Domestic violence in terms of the law

using the law to fight domestic violence

Domestic violence is a serious problem in South Africa. Approximately half of South African women have reported that they have been victim to domestic violence or abuse. It is important to seek safety if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence. Knowing how the law regards domestic violence and what to do in the situation will help keep one safe.  

What is considered domestic violence?

According to the law, as per the Domestic Violence Act No. 116 of 1998, domestic violence is:

  • 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.
  • Any other abusive or controlling behaviour where such a conduct causes harm or may cause harm to the health, safety, or well-being of an individual.

Domestic violence is not just acts of physical violence as some may think. Some believe that because no one is being injured that domestic violence has not occurred. This is not true, and anyone who feels threatened or unsafe should seek help immediately.

What to do when experiencing domestic violence

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence the first step should always be to secure the victims safety. Once safe, the person may seek assistance from local authorities.

There are a number of organisations that can assist in the case of domestic violence. These organisations can help in securing safety, temporary shelter, and counselling. There are also many resources available from organisations, such as The Warrior Project, to help victims of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Protection Order

If victim to abuse, it is advised to apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order from the Domestic Violence Section of the local Magistrate’s Court. This order 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 
  • Committing any other act as specified in the protection order.

If this order is broken, a warrant of arrest can be issued for the abuser. The person applying for the Domestic Violence Protection Order will need to state the nature, extent, and severity of the incident in an affidavit. It is important that all information (exact dates, actual words spoken, and violent conduct) is included in this affidavit.

What to expect from court proceedings

When applying for a Domestic Violence Protection Order, the magistrate will only grant the order after giving the respondent an opportunity to respond to the allegations. A person may have legal representation and an attorney, who is well versed in family law, will be highly advantageous.

Only those involved (parties and their legal representatives, officers of the court, and witnesses) are allowed in these proceedings. No information which, directly or indirectly, reveals the identity of any party to the proceedings may be published. South Africa has strict laws in place to protect the rights and safety of all individuals.

Domestic violence is a difficult situation to deal with. Unfortunately it does occur and must be dealt with to insure the safety of the abused. We at MFM attorneys hope to make things easier by smoothing the legal processes. Contact us for advice and legal assistance in matters of domestic abuse.