Types of abuse
Domestic violence is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence is any behaviour the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member through the following ways.
- sexual abuse (whether you are married to the other person or not);
- physical abuse or assault (for example, slapping, biting, kicking, and threats of physical violence);
- damage to property or anything you value;
- stalking (when the other person follows or approaches you or your children repeatedly);
- economic abuse, that is, when the other person keeps money to which you are legally entitled from you in an unreasonable manner by –
– refusing to pay or share the rent or mortgage bond for the home you share; or
– disposing of any property (household goods) in which you have interest, without your permission;
- emotional abuse (that is, degrading or humiliating behaviour, including repeated insults, belittling, cursing and threats);
- any other controlling or abusive behaviour which poses a threat to your safety, health or well-being.
- Verbal abuse: coercion, threats, & blame
- Using male privilege
- Economic abuse
What are your options if you are being abused?
You have the right to apply for a protection order at the nearest police station or magistrate’s court; or lay a criminal charge at the police station.
Have a crisis plan ready
This plan may include the following:
- Identify places where you can use a telephone quickly and easily.
- Carry a list of emergency numbers with you.
- Make sure that the people you usually visit have a copy of the protection order and/or warrant of arrest.
- Put some money in a safe place so that you can take a taxi or bus in case of an emergency.
- Have an extra set of keys for the house or car.
- If possible, have a set of clothes for yourself (and your children) packed in a bag, and keep it in a safe place (for example, at a neighbour’s house).
- If you are planning to leave, leave when your partner is not around, and take your children with you.
- Make sure that you are in possession of essential documents like IDs, your medical aid card, and your savings/credit card.
Action by SAPS at the scene of the incident
SAPS will amongst other things:
- locate the complaint and take reasonable steps to protect the complainant from any further danger;
- create an environment that is conducive to communicate;
- obtain statements from the complainant and witness(es);
- if there is reason to believe that an act of violence has been committed, the respondent must be arrested immediately without a warrant
search the premises and seize (for safekeeping) any firearms and/or dangerous weapons in the possession of the person who has either threatened to kill or injure another person.
(SAPS will also do this if they are satisfied that the offender’s mental state, inclination towards violence and/or dependence on alcohol or drugs could influence his/her behaviour and pose a threat to the victim of violence or anyone else.)
- ensure that a medical officer collects and records any medical evidence in support of a criminal charge.
- go with you to your home when you need to collect personal belongings, if this is provided for in a protection order that has been issued.
SAPS are delivering a good service in this regard when they, as police officials:-
- treat victims with respect and protect their dignity;
- listen to what victims have to say;
- do not insult or blame or suggest that it was the victim’s own fault that they were abused;
- assist you with empathy and care;
- inform you (as the victim) of your rights and options.
- provide victims with a notice in a language they understand, and explain how they should proceed;
- make an effort to find someone to speak to the victim in the language he/she understands;
- take a victim’s statement in privacy and not in the presence of the abuser or the public;
- decide on the basis of the statement, whether to arrest the abuser and take his/her firearm (if such is owned), as well as determine the victim’s needs and how to assist him/her;
- serve a protection order on the person against whom the charge was made, as directed by the court;
- keep a copy of the protection order and record every arrest made as proof for victims;
- note your complaint in the Incident Register at the station as further proof that you reported the matter.
- keep you informed of the progress in your case.
- inform you (the victim) of the support services that are available in the area;
- inform you (the victim) of alternative shelters if available;
- inform you (the victim) of counselling services, if required;
- inform you (the victim) of medical assistance available to you;
- inform you (the victim) of free services that are available; and the time of day these services are available.
What can the victim of abuse do if an abuser disobeys a protection order?
Report the matter to SAPS. Thereafter a statement will be taken from you. Provide the police with the warrant of arrest you received together with the protection order (if you have lost it, apply at the court for another one). If you are in immediate danger the abuser will be arrested, otherwise the abuser will be given a notice to appear in court the next day.
What can I do if a police member fails to fulfil this level of service and commitment?
Should a police officer fail to carry out this commitment, you can report the matter to the Station Commissioner at the relevant police station. The complaint will be noted in a complaints register, stating the name of the member concerned, the date on which the complaint is lodged, and the details of the complaint.
The Station Commissioner will take disciplinary steps against the member involved. The Police Service will also refer the complaint to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) for their recommendations. If you are not satisfied with the way in which a Station Commissioner is dealing with your complaint, you may personally report the matter to the ICD. SAPS will send monthly reports on your complaint(s) against police members to the SAPS Head Office.