Stopping Domestic Violence

Stop Domestic Violence

Get the help you need to end domestic violence

South Africa is at war.  The battlefield is our homes and the victims the ordinary women and children of our communities.  A report titled “South Africa Demographic and Health Survey” which was released in May last year (2017) conducted by Stats SA in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council  revealed that at 21% of women over the age of 18 reported that they had experienced violence at the hands of a partner. That’s one in five women.

Controversially, the South African Police do not keep any crime statistics on domestic violence.  However, we do know that last year 39,828 rapes and 49,660 sexual offences were reported in South Africa.  It is conservatively estimated that only one in ten sexual offences are reported.

Domestic violence is no longer unusual.  Victims of domestic violence are not alone and they certainly have nothing to be ashamed of.  But what can victims do to protect themselves and their families?  Knowledge is power, so this article outlines the legal rights of victims and provides some practical assistance.

What exactly is domestic violence?

Many people think that domestic violence only includes physical violence, but the Domestic Violence Act defines it as any controlling or abusive behaviour which occurs within a domestic relationship and which poses a threat to someone’s safety or well-being. This can include emotional abuse, threats, damage to property, stalking and even withholding income.  The abuse can happen within any close relationship – not just between husband and wife.  It can include abuse by a boyfriend, girlfriend, parent or child.

What legal remedies are available to victims?

There are two main remedies available:

  • Victims can apply for a protection order in terms of the Domestic Violence Act at their nearest police station or Magistrates’ Court; and
  • They can also lay a criminal charge against the person responsible for the domestic violence.

How do protection orders work?

A protection order is issued by a Magistrates’ Court.  The exact terms of the order depend on the circumstances of the case but typically the abuser will be ordered not to enter the victim’s home or place of work and to stop any further acts of abuse.  If the abuser disobeys the order, he can be arrested immediately and criminally charged.

Because it can take some time for a Magistrate to grant a protection order, the Act allows victims to obtain an “interim protection order”.  This is obtained at the nearest police station at any time of the day or night.  The interim order protects the victim until a final order is obtained.

What other steps can victims take?

Being prepared can make all the difference.  Some practical steps include:

  • Identify places close to your home where you can use a telephone quickly and safely.
  • Find a safe place close to home and try and store the following there: a copy of the protection order and the warrant of arrest issued by the Magistrates’ Court; some money for taxi fare; your essential documents like ID books etc., an extra set of house keys and some clothing for yourself (and your children).
  • If you are planning to leave, then leave when your partner is not around, and take your children with you.

Where can victims get more help?

You can download a step-by-step guide to the whole process on which has been carefully prepared by our expert legal team at LawUnlocked.

Other sources of support include the Women Abuse Helpline (0800 150 150), Childline (0800 055 555) and SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (08600 10111).

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