Domestic Violence has become such a problem in South Africa that we have one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. Sadly, most people affected by domestic violence are too afraid to do something about it as they are uninformed of what help they can get.
Anybody can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of the race, age-group, education level etc. they are in. Although abuse against women and children still have the highest incident rate, domestic violence against men is starting to catch up. This includes married and divorced couples, couples who live together in a relationship, people who share a residence, parents of a child, family members, people who are engaged, dating or in a customary relationship.
Domestic Violence does not only include physical abuse but also sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking and damage to property.
Victims affected by domestic violence do not have to live in fear as the Domestic Violence Act was introduced in 1998 to help victims from ongoing abuse and to prevent it from happening in the future.
A person affected by any form of domestic violence can go to a Magistrate’s Court to apply for a protection order or interdict against the abuser. This court order tells an abuser to stop the abuse and sets certain conditions preventing the abuser from harassing or abusing the victim again. The protection order may also prevent the abuser from getting help from any other person to commit abusive acts. If there is no court available, go directly to the Police Station.
If a victim is too afraid to go and apply for a protection order, the Act allows that another person can apply on behalf of the victim if good reasons are provided.
If a protection order is granted, the victim is provided with a Warrant of arrest that can be used at any time during night or day. If an abuser contravenes any provision of the protection order, the victim should call the police and inform them of the protection order and the warrant of arrest. The abuser will be arrested and criminally charged and if found guilty they can be fined or go to prison.
There is no excuse for domestic violence and no person should go through such an experience. Domestic Violence will always be a problem in South Africa, but it is time to stand up and use the lifelines available for victims.
People who are victims of any form of domestic violence should act now and apply for a protection order. It will not take away the abuse that has already been done but it can save a life in the future.
- The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998.