What is domestic violence?

The following can be regarded as domestic violence:

  • 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

What are my options if I am 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 and apply for a protection order

What is a protection order?

It is an order issued by a court at your request, ordering a person with whom you have or had a domestic relationship, to stop the abuse. It may also prevent the person from getting help from any other person to commit such acts. An interim protection order can also be issued at any time of the day or night for your protection.

Who can apply for a protection order?

Any victim of domestic violence. Children, and if they are too young, a parent or guardian, or any person acting on behalf of someone who is responsible for them, but with their permission. A police official.

Commitment of SAPS to victims of domestic violence

It is the commitment of the SAPS to treat victims of domestic violence with sensitivity and care.

As police officials:

  • we will treat victims with respect and protect your dignity
  • listen to what victims have to say
  • not insult or blame or suggest that it was their own fault that they were abused
  • assist you with empathy and care
  • inform victims of their rights and options

To ensure that this has been done:

  • we will ask victims to sign the Occurrence Book at the police station;
  • 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 your statement, whether to arrest the abuser and take his/her firearm, as well as determine the victim’s needs and how to assist him/her;
  • serve a protection order on the person against whom it 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.

This will also enable us to give a report on the progress in your case.

At the scene of the incident

Locate the complaint and take reasonable steps to protect the complainant from any further danger. Create an environment that is conducive to communication. Obtain statements from the complainant and witness(es).  If there is a 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.  We will also do this if we 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 anyone.

What other assistance will the SAPS provide?

We will, where possible, help you find access to –

  • medical attention
  • shelter, and
  • victim counselling

We will inform you of:

  • the support services that are available in the area
  • alternative shelters if available
  • counselling services, if required
  • medical assistance
  • free services that are available; and
  • the time of day these services are available

We will ensure that a medical officer collects and records any medical evidence in support of a criminal charge.

We will 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.

What can I do if a police member fails to fulfil this 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. We will send monthly reports on your complaint(s) against police members to the SAPS Head Office.

What can I do if an abuser disobeys a protection order?

Phone the South African Police Service. 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.

Have a crisis plan ready

Identify places where you can use a telephone quickly and easily. Always 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.