Domestic abuse is violence between one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or co-inhabitation. South Africa has one of the highest domestic-violence rates in the world and is sadly the most common form of human rights abuse in South Africa. Studies show that at least 1 in 6 women in South Africa are regularly assaulted by their partners.

While domestic abuse can be inflicted by or happen to any gender, statistics show that women are subjected to it more significantly than men. In at least 46% of cases, the men involved also abuse the children living with the women. However, no matter who is getting abused, it is never okay or justified and the situation should always be voiced so that the person being abused may find safety and comfort.

The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 was introduced in hopes of affording victim’s protection from domestic violence by creating obligations on law enforcement bodies to protect the victims as far as possible.

The South African Police Service should make it their duty to help the victims of domestic violence by explaining their rights to them as well as helping them find suitable accommodation and medical assistance. They should also explain to the victim how they can obtain a Protection Order.

The first step to take when you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse, is to obtain a Protection Order. Any person who is a victim of the act of domestic violence may apply to a court for a Protection Order. Once the interim order is granted and served to the abuser, in the event of further abuse inflicted, the abuser can be criminally charged and arrested. Applications for a Protection Order can also be made on the behalf of the victim – with their written consent – unless the victim is a minor, mentally incapable or unconscious. This helps with regards to when discretion may be needed.

If you wish to apply for a Protection Order, you will need to go to the local magistrate’s office and complete an affidavit. You may also contact a lawyer, if you wish, to help you through this process. This will then be sent to the magistrate, who will consider the matter and may ask for more evidence. If satisfied, they will issue an initial Protection Order. This usually will have a return date so that the respondent is given his or her chance to state their side of the story and reply to the affidavit. In the meantime, the defendant is protected as the respondent must obey the Interim Protection Order.

“The respondent is given at least 10 days to reply to the interim protection order, but if they are ready to come to court earlier, then they can give notice of an earlier day for the matter to be heard. On the return date, the court again considers the matter and, after hearing the respondent’s case, either confirms the temporary order or makes any other order that will serve the situation best.” Together with a protection order or temporary order, the court also issues a warrant for arrest, which is suspended. This means that the respondent will not be arrested as long as they comply with the protection order and if they do not comply, the defendant can go to the police and the respondent will be arrested immediately.

Domestic Abuse is life-threatening and it is imperative that it is dealt with before it reaches that level. No person should ever remain silent, in the face of abuse. If you would like to learn more about the specifics of a protection order, read this informative document provided by the Department of Justice.

Are you looking for a domestic violence lawyer to assist you with your application and case for domestic abuse? Durban Law Offices has a team of dedicated family lawyers who seek to help those who find themselves in such a situation. Karen Olivier is a senior attorney, and her and her team of legal practitioners, who practice only in family law, have experience helping those with similar cases. Please contact us on 031 836 0307 or email us at karen@durbanlawoffices.co.za should you need any advice or assistance.