Being hit where it hurts? What to do when you’re abused

20 June 2020,  Ilze Strydom 1540
In President Cyril Ramaposa’s address to us this past week, it was profoundly moving to hear him speak about “another pandemic that is raging in our country – the killing of women and children by the men of our country.”

With no fewer than 21 women and children having been murdered over the past few weeks, he vehemently spoke out against the “violence being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension”.

To do my bit to help our women and children fight back, I am writing today about the ways in which the legal system can protect and help victims of domestic violence. 

It seems that the Covid-19 pandemic and the movement restrictions coupled therewith, has escalated the the already unacceptable number of cases of gender-based violence not only in South Africa, but also across the rest of the globe. 

In an article in The New York Times, Amanda Taub states the following:

“Add another public health crisis to the toll of the new coronavirus: Mounting data suggests that domestic abuse is acting like an opportunistic infection, flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic.”

The unfortunate truth is that no legal system, nor police action can change a person’s nature and cure the cause of abuse and violence. It can and does however, assist those who are fortunate enough to be able to report the abuse, and takes action against the perpetrators. 

The purpose of the Domestic Violence Act is to afford the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law can provide; and to introduce measures to ensure that the relevant organs of state give full effect to the provisions of this Act, and thereby to convey that the State is committed to the elimination of domestic violence – as Ramaphosa has reaffirmed.

Importantly, for the Domestic Violence Act to apply to any given set of circumstances, the relationship in question must classify as a “Domestic Relationship” and the act in question must be one of Domestic Violence. 

Examples of domestic relationships according to the Act, are between:

  • Parents (or guardians of children) and children;
  • Children and grandparents; 
  • Family members related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption;
  • Siblings and cousins;
  • People who live together in the same residence or previously lived together in the same residence.
Notice that the Act broadly defines “domestic violence” as being either physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, economic, or when taking the form of intimidation, stalking or harassment.

I want to encourage our women and children who are being abused, to, where they are still in a position to do so, to immediately go to the nearest Magistrates’ Court to apply for a protection order, also known as an interim interdict, against the abuser – before it turns fatal. This is basically a Court Order that clearly sets out what the abuser must or must not do.  

Once this order is granted it is of immediate effect and will it only be set aside once the Respondent (against whom the court order is granted) appears before the same court to set the order aside. 

This means that once you, as the Complainant. possess such a protection order, you have the power to have your abuser arrested the moment they commit any of the acts of domestic violence listed in your Protection Order. All you have to do should this happen, is to report the breach of the protection order to the nearest police station, at which stage the police must act immediately. 

If a victim of abuse prefers not to or is not able to apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order, they can report the abuse directly to the police or any of the following help lines: 

  • SAPS Emergency Services:  10111
  • Crime Stop: 08600 10111
  • Domestic Violence Helpline: 0800 150 150
  • Childline: 0800 055 555
In conclusion, I extend my thoughts and prayers to those who have suffered under abuse, and implore them and others to take action against abuse and allow the legal system to help them overcome the monster of abuse one step/order at a time.

*Click here to read the entire Domestic Violence Act.

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