What is domestic violence?

According to the Domestic Violence Act No. 116 of 1998, is domestic violence any form of abuse which includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic harassment; damage to property; stalking; entry into a person’s property without their consent; and any other abusive or controlling behaviour where such a conduct causes harm or may cause harm to your health, safety, or well being.

If these forms of abuse are happening to you or to anyone you know, you can apply for a protection order.

A domestic violence protection order is a document issued by the court which prevents the abuser from:

1. Committing an act of domestic violence;
2. Enlisting the help of another person to commit any such act;
3. Entering a residence shared by the complainant and the respondent;
4. Entering a specified part of such a shared residence;
5. Entering the complainant’s residence;
6. Entering the complainant’s place of employment;
7. Preventing the complainant who ordinarily lives or lived in a shared residence from entering or remaining in the shared residence or a specified part of the shared residence; or
8. Committing any other act as specified in the protection order.

What is abuse?

Physical Abuse may include:
Shoving, slapping, punching, kicking, throttling, biting.
Assault with objects, guns, knives or any other dangerous weapon.

Sexual Abuse may include:
Rape, attempted rape, indecent assault.
On-going verbal abuse with sexual slurs such as bitch, whore, slut, etc.

Emotional, Verbal and Psychological Abuse may include:
Constant insults, ridicule or name calling.
Repeated threats of violence or death to cause emotional pain.

Economic Abuse may include:
Selling of shared property without the consent of the victim.
Accessing a joint bank account for personal use without the consent of the victim.

Intimidation could be:
Sending written or verbal death threats to the victim.
Sending beheaded dolls, small coffins, dead flowers or dead pets to the victim.

Harassment may include:
Repeatedly watching the victim outside or near her house, workplace, school or business premises or any place where she happens to be.
Repeatedly phoning the victim or causing any other person to phone her whether or not the caller speaks to the complainant.

Stalking means, for example:
Constantly approaching the victim and asking or demanding to talk to her against her will.

Damage to Property may include acts of:
Breaking the window to gain entry into the victim’s house.
Cutting, breaking or damaging in any other manner shared furniture.

Unauthorised Entry into the Victim’s Residence may include:
Using a duplicate key to gain access may also constitute domestic violence.

Against whom may you seek protection?

The person to whom you are married, whether by civil or customary rites.

Your partner who lives or has lived together with you, even though you were not married to each other or are not able to be married to each other.

The other parent of your child or persons who share parental responsibility with you for a child.

Persons who are related to you by blood ties, marriage or adoption.

The person with whom you shared an engagement, customary or dating relationship, including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship of any duration.

A person with whom you share or have recently shared the same residence.

Application for Protection Order

If you feel that you are a victim of any act of domestic violence as listed above, approach the local Magistrate Court and request assistance in bringing an application for a Protection Order. The Clerk of the Court will assist you to complete the necessary forms and take you before a Magistrate who will determine whether to grant the Order or not. 

A Protection Order is a written order that is issued by the magistrate’s or family court to stop any person from committing any act of domestic violence against another person with whom he or she has a domestic relationship.

Interim Protection Order

The interim Protection Order will request the Respondent (the person who is committing the abuse) not to abuse you in the specific manner alleged in your Affidavit. The Respondent may be ordered not to physically or verbally abuse you or the children.
In extreme cases, the Magistrate may consider it appropriate to prohibit the Respondent from entering the shared house or restrict him/her to certain areas of the shared residence. If the children are victims of the abuse, the Court may order that the Respondent has no or limited contact with the children. The Court may make an order for emergency monetary relief. This means that if you need to claim medical expenses or alternate accommodation costs which arose directly as a result of the abuse, you must provide proof of the expenses incurred and request the Court to consider this application. The Court may order the police to seize the Respondent’s firearm if he/she has made any threat on your life.

Breach of the Protection Order

This is when the Respondent fails to comply with the terms of the Order, e.g. when he repeats the abusive behaviour that, according to the Protection Order served, he has been prohibited from committing.

If the Respondent breaches the Protection Order by repeating physical or verbal abuse on you in the manner described at the beginning of this brochure, you may file a complaint at the police station and hand in the Warrant of Arrest to the police who will then arrest the Respondent, when the circumstances so permit. Once arrested, the Respondent will face criminal charges and be tried in a Criminal Court for breaching the Protection Order.

Remember, however, that if the Court finds that the Warrant of Arrest is used maliciously (to have the Respondent arrested without just cause), then you may be prosecuted in terms of the Act. The Respondent will appear in the Criminal Court to be tried under Criminal Charges for breaching the terms of the Protection Order served on him/her.

Can the criminal charges be withdrawn?

Once the Respondent has been arrested for a breach of the Protection Order, the Applicant may not decide to withdraw the charges. The Senior Public Prosecutor has the sole discretion to withdraw charges.

Can I set aside the Protection Order?

You may, at any time, make an application to have the Order set aside. It is however, at the discretion of the Magistrate as to whether or not to set aside the Order. This will mean that the Protection Order will be declared null and void.