If your partner is violent, don’t be silent

Domestic violence can be described as the violent or aggressive behaviour within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner or family member. Domestic violence is rarely a ones-off incident and should rather be seen as a systematic pattern of abuse and controlling behaviour through which the abuser seeks power over his/her victim.

Domestic violence does not discriminate and occurs in all kinds of families and relationships. Persons of any class, ethnic background, economic level, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age and sex can be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world with an estimated one in every six women being regularly assaulted by her partner. Domestic violence has the most repeat victims of any other crime and is the most common human rights violation in South Africa. Although men are also victims of domestic abuse, determining the instances involving male victims is difficult. Women are the main victims of this crime and research shows that a victim, on average, suffers 35 assaults before reporting it to the police for the first time.

There are various forms of domestic violence:


– This type of abuse involves inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury, pain suffering or bodily harm.

–  This type of abuse can also take the form of withholding access to resources that are necessary to maintain health. These types of behaviour include denying the victim medical care, food, sleep, and hygienic services as well as coercing victims to take drugs and/or alcohol against their will.


– This type of abuse is any conduct that involves coercing or   attempting to coerce any sexual conduct without consent e.g. marital (spousal) rape, acquaintance rape, forced prostitution, fondling, sodomy, forced sex after beating, etc.

–  Another type of sexual abuse is when the abuser attempts to undermine the victims sexuality by criticizing sexual performance, withholding sex, etc.


– This abuse involves the instilling or attempting to instil fear e.g. intimidation, blackmail, harassment, stalking, threatening physical harm to victims as well as others, damage to property, etc.

– This form of abuse also includes the isolation or attempting to isolate victims from family, friends, school/work.


– This type of abuse occurs when an abuser undermines or

attempts to undermine a victim’s self-worth e.g. name calling,

constant criticism and belittling, manipulation, etc.


– This type of abuse involves making or attempting to make the victim financially dependent on the abuser and includes the unreasonable deprivation of financial resources as well as preventing the acquisition of financial resources. 

There is no criteria set in which one can identify an abuser and the abuse often takes place behind closed doors. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol and drug abuse and stress are not causes of domestic violence and neither is mental illness. However, there are many signs of an abusive relationship and one of the most telling signs is fear of a partner.

In South Africa, domestic violence is regulated by the Domestic Violence Act, 116 of 1998. The Act affords victims of domestic violence with the legal mechanism to prevent further abuses from taking place.

Victims may apply at the Magistrate’s Court within their jurisdiction for a protection order. A protection order is a Court Order that orders the abuser to stop the abusive behaviour and also sets certain conditions restricting the abuser from continuing with certain types of behaviour against his victim. This preliminary application is an interim Order and notice thereof is served on the abuser informing him/her of the date when he/she should appear in Court so that the application made by the victim can be considered. On this return date, the Magistrate may grant the protection Order.

Should the abuser not appear in Court on the date specified in the notice, the Magistrate may grant the protection Order should he be satisfied that there is enough evidence that the abuse occurred.

If the abuser appears on the return date at Court to oppose issuing of the protection Order, the Court will hear the matter and make a final decision after considering the affidavits as well as the oral evidence.

Once a protection Order has been granted by the Magistrate, a warrant of arrest will be issued simultaneously. The warrant can be executed if the abuser breaches the Court Order.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, do not feel alone or as though you have nowhere to turn. There are organisations that you can approach for support and counselling.

There is no excuse for domestic abuse and it is important that women are aware that there is a legal recourse for them. The Domestic Violence Act recognises and protects the rights of abused women by making provision for protection orders as well as requiring that the police keep records of domestic violence incidents.


FAMSA: (http://www.famsa.org.za)

SAPS: 10111

PEOPLE OPPOSING WOMAN ABUSE (POWA): (http://www.powa.co.za)

RAPE CRISIS: 011 642 4345

LIFELINE: 0861 322 322




  This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)