Empowering Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence One Protection Order at a Time
Any conversation surrounding South African women’s empowerment would be incomplete without a thorough discussion of domestic violence, as women’s inability to assert power and control over their lives, in a nation with the highest rates of domestic violence, is often the direct result of the abuse they endure in the context of domestic relationships. Moreover, to ensure women overcome such abuse, the mechanisms and laws put in place to protect them must be publicized.
The following is a discussion of protective orders, South Africa’s primary legal mechanism provided for victims and survivors of abuse who wish to end the cycle of domestic violence once and for all.
First and foremost, it is important to identify if you are, in fact, a victim of domestic violence; as only those who fall into certain categories are guaranteed protection under The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 which governs court-issued protective orders. The categories are as follows:
- Civil/customary/religious/foreign marriages
- Same and opposite sex couples who live together
- Families living in same house and minor children
- Unrelated people living in the same house
- People dating or sexually involved
- Engaged couples
- Children in the care/custody of an adult
Step 1: Determine if You are Being Abused
Once it is established you are involved in one of various recognised domestic relationships, you must then determine if the abuse you are being subjected to warrants a legal protection order. Examples are as follows:
- Physical (hitting, punching, kicking, pushing)
- Sexual (forced or threatened sexual intercourse/oral sex)
- Emotional (attempts to control how you think, what you do, who else you communicate with)
- Verbal (insults, name calling, shouting, and swearing)
- Economic (refusing to give money for you and your children’s needs)
- Harassment/Stalking (sms, email, telephone or in person contact without your permission)
Step 2: Apply for a Protection Order
File an application for a protection order at the nearest Magistrate’s Court. Be sure to bring with you all relevant information about the perpetrator (i.e. name, telephone number, home and/or work address, and any record of physical injuries from your doctor).
Court clerks and/or representatives from organizations such as the Legal Resources Centre or MOSAIC should be available to assist you in wording the application properly.
Step 3: Obtain a Protection Order
Once your application has been filed by a clerk, the Magistrate will either issue an interim order based on proof of abuse, or schedule a hearing where both parties must present evidence to determine if an order should be granted.You can appoint an attorney to represent you. If the perpetrator has an attorney, then you qualify to receive legal aid assistance.
Step 4: Feel Protected
When a final order is made, a warrant of arrest is also issued. The police will use the warrant to arrest the perpetrator if he violates the protection order.
The perpetrator will be served notice of the protection order at one of the provided addresses, which prevents the abuser from:
• committing an act of domestic violence
• enlisting the help of another person to commit any such act
• entering a residence shared by the complainant and the respondent
• entering a specified part of such a shared residence
• entering the complainant’s residence
• entering the complainant’s place of employment
• 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
• committing any other act as specified in the protection order
Make sure to keep a copy of your own in a safe, but easily accessible, place
Step 5 – Enforce Your Protection Order
In the event the protection order is violated, CALL THE POLICE and inform them you have a protection order and that the perpetrator has violated the order. Show them the order and, if there is a threat of imminent harm, they must arrest the perpetrator.
Make sure that calling the police will not endanger you or your children by doing your best not to inform the perpetrator the police have been contacted, as this may lead to further abuse.
While there are no guarantees that a perpetrator will adhere to the restrictions set forth in protection orders, by following the steps toward obtaining one, you are making the conscious decision to break the cycle of abuse and take the steps necessary to empower yourself, your children, and others impacted by the harmful environment created by domestic violence.
For more information related to protection orders, visit: http://www.justice.gov.za/vg/dv.html
This post was developed as an informative tool for women. Please visit your nearest LRC office for further advice and assistance. Written by Ambur Smith