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How does the law protect me against abuse?

In my practice I often encounter matters where women need protection against abusive men. I also often represent these women at court to obtain life-long interdicts against the abusers.

You are afforded protection against an abuser or threatening behaviour by means of two South African legal Acts. In terms of both legal Acts you can obtain an immediate interdict against your abuser. An immediate interdict may then be used to arrest the abuser if the abuse continues. The processes are explained below:

The first scenario:

If the person abusing you lives with you or is your intimate partner or husband you are protected in terms of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. The Act is available on the internet for you to look at.

Can I only use this Act is I am physically abused? No, “abuse” in terms of the Act includes all types of abuse including physical, emotional and economic abuse. Stalking, harassment and any controlling behaviour towards you is also abuse.

How does the Act protect me? 

  1. In terms of the Act you may get an immediate interdict against the abuser from your local Magistrate’s Court. 
  2. For an immediate interdict you must complete Regulation 4 Form 2 at the court. The form will be available at court if you cannot download the form from the internet and print the form before you go to court.
  3. Someone at court will help you to commission the form and to open your court file. The court will also inform the abuser of the interim interdict against him (serve the interdict on him). 
  4. Use detail when completing the form. Mention dates, places, time and detail regarding the abuse. Attach screen shots of abusive messages, emails or your injuries.
  5. You must return to court to get a warrant of arrest for the arrest of the abuser if the interim interdict does not stop the abuse. 
  6. It is also strongly advised that you leave the household if the abuse does not stop as your life may be in danger.
  7. Other tips: Go to court as soon as possible after the abuse because an interdict is meant to protect someone against immediate harm.

What happens after the immediate interdict lapses? 

  1. The immediate interdict is usually only valid for a few weeks. 
  2. The interdict may be made a final (life-long) interdict when you return to court on a later date where you will have to tell the court why you need a final interdict. 
  3. When you get the immediate interdict against the abuser, the court date at which you may ask for a final interdict will be given to you (clearly be indicated on your interim interdict). This court date is called the return date.  
  4. It is advised that you get an attorney to represent you at the return date. It is not a requirement to have an attorney, but an attorney is better equipped to help you present your case well. You may contact a law clinic or Legal Aid if you cannot afford a private attorney.

The second scenario:

If the person abusing you does not live with you, is not your intimate partner or husband, the abuse is most likely harassment and you are protected in terms of the Protection Act Harassment Act 17 of 2011. The Act is available on the internet for you to look at.

Harassment is when the abuser does or says something to make you believe that he will harm you and includes being watched by the abuser at home or work, receiving any type of communication from the abuser which causes you to believe you will be harmed and also includes sexual harassment. 

How does the Act protect me? Follow exactly the same process as in scenario one. The only difference is the form you will complete, which is in this case a form known as the Regulation 3 Form 2.

What happens after the immediate interdict lapses? The same information in scenario one applies here.

You do not have to keep quiet or continue to be the victim of abuse. Inform your close friends and family of the abuse you suffer, remove yourself from the abuser as quickly as possible and ask for an interdict against him. Break the cycle today.

My website details are: www.aletuysattorneys.co.za

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