THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT 116 OF 1998

Stories of abuse, abduction of women and children, and domestic violence have been trending on social media over the past few weeks. The focus of this article is therefore on the serious social evil – domestic violence. This article strives to set out how you can use the provisions of Domestic Violence Act to protect yourself against domestic violence.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

There has been a widely misconceived perception with regard to the meaning of domestic violence. Most people regard domestic violence as violence/abuse between either a married couple, or a cohabiting couple.

Domestic violence can occur whenever a domestic relationship exists between you and the person committing the violence. You are therefore in a domestic relationship if you live or have lived in the same house with the perpetrator; you are married to that person; you are related to the perpetrator; or you were engaged or dating – including any perceived romantic relationship.

Domestic violence may take the form of physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional, verbal; psychological abuse; economic abuse; intimidation; harassment; stalking; damage to property; entry into your residence without consent; or any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards you by any person whom you are in a domestic relationship with.

HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

A legal duty is placed on the South African Police Service. This means that when you report a domestic violence incident, which you are encouraged to, the officer should assist you and inform you about your rights and the remedies available. If the officer reasonably suspects that an act of domestic violence has occurred he/she may arrest the perpetrator without a warrant of arrest.

Section 4 allows you to apply for a protection order. Take note that this does not prevent you from laying a criminal charge against the perpetrator.

You can apply for an interim protection order at the domestic violence section of the Magistrates’ court in the area which you reside. The Act further allows urgent applications to be brought outside the normal court hours (9:00 – 15:30), if the court is satisfied that hardship will be suffered if the application is not dealt with immediately.

The clerk of the court situated at the domestic violence section will request you to fill in a form, and attest to an affidavit. The form will require you to set out the details of both you and the perpetrator; an explanation of the domestic violence suffered by you and the relief you require. You are encouraged to put as much information as possible on the application form. You may also attach photographs, a doctor’s letter, and sworn affidavits by witnesses.

If the court is satisfied that the abuser has committed or is committing an act of violence against you, the court will issue an interim protection order. Whenever the court issues a protection order, the court will make an order authorising the issue of a warrant of arrest of the perpetrator.

The interim protection order may prohibit the perpetrator from 1) committing any act of domestic violence, 2) entering a residence shared by the two of you, 3) entering specific parts of a shared residence, e.g. your bedroom, 4) entering your residence, 5) entering your workplace, 6) or any other act specified in the protection order.

CONCLUSION

Domestic violence against women and children has been occurring more frequently in our communities. We therefore encourage any victim of domestic violence to speak out and do the right thing before the violence transpires out of control and lives are lost.

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