On Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to lovers, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, was shot to death, allegedly by her lover, Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee known as “the Blade Runner” for his spectacular Olympic track performance last year. Steenkamp was a model, a motivational speaker and, ironically, a crusader against violence toward women.
On Valentine’s Day closer to home, jurors heard testimony in the trial of Nathaniel Fujita, a star high school athlete in leafy, affluent Wayland who’d been headed to even leafier Trinity College to play football. Instead Fujita faces first-degree murder charges in the strangling death of his longtime sweetheart, Lauren Astley, a standout at school known for her spunk, enthusiasm and lovely singing voice.
Just the opposite of a frustrated loser, Pistorius was a Nike spokesman, rich and world-famous. He grew up in a large and reportedly loving family determined that his amputations would neither diminish nor define him. Fujita for years had enjoyed the status that comes with being an athletic star. His father is a popular music professor at Berklee College of Music. His mother was so worried about her son’s post-breakup bleak moods that she visited Lauren Astley at her job at the Natick Mall.
And neither Astley nor Steenkamp fit the stereotype of abuse victims either: some weak, dependent, poorly educated woman with low self-esteem, few options and, perhaps conditioned by her own violent past, an expectation of abuse. Lauren Astley has been described as strong, bold, focused — an a capella singer ready to pursue a career in fashion at Elon University. Steenkamp used her fame to speak out against sexual violence. “I woke up in a happy, safe home this morning. Not everyone did,” she tweeted just last week, prophetically.
The only stereotypes that fit here: Astley’s breakup with Fujita (breakups increase the likelihood of violence six-fold); and the presence of a gun, a 9 mm pistol, in Pistorius’ home, which dramatically increases the likelihood of a domestic murder, or suicide.
So what to make of all this? Simply that domestic violence spares no one: not the rich, the famous, the beautiful, the successful — or those who are well raised and very much loved.
For 15 years now, Valentine’s Day has also been known as V-Day, a day of global awareness of violence against women. This Valentine’s Day, Steenkamp had been scheduled to speak to teenagers about empowerment and standing up for justice in their own lives. “Wear black this Friday in support against rape,” she had tweeted just hours before she’d planned to don black herself. But by Friday, Reeva Steenkamp was dead.