#hernamewasreeva — the internet is fighting to recognise the woman behind the oscar pistorius trial
Friends, acquaintances and strangers are making sure Reeva Steenkamp's life will amount to more than headlines.
Yesterday South African Olympian and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to six years for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He shot Reeva four times through a closed toilet door and was expected to receive 15 years — the mandatory minimum for murder.
In response to the lower than expected sentence, people around the world began Tweeting their feelings under the hashtag #hernamewasreeva. Initially lead by South African women's rights activists, they're publicly questioning why he was able to receive such a limited sentence for ending a life and highlighting the way the legal system fails victims of abuse.
When the sentence was delivered Jacqui Mofokeng of the African National Congress women's league told the Guardian, "The judgment is an insult to women. It sends the wrong message." In South Africa it's reported that 40 to 50 percent of women have experienced violence at the hands of a partner. Although it should be noted that those figures are expected to be conservative due to endemic underreporting.
Many have not only taken issue with the shorter sentence, but also the way Reeva has regularly been erased in discussion around the crime and trial. Much of the focus has been on Pistorius: how his wealth and influence influenced the trial; the legitimacy of his grief; his fall from national hero status; and whether as someone with a disability, Pistorius had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11-months-old, he should serve his time in prison or in a secure hospital wing for vulnerable offenders.
Laura Richards, the founder of Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service, Tweeted, "Reeva had no voice - yet a convicted murderer was given one by the media to do his bidding before sentencing." She joins many critics who have suggested that the media's obsession with Pistorius meant that he was given a platform to manipulate the outcome before the trial even began.
As is so common in cases of family violence, the victim and who she was has largely been obscured. Reeva Steenkamp was a lawyer, model and popular media personality in South Africa — yet she will always be remembered for the man who ended her life. Or at least that would have been the case before social media. Now countless friends, acquaintances and strangers are making sure her life will amount for more than headlines. Hopefully what happened will finally force open a real conversation around the way we ignore victims of violence, while allowing their abusers to bask in infamy.
Text Wendy Syfret
Image via Twitter