with a football player. I am not saying she is a gold digger. I believe she has low self esteem and is lacking in sophistication. During that press conference he apologized to everyone except her.

    I am reading a book by Andrew Hacker, Mismatched. He too is flummoxed as to why violence against women, as well as sexual assault/rape, remain so stubbornly high in America. Why do you think it is the case?

    Having grown up in the rural Deep South, I always saw this as something unique to less or uneducated people. However, I attended college and grad school in DC and TN. This is when I witnessed men (highly educated men) being violent, threatening, and trying to intimidate women. It is something that I cannot understand with men.

    • The more patriarchal the society the more violence against women you tend to have. I will be writing more about this in the near future.

      Actually, rate has decreased along with an increase in feminism. Since the early 1990s rape down 75%, battering is down 65%, and incest is down 40%. That’s according to Justice bureau statistics, which are based on telephoning people and asking them whether various crimes have been committed against them.

      Some of the reason for that is obvious. More awareness and education about rape and battery, more hotlines, Shelters, And mandatory arrest. And big changes in men’s attitudes.

      The most stubborn rates are among young men. Maybe that’s because they are just entering manhood, feel somewhat insecure in it, and are trying to prove their male superiority. And gain status by having sex with as many people as possible, which can be helped by having sex with a drunk girl who can’t say no.

  10. A great post. I certainly hope someone in need reads these words and gets out of a dangerous situation. I think the scary thing about abusers is that people don’t always feel like the warning signs are enough until the day they are hit. Reading that list, I see my ex boyfriend (who I discussed in my Dating Red Flags series). In a few short months, he displayed at least half of these traits.

  11. The insidiousness of abuse and one’s ability to tolerate makes me think of that story about how if you put a frog in hot water at first it’ll balk and then acclimatize even as the heat rises. Abusers seem to have an innate instinct that they need to slowly ramp up their efforts so that the victim slowly gets used to it. (Obviously each situation is different, as are the people involved.)

  12. I remember learning of the cycle with abusive men. They put the women down, become jealous, eventually it can get to physical. But then the last step, the man pleads and begs for her to stay and says he does it because he loves her and turns it around. The woman’s esteem is so low, she believes him or thinks she doesn’t deserve better so she comes back. What makes me think of that pattern is the famous movie “A Street Car Named Desire” with Marlon Brando. He was super controlling and jealous, but deep down a weak insecure man who felt he had to keep and regain his power by keeping control of Stella. The memerable part in the movie where he yells “Stella!” and he’s crying and begging her to stay. He like other abusers put are there good act and that they will change or they love their spouse. Only for time to go by and the abusive man comtinues on.

  13. “I love you so much that I am THIS jealous.”

    Perhaps I just don’t have the proper mentality for it, but I’ve always wondered how this line could possibly work on someone. Jealousy isn’t a form of love. If anything, it’s closer to abject insecurity, which can destroy feelings of love. Whether it’s your wife telling you that you are forbidden from talking to old female friends or it’s your husband insisting he saw you flirting at a party, it still says more about the jealous partner’s trust issues than your own actions/thoughts.

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