How can you practically empower yourself, or the women and children you know, during this year’s 16 days of Activism? The Mail & Guardian‘s “HOW TO” guide will tackle a different area each day, including suing for maintenance, applying for a social grant and getting an interdict against an abusive partner.
If you are in an abusive relationship or a child in your care is being abused, you can put a stop to the violence by seeking protection through the courts.
The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 was introduced to afford victims of domestic violence the maximum protection the law can provide.
Any person who can be defined as a ‘complainant” in terms of the Act can approach the court for protection.
A complainant is defined as any person who has been in a domestic relationship with a respondent (the person committing the violence) and who is or has been subjected to an act of domestic violence, including any child in care of the complainant.
What is domestic violence?
According to the Act, ‘domestic violence” means
- Physical abuse — any act or threatened act of physical violence;
- Sexual abuse — any conduct that humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the sexual integrity of the complainant
- Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse — a pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct towards a complainant. This can include name calling, insults or ridicules as well as repeated threats to cause emotional pain;
- Economic abuse — such as the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which a complainant is entitled under law;
- Intimidation — uttering or conveying a threat which induces fear;
- Harassment — engaging in a pattern of behaviour that induces fear of harm to the complainant. This includes repeatedly watching or loitering outside a building where the complainant works, studies or resides; and repeatedly making telephone calls to the complainant;
- Stalking — repeatedly following, pursuing or accosting the complainant;
- Damage to property;
- Entry into the complainant’s residence without consent, where the parties do not share the same residence;
- Any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards a complainant that may cause harm to the safety, health or wellbeing of the complainant.
A protection order prohibits the person against whom the order is made from committing any acts of domestic violence or from getting any other person to commit such acts against you (the victim of the abuse).
Download the protection order here.
The protection order can also offer protection to other members of the family who are affected by the violence. It can also make provision for a peace officer to accompany you to collect your personal property and/or for the police to seize any arms or dangerous weapons that may be in the possession of the abuser.
What to do when applying for an order
It helps to write down as much information as possible regarding the violence you have experienced, whether weapons were used, what injuries you had and if you received medical treatment. It is essential that you have the addresses of the abuser or some idea of where he can be found. Take this information with you when go to apply for a protection order and refer to it when filling out the application form. This will ensure you do not leave out anything important.
To obtain the order you will need to go to the magistrate’s court in the area where you live or the area in which your abuser lives. You will need to fill out a form known as an ‘Application for Protection Order ‘ — a clerk of the court will be able to assist you with this.
You will then have to swear under oath to the correctness of the information.
The clerk of the court will take your application to the magistrate, who may then prepare a notice that the Sheriff of the court or a police officer will serve on the abusive party. This notice will act as a temporary protection order and both you and your abuser will have to appear in court at a later date for a hearing, where you will be required to make a case as to why the order should be made permanent.
Once you have a protection order in place, you will be able to have your abuser arrested should he disobey it. A breach of any of the conditions set out in the order could result in the offender either receiving a fine or being sentenced to a prison term — or both.
Persons such as teachers, counsellors and healthcare providers may apply for a protection order on your behalf, provided they have your written consent. This written consent, however, does not apply if the complainant is a minor, has a disability, is unconscious or is unable to provide such consent for any other reason.
Get some support
- It is important to share your experiences with people you trust. Let them help you to seek assistance.
- Go for counselling
- If you believe your life is in danger and you are afraid to approach the court to seek protection against your abuser, it is essential to get support from organisations such as Powa that will be able to advise you on what steps and precautions to take and provide you with assistance.
- People Opposing Women Abuse or Powa is based in Gauteng and provides telephonic, counselling and legal support to women experiencing abuse. Powa also accompanies women to court and assists them in filling out documents. Call the Powa helpline on 083 765 1235 or visit www.powa.co.za.
- Famsa has offices nationwide and gives counselling to the abused and their families. To find your nearest Famsa branch telephone 011 975 7101, email [email protected] or visit their website www.famsa.org.za/.
- Lifeline provides 24-hour counselling services. Call the SA National Counselling Line on 0861 322 322.
- The Legal Aid Board offers legal assistance. To locate your nearest Justice Centre, call 0861 053 425 or visit www.legal-aid.co.za/.
- Campus law clinics also offer legal assistance.
- Rape Crisis offers free and confidential counselling to people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Phone 011 642 4345/6.
View more on our special report on 16 days of activism here.