Statistics on abuse in South Africa are horrific, especially abuse meted out against women and children. There are numerous reasons why women are often unable to get out of abusive relationship.
We've compiled a simplified guide of what you need to know and do, in the unfortunate case that you or someone you know is being abused.
What you need to know:
- There are various forms of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, verbal, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property.
- Anyone can be an abuse victim. There is no 'typical' or 'deserving' victim.
- There are different acts such as the Domestic Violence Act designed to legally protect you. The DVA makes it possible, for instance, for you to get a protection order against an abuser.
- A protection order is obtainable at the domestic violence section of your nearest magistrate's court, or the magistrate's court that is closest to where the person who is abusing you lives or works. You can apply outside of court if you can show that your situation is urgent or that you will suffer unnecessarily if the application is not dealt with immediately. A protection order only stops when you go to court and withdraw or cancel it or when the court sets it aside.
What you need to do should you find yourself in an abusive situation:
- If you can, go to a safe place as soon as possible. Sometimes, calling the police first is not an option as leaving the abusive space is a priority.
- Report the incident at the nearest police station. And if you can, go with someone you trust.
- While this may be difficult to think of or do in the moment, in the case of sexual abuse, do not throw away your clothes or wash yourself, no matter how much you want to. This may prove to be important evidence.
- If you want to report particularly sexual assault to the police, it is best to do so within in 3 days of being assaulted. This is because evidence, such as blood or semen, is more likely to still be found during this time.
What you should expect from the police:
- To take your statement when you report the abuse
- To tell you about your rights in a manner you can understand and make it clear to you that you can lay a criminal charge against your abuser
- To help you get medical treatment where necessary and give you details of where you can get counseling and shelter
- To come to the place where the abuse happened if you called them