Advocate Veerash Srikison advises on our right to live a peaceful protected life as an integral part of being citizens of this country.
Bodily integrity and dignity are human rights enjoyed by every individual in South Africa. Yet according to Statistics South Africa’s (StatsSA) National Victims of Crime Survey, SA has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world.
On average, approximately 450 people are victims of common assault every day. However, their research shows that it is particularly difficult to get reliable statistics on women abuse in this country because most female victims are reluctant to report any crime committed against them where they know or live with their abuser.
In fact, StatsSA researchers believe that the number of victims who experience domestic violence could be on the increase, but these victims are actually fearful of reporting the abuse especially when they are dependant on their abuser.
The Domestic Violence Act deals with this serious crime and offers protection to women and children who are victims of abuse or domestic violence. It includes all persons whether they are married or not.This Act provides procedures where any person can report their abuse or have someone do it on behalf of them, and make an application to the court for a Protection Order, also called a restraining order, which allows the court to stop any abuser from continuing the abuse.
APPLYING FOR A PROTECTION ORDER
The abused person (victim) can apply for a Protection Order at a police station or Magistrates Court nearest to where she lives and it can be done at any time and on any day. There are two orders she would need to get by filling in different forms:
- The first order is an Interim Protection Order by completing a Form 6.
- Once the interim order is applied for, she must then complete a Form 2, which is the application for the Protection Order.
In these forms she would need to provide an affidavit stating the facts of the abuse. Once the clerk of the court receives the forms, they will send it to the magistrate and a date is set for the victim to come to the court for the application to be considered. The magistrate will send out a notice to the alleged abuser informing them to come to the court on that same day. When they are at court, the magistrate will hear the facts and may grant the application.
Once the Protection Order is granted – and even while the victim has the Interim Protection Order – she may call in the police service and letting them know that the abuser is in violation of either of the orders if she is threatened or harmed again by the abuser.
WHEN IN DANGER
Where the victim is unable to make an application and is in immediate danger and fears for her safety and that of her children, she must always have a safety plan ready. This plan means:
- Keeping an extra set of keys to her car and the house.
- Keeping a bag, that is easy to move quickly, packed with clothes for herself and her children along with money, credit cards, medical aid details and identity documents.
- She must leave the home or environment only when the abuser
is not around and take her children with her. Importantly, she must not let the abuser know that she will be leaving or that she has made plans to leave.
- Once in a safe place, she can contact the police services and organisations such as Lifeline, FAMSA or POWA for assistance and go to Legal Aid clinics or law clinics found at universities for legal assistance.
To preserve and stand up for the right to bodily integrity and dignity, we must show support for victims of violence and abuse and not use them as gossip fodder or targets of criticism. We need to protect these victims who are already using every bit of strength to make it through each day.