Domestic violence no longer has to stay unreported and silenced, and knowing your rights in such a situation can save your life.
The Domestic Violence Act of 1998, which has since been passed by government, seeks to protect those that suffer from abusive partners as well as bring the perpetrators to book.
The laws in the act are not limited to those that are married, but also extends to those that live together, or are in a monogamous relationship. While the act lists physical, sexual and emotional abuse as part of its mandate, intimidation, harassment, stalking and damage to property also fall under the act and can therefore be grounds for prosecution. Verbal abuse is also a part of the act.
Someone depriving you of necessary financial resources you require, such as rent or bond payments for a place you share, can also form grounds for you to enlist the help of the law in rectifying the situation. Under the act, this falls under economic abuse.
If any of the abuses that are listed affect you, you can apply for a domestic violence protection order at your nearest Magistrates Court free of charge. This is granted by first applying for an Interim Protection Order.
An application for a protection order can also be filed on behalf of someone by a social worker, teacher, health service provider and someone from the South African Police Service (SAPS). A minor can also apply for a protection order unassisted.
Once the interim order has been granted, it will be given or served to the perpetrator by the police. If the abuser doesnâ€™t protest the interim order, the final protection order will be granted. If your abuser is present during the serving of the interim order and protests it, the situation can be taken to court.
Once a final protection order has been issued, a warrant of arrest is immediately issued but remains suspended for as long as the perpetrator or abuser does not break the conditions illustrated in the order. If any of the conditions are broken, the abuser can be charged by the court for breaching the order.