The trauma of witnesses at Reeva’s deathComment on this story
Johannesburg - Johan Stander didn’t want to go over it a second time. “It’s not something that I would like to experience again in my life,” he said when the defence asked him to take them through the moments when he saw Oscar Pistorius carrying a bleeding Reeva Steenkamp down the stairs.
Torn apart, broken and with an unforgettable expression on his face was how he remembered Pistorius.
Those moments were the ones that brought tears to the eyes of his daughter, Carise Viljoen. She was also at the scene that night and was composed until she spoke of seeing Pistorius with Steenkamp’s lifeless body.
This trauma of reliving a crime is called secondary victimisation. Dr Jackie de Wet, from the criminology and forensic studies department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said primary victimisation was the actual crime, while secondary victimisation was the reliving of the event through telling it to police or in court.
As you retell what happened, you are re-traumatised as memories and feelings bubble up again.
“(Viljoen) was quite okay and composed until she started talking about the actual scene,” said De Wet. He said Viljoen had never mentioned injuries to Steenkamp’s head, although she mentioned injuries to other parts of the body, which could be her blocking out the rehashing of it.
Depending on the person, this secondary victimisation could manifest as sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder or even irrational fears.
De Wet said that for Steenkamp’s mother June, this principle of secondary victimisation would be emphasised.
“She has to sit there every day and listen to different versions of the same story that have the same end result,” he said.
De Wet said the victim charter did make provision for counselling, but how much and how often it was applied could be a grey area.