The brutal death of Reeva Steenkamp and the subsequent arrest and pre-meditated murder charge of her boyfriend, the Olympian blade runner Oscar Pistorius has shaken South Africa to its core and sent shockwaves across the rest of the globe. The media has been dominated by images of the law graduate and model and of Pistorius weeping in the dock. Speculation is abound as to what really happened. Did he shoot through a closed bathroom door thinking there was an intruder inside? Was this a tragic accident arising from paranoia over South Africa's increasingly violent home invasions? Or did the couple have a huge fight, that got out of control, became violent and Miss Steenkamp fled for safety in the bathroom and in a fit of rage Pistorius shot through the door? The latest reports indicate she wasn't just shot but her skull was also smashed by a baseball bat - if this is true it doesn't bode well for Pistorius's defence. And let us not forget the reports that police had been called out before to the property over 'domestic issues'.
Pistorius in many ways became the poster boy for those with disabilities. His tenacity, drive and talent led to Olympic and Paralympic success. He became a huge role model for those with disabilities across the world as well as a national hero in his home country of South Africa. On his website he has the inspiring statement, "You are not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have". He was a living example of this statement and had become and indeed promoted himself as a role model.
Like many other successful sports stars he had an array of glamorous girlfriends. Miss Steenkamp was the most recent and they were only a few months into their relationship. Friends of the deceased have been quoted as saying that she was very private and did not speak of the relationship in detail. Ex girlfriends of Pistorius have come out on both sides from one stating he 'never laid a finger on me' to another saying he had a very dark side. It is quite possible that if Oscar Pistorius was violent towards Miss Steenkamp and another girlfriend yet not to another. There are many documented cases of domestic violence where the abuser was not consistently violent to each partner - but to the partners that were deemed weaker or raised ire in the abuser.
The 14 February 2013 was not only Valentine's Day but also V Day for One Billion Rising which called for one billion women and those that loved them to rise up, dance and demand an end to violence against women. Reeva Steenkamp was due to give a speech to schoolchildren on this day and in her notes for her speech referred to her own prior experience of an abusive relationship and the soul searching this led to 'to remind myself of my value in this world'. Instead she met a violent and brutal death at the hands of the man she loved. We are yet to know whether or not this was pre-meditated murder or a horrific accident but my uncomfortable instinct is that Miss Steenkamp is yet another tragic victim of domestic violence.
However under South African law every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent. Oscar Pistorius has this right too. But Miss Steenkamp and the countless other victims of sudden, brutal deaths whilst in the company of their 'loved ones', also have the right for the truth to be told. Reeva Steenkamp has been forever silenced. She will never be able to tell the truth of what happened that evening and the true nature of her relationship with Pistorius. For violence against women to end there must be successful prosecutions, justice must be done and be seen to be done. One can only hope that justice prevails for Miss Steenkamp and for all victims of violence.
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