According to Matome Modiba, legal admin officer at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Gauteng Regional Office, domestic violence is any form of abuse, whether it is of a physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic nature.
This includes damage to property, stalking, entry into a person's property without their consent and any other abusive or controlling behaviour where such conduct causes harm or may cause harm to a person’s health, safety or well-being.
Modiba said if these forms of abuse are taking place, the victim can apply for a protection order which is a document issued by the court to prevent the abuser from committing further acts of domestic violence.
“People can seek protection from the person to whom they are married, whether by civil or customary rites. This includes 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.
“If you feel that you are a victim of any act of domestic violence, approach the local Magistrate's Court and request assistance in bringing an application for a protection order.”
The clerk of the court will assist complainants to complete the necessary forms and a magistrate will determine whether to grant the order or not.
“In emergencies, this service is available 24 hours a day,” said Modiba.
Those wishing to report abuse should approach the court nearest to where they 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.”
The interim protection order must be served on the respondent as soon as possible.
“You cannot personally hand over the order to the respondent as this will not constitute proper service. In other words, handing over the interim protection order is the responsibility of someone in an official position, such as a police officer, sheriff or clerk of the court.”
He added that if the respondent breaches the protection order, a complaint must be lodged at the nearest police station. A warrant of arrest will be carried out if deemed necessary.
“Once arrested, the respondent will face criminal charges and be tried in a criminal court for breaching the protection order.”