- Category Advice Column, Health, Parenting
It is not uncommon for people in South Africa to find themselves trapped in an abusive relationship. Children are often the victims of domestic violence either directly, or indirectly by being a witness to the abuse which can have a dire and lasting impact on them.
Domestic violence can take a variety of forms, such as verbal abuse like shouting and swearing, emotional and psychological abuse like insulting, manipulating or humiliating, physical abuse and/or sexual abuse. Further to this, abuse can also take the form of economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking and even damage to property.
Not everyone is aware of the fact that there are certain steps that can be taken in order to be better protected against such abuse. The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 provides victims of domestic violence with a remedy to deal with abuse and to provide them the maximum protection in such instances.
Any person who has been the victim of any act of domestic violence or harassment may apply for a Protection Order at the Magistrate’s Court in the area in which they live. An application of a Protection Order may be submitted to the Court by the victim personally, without first appointing a legal representative. The applicant may however elect to appoint a legal representative in order to gain the necessary legal advice and to assist with completing and submitting the application.
An application for a Protection Order is launched by completing and submitting a standard application form, in the form of an affidavit under oath that can be found at the Magistrate’s Court. The affidavit must be accompanied by any proof of the abuse, if such proof is available. This can include photos, copies of abusive or threatening messages or emails or even affidavits of other people who have witnessed the abuse. Once the application is submitted the Magistrate may elect to either grant an Interim Order or a Notice calling the person against whom the application was made to appear in Court and provide reasons why such an Order should not be granted. The interim Order or the Notice will be served on the respondent (the person against whom the application was made) and both parties will have to appear in Court on the date determined by the Magistrate. On the return date the Magistrate will firstly establish whether the Respondent intends to oppose the application, and if so, he will either ventilate the matter or explain the procedure that will be followed to the parties in order for the matter to be ventilated.
If the Applicant is successful, a Final Protection Order will be granted and a copy thereof will be sent to the nearest Police Station. Should the respondent contravene the Protection Order in any way, the victim may approach the Police for assistance and the Respondent can be prosecuted criminally for the breach of the Protection Order.
It is important for all victims of abuse to remember that they can still approach the South African Police Service for assistance with abuse, as abuse is a crime in South Africa, irrespective of whether they first obtained an Protection Order or not.
Written by: Shirne Grobler
Shirné Grobler obtained both her BComm (Law) and LBB degrees from the University of Stellenbosch and completed her articles at STBB. She is an admitted Attorney, Notary Public and Conveyancer and works as an Associate in STBB’s Cape Town litigation department, specializing in Family Law.