In South Africa domestic violence includes incidences of physical and sexual assault, murder, threats and humiliation suffered at the hand of partners. We have one of the highest rates of human rights abuses such as these in the world.
Domestic violence occurs in all types of relationships and both men and women are the victims of abuse. Domestic violence also occurs in same-sex relationships. Gay and lesbian
relationships have been identified as risk factors for abuse in certain populations.
When one partner in a relationship exhibits patterns of behavior that harms the other to obtain or maintain power and control over them, regardless of whether they are married or unmarried, living together or apart, that is domestic violence.
“Harm’ is any of the following behavior and may include:
- verbal abuse like shouting,
- emotional abuse like manipulation, control and/or humiliation,
- physical abuse like hitting and/or punching, and/or
- sexual abuse like rape and/or inappropriate touching of either the woman or her children.
Crimes policed by members of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit:
FAMILY VIOLENCE (intra familial, victims of 18 yrs and older)
- Assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm
- Attempted murder.
CHILD PROTECTION (victims under the age of 18 years)
- Rape
- Incest
- Indecent assault
- Attempted murder
- Assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm
- Common assault (only if there were three or more incidents over a period of time – intra familial)
- Kidnapping
- Abduction
- Crimes with regards to the abuse/exploitation of children, under the Prevention of Family Violence Act, 1993 (Act no 133 of 1993) and
- Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act no 116 of 1998)
- Crimes with regards to the sexual exploitation of children, under the Sexual Offences Act, 1957 (Act 23 of 1957, as amended)
- Child Care Act, 1983 (Act no 74 of 1983, as amended)
- Films and Publication Act, 1996 (Act no 65 of 1996) with regards to child pornography
SEXUAL OFFENCES (victims of 18 years of age and older)
- Rape
- Incest
- Indecent assault
- Crimes with regards to the sexual exploitation of adults, under the Sexual Offences Act, 1957
(Act 23 of 1957, as amended)
- Crimes with regards to sexual offences against adults, under the Prevention of Family Violence Act, 1993 (Act no 133 of 1993) and
- Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act no 116 of 1998)
The act regulates all acts of domestic violence and aims at protecting victims from such violence by creating obligations on ths South African Police Service and law enforcement
bodies to protect victims. It established an accessible legal instrument setting out procedures and practices for dealing with domestic violence.
Any act or threat of physical violence intended to cause physical pain, injury, suffering or bodily harm. Physical abuse can include hitting, slapping, punching, choking, pushing and any other type of contact that results in physical injury to the victim. Physical abuse can also include behaviours such as denying the victim medical care
when needed, depriving the victim of sleep or other functions necessary to live, or forcing the victim to engage in drug/alcohol use against his/her will.It can also include inflicting physical injury onto other targets, such as children or pets, in order to cause psychological harm to the victim.
Any conduct that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the sexual integrity of the victim. Sexual abuse is any situation in which force or threat is used to obtain participation in unwanted sexual activity. Coercing a person to engage in sexual activity against their will, even if that person is a spouse or intimate partner with whom consensual sex has occurred previously, is an act of aggression and violence.

Sexual violence is defined by the World Health Organization as: any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using
coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.

Marital rape, also known as spousal rape, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. As such, it is a form of partner rape, and amounts to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Marital rape has been described as one of the most serious violations of a women’s bodily integrity and yet it is a term that many people still have a problem comprehending, with some still describing it as a ‘contradiction in terms’.
Usually a pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct towards the victim privately or publicly, including repeated insults, ridicule, name calling and/or repeated threats to cause emotional pain; or the repeated exhibition of obsessive possessiveness or jealousy, which is such as to constitute a serious invasion of the victim’s privacy, liberty, integrity and/or security.

Other acts that fall under emotional abuse include controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, implicitly blackmailing the victim by harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness, and denying the victim access to money or other basic resources and necessities.
Emotional abuse includes conflicting actions or statements that are designed to confuse and create insecurity in the victim. These behaviours lead victims to question themselves, causing them to believe that they are making up the abuse or that the abuse is their fault.

Emotional abuse also includes forceful efforts to isolate the victim, to keep them from contacting friends or family. This is intended to eliminate those who might try to help the victim leave the relationship and to create a lack of resources for the victim to rely on if they were to leave. Isolation eventually damages the victim’s sense of internal strength, leaving them feeling helpless and unable to escape from the situation. Women and men undergoing emotional abuse often suffer from depression, which puts them at increased risk for suicide,eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Includes the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which the victim is entitled under law or requires out of necessity, including household necessities, mortgage bond repayments, rent money in the case of a shared residence, and/or the unreasonable disposal of household effects or other property in which the victim has an interest.

Economic abuse may involve preventing a victim from resource acquisition, limiting the amount of resources available to him/her, or exploiting the victim’s economic resources.
The motive behind preventing a victim from acquiring resources is to diminish his/her capacity to support him/herself, thus forcing the victim to depend on the perpetrator financially. In this way, the perpetrator can prevent the victim from obtaining education, finding employment, maintaining or advancing a career and acquiring assets. The abuser may also put the victim on an allowance and closely monitor how he/she spends money. Sometimes the abuser will spend the victim’s money without his/her consent and create debt, or even completely spend the victim’s savings to limit available resources.
Uttering or conveying a threat, or causing a victim to receive a threat, which induces fear. The abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare the victim into submission. Such tactics may include smashing things in front
of the victim, destroying property, hurting the victim’s pets or showing off a weapon. The clear message is that if the victim doesn’t obey, there might be violent consequences.
Engaging in a pattern of conduct that induces a fear of harm in the victim, including repeatedly watching the victim; loitering outside of or near the building/place where the victim resides, works, carries out business, studies or happens to be; repeatedly making telephone
calls or inducing another person to make telephone calls to the victim, whether or not conversation ensues; repeatedly sending, delivering or causing the delivery of letters, emails, texts, packages or other objects to the victim.
There is no real legal definition of stalking. Neither is there any specific legislation to address this behaviour. The term is used to define a particular kind of harassment. Generally, it refers to a long-term pattern of persistent and repetitive contact with, or attempts to contact, a particular victim.
Examples of the types of conduct often associated with stalking include: direct communication; physical following;
indirect contact through friends, work colleagues, family or technology (email or SMS); and other intrusions into the victim’s privacy. The abuse may also take place on social networks like Facebook, on-line forums, Twitter, instant messaging, SMS, BBM or via chat software. The stalker may use websites to post offensive material, create fake profiles or even make a dedicated website about the victim.
Wilful damaging or destruction of property belonging to the victim or in which the victim has a vested interest.
- Entry into property
- Entry into the victim’s residence without consent, where the parties do not share the same residence.
- Any other controlling or abusive behavior
Any conduct that harms, or may cause imminent harm to, the safety, health or well being of the victim. ‘Imminent harm’ includes situations where: the perpetrator is in the possession of a firearm and has threatened to use the firearm against the victim, or her dependants or other family members;

- the perpetrator has used a weapon against the victim in previous incidences of domestic violence (not restricted to dangerous weapons, such as firearms or knives);
- the victim was critically injured by the perpetrator on a previous occasion, or on the occasion in question;
- the victim and her children have been ‘kicked out’ of the shared residence by the perpetrator or anyone affiliated with him;
- the victim has sufficient evidence (i.e. witness statements) that the perpetrator has threatened to harm her; and
- the victim fears for the safety of her children.


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