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Domestic Violence in South Africa

Domestic violence continues to occur at an alarming scale in South Africa. It is perhaps the greatest social plague that, without a doubt, must be dealt with as it, unfortunately, has already gone too far. 

What is Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is often against an intimate partner or former partner, whether spouse or relationship partner. However, in a broader sense, it also involves violence against children, parents, or the elderly. Domestic Violence is not confined to the poor and it cuts across class, gender, culture, and religion.

In terms of the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill 14 of 2022 domestic violence is defined to include:

(a) physical abuse;
(b) sexual abuse;
(c) emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse;
(d) economic abuse;
(e) intimidation;
(f) harassment;
(g) spiritual abuse (stalking);
(h) damage to property;
(hA) elder abuse;
(hB) coercive behaviour;
(hC) controlling behaviour;
(hD) exposing or subjecting a child to domestic violence as listed in (a) to (hC); (i) entry into the complainant’s or a related person’s—

– permanent or temporary residence without their consent (where the complainant and respondent do not share the same residence); or

– workplace or place of study, without their consent (where the complainant and respondent do not share the same workplace or place of study); or

– any other behaviour towards the complainant that is intimidating, abusive, degrading, threatening, humiliating, or offensive where that behaviour harms, or may inspire the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the safety, health, or wellbeing of the complainant or any related person.

Release of the quarter three crime statistics 2023/2024

Police Minister, General Bheki Cele’s speech at the occasion of the release of the third quarter crime statistics 2023/2024 on Friday 16 February 2024, gave the alarming statistics of crimes that occurred between October and December 2023.

During this period the following statistics were given in relation to selected domestic violence crimes:

  • 152 women and 106 men were murdered 
  • there were 238 reported incidents of attempted murder that involved female victims and 159 incidents that involved male victims
  • 851 women and 45 men were victims of rape while 137 women and 17 men were sexually assaulted
  • there were 12 971 reported incidents of common assault that involved female victims and  2 805 incidents that involved men

During this period the following statistics were given in relation to selected contact crimes against children:

  • 285 children were murdered
  • there were 426 reported incidents of attempted murder that involved children
  • there were 2 281 Assault GBH incidents involving children reported to the police

During this period a total of 12 211 rape incidents were reported wherein 5 454 of these incidents took place at either the home of the rape victim or the home of the perpetrator which was known to the victim, such as a family member, a friend, or a neighbour.

Challenges in addressing domestic violence

Despite the South African government taking a significant stride towards improving the law and safeguarding the rights and dignity of vulnerable groups by introducing the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill 14 of 2022 (“the New Act”), which is an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 (“the Old Act”), several challenges persist in tackling domestic violence effectively, including:

  1. Cultural and societal norms: deep-rooted beliefs often normalise or belittle abusive behaviours, which makes it harder for victims to seek support.
  2. Underreporting: many cases of domestic violence go unreported due to a lack of trust in the justice system, fear, or shame.
  3. Resource constraints: limited access to police stations, shelters, counseling services, and legal aid poses barriers for victims to seek help.

How can you help

In South Africa, our right to be safe and free is enshrined in the Constitution A protection order plays a very important role in safeguarding those rights and the safety of individuals who find themselves in abusive or threatening situations. These legal instruments offer a way for victims to seek legal protection from their abusers and ensure their safety and well-being.

Any person who is/was subjected to domestic violence may apply for a Protection Order. In such an application the victim is called the Complainant and the abuser the Respondent. If the victim is a child, he/she can apply for a protection order on his/her own and does not have to be assisted by a parent or a guardian.

It is also possible for a person to make an application for a protection order on behalf of the victim. This means that any person who has an interest in the well-being and safety of the victim can make an application. It should however be mentioned that if the victim is older than 18 years, the written consent of the victim is required to make an application on his/her behalf. Read more about protection orders here.

Contact Us

It takes immense courage to face each day when living in an abusive situation, and you have already shown incredible strength just by enduring this hardship. But know that there is a way out, and there is a path towards healing and freedom. Reach out for help when you are ready, whether it’s to friends, family, or support organizations that can offer guidance and resources.

Behind the statistics are real lives. We need to work towards a safer, more supportive society for all. If you or someone you know needs any assistance or guidance with any Domestic Violence related matter, please contact us.

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