Our country is one of the countries with the highest incident rates of domestic violence in the world and it is also the most common and widespread human rights violation in South Africa.

The ‘abuse’ can take a variety of forms in terms of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998, which Act regulates domestic violence and was introduced with the purpose to protect victims of domestic violence and afford them with options to obtain the appropriate assistance and relief that they need.

Domestic violence can take a variety of forms and generally includes the following acts:

1. Physical abuse

The most common form of domestic violence includes any act or threat of physical harm towards the other party with the intent to cause physical pain, injury, suffering or bodily harm. It can also mean withholding specific things such as medication or medical care from the other party and even keeping the other party from sleeping.

2. Sexual abuse

This includes any act that abuses, humiliates, degrades or violates the sexual integrity of the other party. Coercing a person, even if they are one’s spouse, to engage in sexual activity against their will, is an act of aggression and violence.

3. Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse

This form of abuse can be characterised by a pattern of degrading or humiliating acts towards the other party either privately or publicly. These acts can include insults, ridicule, name calling and/or repeated threats to cause emotional trauma and suffering.

4. Economic abuse

This form of abuse includes the unreasonable withholding of economic or financial resources to which the other party is entitled under law or requires out of necessity to fulfil their day to day needs and life expenses. It also includes the unreasonable disposal of household effects or other property in which the other party has an interest.

5. Intimidation, Harassment, Stalking and Damage to Property

These forms include threatening the other party, constantly inducing fear in the other party with certain acts, constantly contacting the other party even though they requested them to stop and causing physical damage to the property of the other party. 

6. Any conduct that harms, or may cause imminent harm to, the safety, health or wellbeing of the victim.

The Domestic Violence Act clearly makes the definition of Domestic Violence broad so that the court can have the discretion to take every complaint on a case to case basis to ensure that the persons who need the protection under the Domestic Violence Act receives it.

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