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Frequently Asked Questions

According to the Domestic Violence Act No. 116 of 1998 it is:

  • Any form of abuse which includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic harassment.
  • Damage to property.
  • Stalking.
  • Entry into a person's property without their consent.
  • Any other abusive or controlling behaviour where such a conduct causes harm or may cause harm to your health, safety, or well-being.

If these forms of abuse are happening to you or to anyone you know, you can apply for a protection order. A domestic violence protection order is a document issued by the court which prevents the abuser from:

  • Committing an act of domestic violence.
  • Enlisting the help of another person to commit any such act.
  • Entering a residence shared by the complainant and the respondent.
  • Entering a specified part of such a shared residence.
  • Entering the complainant’s residence.
  • Entering the complainant’s place of employment.
  • Preventing the complainant who ordinarily lives or lived in a shared residence from entering or remaining in the shared residence or a specified part of the shared residence or
  • committing any other act as specified in the protection order.

Physical Abuse may include:

  • Shoving, slapping, punching, kicking, throttling, biting 
  • Assault with objects, guns, knives or any other dangerous weapon

Emotional, Verbal and Psychological Abuse may include:

  • Constant insults, ridicule or name calling 
  • Repeated threats of violence or death to cause emotional pain

Economic Abuse may include: 

  • Selling of shared property e.g. livestock, matrimonial house without the consent of the victim 
  • Accessing a joint bank account for personal use without the consent of the victim

Intimidation could be:

  • Sending written or verbal death threats to the victim 
  • Sending beheaded dolls, small coffins, dead flowers or dead pets to the victim

Harassment may include:

  • Repeatedly watching the victim outside or near her house, workplace, school or business premises or any place where she happens to be 
  • Repeatedly phoning the victim or causing any other person to phone her whether or not the caller speaks to the complainant

Stalking means, for example:

  • Constantly approaching the victim and asking or demanding to talk to her against her will

Damage to Property may include acts of:

  • Breaking the window to gain entry into the victim’s house 
  • Cutting, breaking or damaging in any other manner shared furniture

Unauthorised Entry into the Victim’s Residence may include:

  • Using a duplicate key to gain access may also constitute domestic violence

Both men and women can be guilty of, and be victims of domestic violence.

  1. The person to whom you are married, whether by civil or customary rights
  2. Your partner (whether of the same or opposite sex) who lives or has lived together with you, even though you were not married to each other or are not able to be married to each other (if, for example, one of you is already married to someone else)
  3. The other parent of your child or persons who share parental responsibility with you for a child
  4. Persons who are related to you by blood ties, marriage or adoption
  5. The person with who you shared an engagement, customary or dating relationship, including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship of any duration
  6. A person with whom you share or have recently shared the same residence.

A better question is, “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?” Victims often find it difficult to leave due to emotional, financial, legal or social pressures.

  • There is a real fear of death or more abuse if they leave.
    • In fact, a victim’s risk of getting killed greatly increases when they are in the process of leaving or have just left.
    • On average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day.
    • We, as a community, must do more to ensure the safety of victims when they leave.
  • The abuser may forbid her to see other people or attack her when she tries to reach out.
  • Batterers are very good at making victims think that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that if they caused the violence, they can also stop it.
  • Victims stay because they are made to think they cannot survive on their own, financially or otherwise. Often abusers create a financial situation that makes leaving nearly impossible.
  • A survivor may return to the abuser because that’s the person she the survivor fell in love with, and they believe their partner will change.

Do abusers show any potential warning signs?

  • There is no way to spot an abuser in a crowd, but most abusers share some common characteristics.
  • Some of the subtle warning signs include:
    • They insist on moving too quickly into a relationship.
    • They can be very charming and may seem too good to be true.
    • They insist that you stop participating in leisure activities or spending time with family and friends.
    • They are extremely jealous or controlling.
    • They do not take responsibility for their actions and blame others for everything that goes wrong.
    • They criticise their partner’s appearance and make frequent put-downs.
    • Their words and actions don’t match.
  • Any one of these behaviours may not indicate abusive actions, but it’s important to know the red flags and take time to explore them.
  • Is it possible for abusers to change?
  • Yes, but they must make the choice to change.
  • It’s not easy for an abuser to stop abusive behaviour, and it requires a serious decision to change.  Once an abuser has had all of the power in a relationship, it’s difficult to change to a healthy relationship with equal power and compromises.
  • Sometimes an abuser stops the physical violence but continues to employ other forms of abuse – emotional or financial.  Some abusers are able to exert complete control over a victim’s every action without using violence or only using subtle threats of violence. All types of abuse are devastating to victims.

2019 POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse), https://www.powa.co.za/POWA/

If you feel that you are a victim of any act of domestic violence as listed above, approach the local Magistrate Court and request assistance in bringing an application for a Protection Order. The Clerk of the Court will assist you to complete the necessary forms and take you before a Magistrate who will determine whether to grant the Order or not. The details of service providers who can give advice and help you in this regard are provided.

Remember that in emergencies, this service is available 24 hours a day.

The Clerk of the Court will assist you in completing the necessary forms and taking you before a Magistrate.

Approach the Court nearest to where you live or work. If you were forced to leave your place of residence as a result of the violence and are living elsewhere temporarily, you may approach the Court closest to your temporary residence.

Leaving an abusive relationship can seem overwhelming and often dangerous. You may have doubts or fears or just feel overwhelmed at the thought of leaving but consider the following as you make your decision:

  • Emotional abuse often leads to domestic violence. It’s important to ask for help as soon as possible.
  • Domestic abuse is never your fault. Your partner is responsible for his or her own behavior. Violence and abuse are never the victim’s fault.
  • Abuse is not normal or okay. You may think that abuse is a sign that your partner loves you. It’s not. Your partner may love you, but abuse is not a sign of that love. A healthy relationship is one in which you feel safe and which has no physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse.
  • Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of whether you have a college education, which neighborhood you live in, your age, your gender, your sexual orientation, or whether you’re married, dating, or single
  • Your partner may be very good to you at times. Most abusers have a pattern of abuse followed by making it up to you. If it has happened once, it’s likely that the abuse will happen again.
  • You cannot help or fix an abusive partner. It’s not your responsibility to convince a violent or abusive partner to get help.
  • Domestic violence is linked to serious physical and emotional problems. The longer it continues, the more damage it can cause you.
  • If you have children, consider their safety and whether you are willing to allow your partner to visit them if you decide to leave the relationship.
  • If you are unsure whether you are at risk, take our risk assessment and see how to create a safety plan.

2019 Women’s Health; Leaving an abusive relationshsip

Many people can help you think about your options to leave an abusive relationship safely. It might be unsafe if an abusive partner finds out you’re thinking about leaving. Try to talk only to people who will not tell the abuser about your plans:

  • Your doctor or nurse. Most people visit the doctor at least once a year for a checkup, so try to visit the doctor or nurse without your partner. If your partner insists on going with you, try to write a note to the office staff saying that you want to see the doctor or nurse alone. Or, tell your partner that you need privacy to speak about a woman’s health issue that you’re too embarrassed to talk about. Or, tell your partner, where others can hear you, that the doctor’s policy is patients only in the exam room. 
  • A teacher, counselor, or principal at your child’s school. An adult at your child’s school can help connect you to shelters and other safe places in your community. Teachers and others at your child’s school want to help the families of the children they teach. 
  • Human resources. If you work outside the home, the human resources (HR) department at your workplace may be able to connect you to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other resources in your community. 
  • Family or friends. Family or friends who knew you before you met an abusive partner might be able to help you. If more than one family member or friend can help you, it might be good for a few people to work together to help. 
  • Domestic Violence NGOs. You can talk to trained advocates at any of the NGO’s we’ve listed here. They can help you talk through the steps of leaving an abusive relationship.

2019 Women’s Health; Leaving an abusive relationshsip

Even if you don’t leave right away, creating a safety plan can help you know what to do if your partner abuses you again. It can help you be more independent when you leave.

Your safety plan will help you be prepared:

  • Identify a safe friend or friends and safe places to go. Create a code word to use with friends, family, or neighbours to let them know you are in danger without the abuser finding out. If possible, agree on a secret location where they can pick you up. 
  • Keep an alternate cell phone nearby. Try not to call for help on your home phone or on a shared cell phone. Your partner might be able to trace the numbers. If you don’t have a cellphone, you can get a prepaid cell phone. 
  • Memorize the phone numbers of friends, family, or shelters. If your partner takes your phone, you will still be able to contact loved ones or shelters for a safe place to stay. 
  • Make a list of things to take if you have to leave quickly. Important identity documents and money are probably the top priority. Get these items together, and keep them in a safe place where your partner will not find them. If you are in immediate danger, leave without them. 
  • If you can, hide an extra set of car keys so you can leave if your partner takes away your usual keys. 
  • Ask your doctor how to get extra medicine or other medically necessary items for you or your children. 
  • Contact your local family court or domestic violence court for information about getting a restraining order. If you need legal help but can’t afford it, your local domestic violence agency may be able to help you find a lawyer who will work for free. 
  • Protect your online security as you collect information and prepare. Use a computer at a public library to download information, or use a friend’s computer or cellphone. Your partner might be able to track your planning otherwise. 
  • Try to take with you any evidence of abuse or violence if you leave your partner. This might include threatening notes from your partner. It might be copies of police and medical reports. It might include pictures of your injuries or damage to your property. 
  • Keep copies of all paper and electronic documents on a portable external drive.

2019 Women’s Health; Leaving an abusive relationshsip

When you leave an abuser, the most important thing is your life and safety as well as your children’s. If you are able to plan ahead, it will help you to have important information with you, in addition to money, clothing, medicine, and other basic items.

  • Birth certificates, Social Security cards, and passports or immigration papers for you and your children 
  • Health insurance cards for you and your children 
  • Financial records, including recent bank statements, mutual fund records, retirement fund statements or the paperwork for your car. 
  • Housing documents, such as rental agreements, bond statements, or the title or deed. 
  • A written copy of phone numbers or important addresses in case you cannot get to your cellphone or address book.

You may also want to take photos of any valuable assets in the home, if any family heirlooms like jewelry, take them with you or put them in a safe place before you leave. If you have a joint bank account, consider opening your own account and storing money there. Any adult has the right to open their own bank account, even if they are married or dependent on another person.

  • Everyone can speak out against domestic violence. The problem will continue until society stands up with one resounding voice and says, “no more!” Use your own social platforms with #EndTheSilence.
  • We can teach our children about what healthy relationships look like by example and by talking about it. 
  • You can call on your public officials to support life-saving domestic violence services and hold perpetrators accountable. 
  • Buying a 100s pack of JOKO to support the cause or donate directly to POWA via Snapscan, EFT of ZAPPER. 
  • Simply taking the time to educate yourself about domestic violence and create a safe and judgement-free space for others.

Learn more about ending the silence.