In recent news and social media, cases of domestic violence have been more frequently and widely reported. These serious crimes unfortunately are not only now an issue, they remain a huge problem in our society despite not always being in the media. Below we set out how the provisions of The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 can be used to protect yourself against such incidents.
What Is Domestic Violence?
There is a misconception that domestic violence is exclusively violent acts between cohabiting partners or spouses. Domestic violence can take place whenever a domestic relationship exists between the victim and the perpetrator. Such a relationship exists when the parties mentioned live or have lived in the same house, are married, related to one another, or were in any sort of romantic relationship.
Abuse related to domestic violence may be physical, psychological, sexual, emotional, verbal, economic, intimidation, harassment or stalking. This list is not exhaustive and any other form of controlling or abusive behaviour may fall into this category.
How Do I Protect Myself?
A legal duty is placed on the South African Police Service to assist members of the public who may report instances of domestic violence. In such event that the SAPS suspect reasonably that an act of domestic violence has indeed taken place, they may arrest a perpetrator without a warrant of arrest.
The Domestic Violence Act further allows an individual who is a victim of domestic violence to apply for a protection order from court in which their attorney may assist; this process does not preclude a victim from laying a criminal charge with the SAPS.
The court will issue the victim with an interim protection order which must then be served on the perpetrator which allows for a return date for both parties to state their case.
The interim order will prohibit the perpetrator from committing certain acts of domestic violence based on the facts provided to the court and the relief sought from the victim.
If the perpetrator should contravene this order, the victim may report the contravention to their nearest police station or the court and a warrant of arrest may be authorised.
Domestic violence is rife in South Africa and is becoming more frequent. All victims are encouraged to speak out and follow the necessary processes to protect themselves and their loved ones. If you would like more information or assistance with domestic violence or acts of harassment, feel free to contact us so we may assist you.