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Mother of Pistorius' Girlfriend to Aid Domestic Abuse Victims

  • Anita Powell

June Steenkamp, mother of Reeva Steenkamp, arrives at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for the second day of sentencing procedures for Oscar Pistorius, October 14, 2014.

June Steenkamp, mother of Reeva Steenkamp, arrives at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for the second day of sentencing procedures for Oscar Pistorius, October 14, 2014.

The mother of slain South African model Reeva Steenkamp says she plans to start a charity to help victims of domestic abuse, although she won't say whether such abuse was part of the relationship between Reeva and her killer, Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.

June Steenkamp made a rare appearance before South African media this week, more than two years after Pistorius shot and killed her daughter at his Pretoria home on February 14, 2013.

Steenkamp recently wrote a book, "Reeva: A Mother’s Story." While she and Reeva’s father, Barry, were a regular presence during Pistorius’ murder trial, the couple avoided speaking off the cuff, making few candid statements to reporters.

The high-profile trial drew the attention of millions around the world. Now, Steenkamp says she hopes some of that attention will be paid to what she says is the real story: the untold suffering of countless women who endure abuse from their partners.

Abuse common

Domestic violence is worryingly common in South Africa. Some advocacy groups say that one South African woman is killed every six hours by her partner.

Steenkamp says her daughter was horrified by these figures and wanted to help.

“I don’t want people to forget Reeva and what she stood for,” Steenkamp said before a packed room of journalists on the campus of the University of Johannesburg, where she was promoting her book. “... She was terribly taken up by strong feelings of doing something to help abused women. And I want to carry on that work for her.”

The charity is still in the planning stages, she said.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius had been dating for about three months when Pistorius killed her. He said he mistook her for a nighttime intruder when he shot four times through a locked bathroom door, hitting her with three of the bullets.

In the ensuing murder trial, the prosecution attempted to portray the runner as a rage-filled, irresponsible gun fanatic. His defense countered that his status as a double amputee in crime-ridden South Africa made him feel constantly paranoid and afraid.

Steenkamp refused to directly say whether her daughter was a victim of abuse in her final relationship.

“I did not know he had guns or was shooting them out of cars, or his lifestyle in the fast lane,” Steenkamp said. “I knew nothing of that. ... Reeva was afraid, I think, to tell me, some of the problems. She did say they were fighting all of the time, but you don’t tell your mother everything.”

Culpable homicide

Charges of murder did not stick with Judge Thokozile Masipa, who in October sentenced Pistorius to five years’ imprisonment for culpable homicide, which is equivalent to the U.S. charge of manslaughter. South Africa does not have jury trials; all rulings are given by magistrates. Under South African law, Pistorius is required to serve a minimum of 10 months in prison.

Steenkamp says she won’t share her opinion on whether justice was done, but noted: “If Oscar didn’t have guns, Reeva would be alive today."

“She would be here with me today. ... Why should somebody have 10 guns? Why should they?” she said.

Steenkamp has said before that she forgives Pistorius for her daughter’s death, but her face contorted in pain when she recounted what she would say if she had a chance to speak to the athlete.

“I wouldn’t ask him anything,” she said. “I would ask him maybe to consider what he’s done to Barry, my husband, and I. He’s taken the most perfect, wonderful daughter out of our lives, he’s killed her. ... She will never have a baby for us, our grandchild. She will never have a wedding and the white dress. He’s taken her career, he’s taken her life away. That’s what I would say to Oscar if I came face to face with him.”