By Emsie Martin
It is once more time for 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children, an annual campaign from 25 November to 10 December to make people more aware of the impact of violence against women and children. But does it really make a difference? Women sometimes feel ensnared and scared to report domestic violence. Help is available, talk to a social worker trained to provide assistance. The following is a short list of information that can make a difference.
What is domestic violence?
- any physical abuse
- emotional, verbal and psychological abuse
- sexual abuse
- economic abuse (for instance if you are unreasonably denied money, or the unreasonable alienation of household possessions in which you have an interest, without your consent)
- damage to your property
- unauthorised access to the residence of the victim (for instance to enter the house of a former girlfriend without her permission)
- intimidation (written or verbal death threats that cause fear)
- harassment (for example undesirable telephone calls, stalking of the person or loafing around in places where the victim is)
- any other behaviour that is harmful to the safety or wellbeing of the victim
What are my options when I am a victim of domestic violence?
You have the right to:
- lay a criminal charge;
- apply for a protection order at the nearest magistrate’s court; and
- lay a criminal charge and apply for a protection order. Laying a criminal charge is not a requirement for applying for a protection order.
What is a protection order?
It is an order issued by a magistrate when a victim applies for it, that:
- COMPELLS the perpetrator to behave in a certain way (for instance, to pay the rent); and
- FORBIDS the perpetrator of domestic violence to commit certain acts (e.g. he or she may not assault or contact the victim).
It can also prevent the perpetrator to get help from another person to commit these deeds. The purpose of a protection order is to prevent a repeat of the domestic violence. However, if the respondent disregards any provision of the protection order, he or she can be arrested.
Who may apply for a protection order?
- A victim or any other person who has a real interest in the wellbeing of the victim, which includes an adviser, a health-service provider, a member of the SAPD, a social worker or a teacher.
- A person applying on behalf of the victim must have written permission to do so, unless the complainant is a minor, mentally retarded or unconscious.
What can I do if the perpetrator disregards a protection order?
- Phone the police. They will ask you to make a sworn statement.
- The order for arrest, which indicates that you received it together with the protection order, must be handed to the police. If you do not have it with you, you must inform the members accordingly.
Make sure that you have an emergency safety plan
- Identify a place where will have quick and easy access to a phone, or make sure that you always have your phone at hand.
- Make sure that people you trust have a copy of the protection order and warrant for arrest.
- Keep money in a safe place that you can use in an emergency to take a taxi or bus.
- Keep an extra set of house or car keys in a safe place.
- If possible, pack a set of clothes for yourself (and your children) in a suitcase and keep it in a safe place.
- If you plan to go away, leave when the perpetrator is not in the vicinity and take your children with you.
- Make sure that you have essential documents such as your ID, birth certificates, your medical-fund card and your bank card or credit card with you.
- Take photos of bruises or injuries.
- Keep all threats that you receive per WhatsApp, SMS, email, etc.
As members of the SAPS police officers undertake to:
- treat victims with respect and protect their dignity;
- listen to what victims have to say;
- not to insult or blame victims or to insinuate that it was their own fault that they were abused;
- assist victims with empathy and care;
- inform victims of their rights and opinions;
- ask victims to sign the occurrence book at the police station;
- take a victim’s statement in private and not in the presence of the abuser or the public; and
- give feedback on the investigation.
- It is not your fault.
- You deserve to be treated with respect.
- You deserve to feel safe and free.
- Your children deserve to be happy and safe.
- You are not alone, there are people who can help you.
There is help
Contact your local police station SAPS emergency line 10111 SAPS
Stop Crime 08600 10111
Stop Gender Violence emergency line 0800 150 150
Childline 0800 055 555
SAPS Unit for Domestic Violence, Child Violence and Sexual Transgressions, Head Office, Pretoria 012 393 2184
Visible Policing: Gender-based Violence and Victim Empowerment 012 421 8000