Snaid & Morris

Domestic Violence

It’s no secret that South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world. A 2021 Statistics South Africa report indicates that one in five women (21%) had experienced physical violence by a partner. This does not however mean that men are not victims of abuse perpetrated by women.

With a country focus of Gender Based Violence (GBV) being of men abusing women, men remain reluctant to report being subjected to abuse perpetrated by women. There is however consensus in research articles that women are more likely to be subjected to severe forms of abuse at the hands of men, and that women are more likely to be injured by an abusive male partner. Furthermore, when children form part of an abusive family, that such children may also be harmed. Domestic Violence however also occurs in same-sex relationships.

Domestic Violence is behaviour that contravenes the rights of citizens to cause another person harm or imminent harm. As name suggests, the Domestic Violence Act No 116 of 1998 (“the Act”), pertains to people in a domestic relationship, this relationship could be:

  • Married people
  • Living together (married or not)
  • Parents of a child, or persons who had parental responsibility for a child – regardless of whether or not they still do
  • Family members
  • In an engagement, dating or customary relationship, including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship of any duration
  • Share a residence, or recently did so.

The various types of harms that may be suffered are defined in the Act as follows:

  • Damage to property: wilful damage or destruction of property owned by the complainant or in which the complainant has a vested interest.
  • Economic abuse: unreasonably depriving a complainant of economic or financial resources to which they are entitled or which they require out of necessity such as mortgage payments and payment of rent relating to a shared residence; or unreasonably disposing of household effects or other goods in which the complainant has an interest.
  • Emergency monetary relief: compensation for monetary losses as a result of the domestic violence suffered including – loss of earnings, medical and dental, relocation and accommodation costs, household necessities.
  • Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse: a pattern of demeaning conduct including repeated insults, ridicule or name calling; repeated threats that cause emotional scarring or repeated demonstration of jealousy.
  • Entering into the complainant’s residence without consent, where the parties do not share the same residence.
  • Harassment: inducing fear by repeatedly watching or loitering outside or near the place of work of the complainant, repeatedly making telephone calls to the complainant, repeatedly sending, delivering or causing to be delivered letters, packages, emails or other objects to the complainant.
  • Intimidation: conveying a threat that induces fear to the complainant.
  • Physical abuse: any act or threatened act of physical violence toward the complainant.
  • Sexual abuse: any conduct that abuses, humiliates, degrades or violates the sexual integrity of the complainant.
  • Stalking: repeatedly following or approaching the complainant.
  • Any other such controlling or abusive behaviour towards a complainant,

where such conduct harms, or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health or wellbeing of the complainant.

The Domestic Violence Act was introduced in 1998 with the purpose of affording the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law can provide. It was furthermore enacted to introduce measures that allow the courts and other relevant organs of state to clearly communicate government’s commitment to eradicating domestic violence in South Africa.

A Protection Order from Domestic Violence is a Court Order that tells an abuser to immediately cease their abusive behaviour and sets out certain conditions preventing the abuser from harassing or abusing the victim again. The Court Order may also set out that the abuser continues to pay for rent or a bond or interim maintenance, depending on what the complainant had requested at the time of filing their original Protection Order and was subsequently ordered by the Court. The Protection Order may also prevent the abuser from getting help from any other person to commit abusive acts.

Whilst it is possible complete a complaint form at the Magistrates’ Court directly, we recommend utilising the services of an experienced attorney for your matter. If you would like to institute a Protection Order matter or have had action taken against you that you do not feel is warranted, please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.