According to an article “Domestic violence and abuse” (www.divorcelaws.co.za) South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world. And, sadly, domestic violence is the most common and widespread human rights abuse in South Africa. Every day, women are murdered, physically and sexually assaulted, threatened and humiliated by their partners, within their own homes. Organizations estimate that one out of every six woman in South Africa is regularly assaulted by her partner. In at least 46% of cases, the men involved also abuse the children living with the woman.
This article specifies that although the exact percentages are disputed, there is a large body of cross-cultural evidence that women are subjected to domestic violence significantly more than men. In addition, there is broad consensus that women are more often subjected to severe forms of abuse and are more likely to be injured by an abusive partner. Determining how many instances of domestic violence actually involve male victims is difficult. Some studies have shown that women who assault their male partners are more likely to avoid arrest even when the male victim contacts the police. Another study concluded that female perpetrators are viewed by law enforcement as the victims rather than the actual offenders of violence against men. Other studies have also demonstrated a high degree of community acceptance of aggression against men by women.
In light of this article it states that domestic violence is regulated by the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. The Act was introduced in 1998 with the purpose of affording women protection from domestic violence by creating obligations on law enforcement bodies, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), to protect victims as far as possible. The Act attempts to provide victims of domestic violence with an accessible legal instrument with which to prevent further abuses taking place within their domestic relationships. The Act recognizes that domestic violence is a serious crime against our society, and extends the definition of domestic violence to include not only married women and their children, but also unmarried women who are involved in relationships or living with their partners, people in same-sex relationships, mothers and their sons, and other people who share a living space.
Being alert to danger signals when court-shipping:
(Personal Safety to Help Stop Domestic, Dating, and other Relationship Violence–www.kidpower.org)
Does he treat you as if you belong to yourself or does he act possessive of you? Does he seem positive about the attention you get from others or does he seem jealous of it? Does he insist that you do nothing affectionate or sexual towards him unless you truly feel like it or does he try to pressure you into doing more than you want? Does he encourage you to spend time with friends and family or does he does he try to separate you from others who are important to you? Does he take full responsibility for his behaviour or does he tell you he cannot help himself because he loves you so much? Does he encourage you to be independent or does he try to get you to be dependent on him? Does he do his full share of the work in the house and with money or does he expect you to pay for him or to do most of the work?
In a website “16 Ways to Stop Domestic Violence in Your Community” (16days.thepixelproject.net) it states as follows with a few that will be considered:
Know the signs. The first step to action is to familiarize individuals and the community with the possible signs and indicators of domestic violence. These signs can vary and do not always come with physical symptoms because domestic violence is not just limited to physical attacks such as beatings.
Get your community educated! A good start to eradicating Domestic Violence from your community or neighbourhood is to start educating as many people as possible about Domestic Violence, its impact and how to intervene safely. This can be done in collaboration with your local Domestic Violence shelter or women’s organisation or police community outreach officers who can work with the community, local schools and local companies to organise and implement talks.
Ring the bell. If you are the neighbour of a family experiencing Domestic Violence, please take the time to ring their bell when you hear a violent situation happening. You could use the old neighbourly approach of asking to borrow a cup of sugar or some milk as an excuse. If you feel that it could get dangerous, bring another person with you so there will be more than one witness.
Bring a back-up. Intervening with Domestic Violence situations can be dangerous especially if the abuser has a weapon (e.g. a gun) and is intoxicated by drink or drugs. If you are unable to get help from the local shelter or police, make sure to bring another friend or family member along with you when you respond to the victim/survivor’s call in person.
BE the back-up. If your neighbour, friend, co-worker, classmate, mother, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, niece or cousin is facing Domestic Violence at home, let them know that you will be willing to be a witness or to intervene on their behalf while you are around. Also let them know that they are welcome to take refuge in your home should they need somewhere to go.
Listen to empower. If a victim of domestic violence reaches out to you, listen. Let her know that you believe her and do not judge her choices. Victims often feel completely isolated and are often belittled by their partner; it is important to enable her to feel safe when confiding in you because eventually, she may well be able to gather enough courage to tell you exactly what is happening and to ask for help.
Be on standby. If you suspect your friend, co-worker, staff, or family member of suffering from Domestic Violence, offer to be on standby for her, text or call for emergencies. Have your phone on and fully charged at all times and keep it on you. If you have a car and need to intervene immediately, make sure that the gas/petrol tank is full so you can get in and drive to get the victim/survivor immediately if need be.
Check in regularly. If you fear for your friend, co-worker, classmate, or family member’s life, call or text her once a day at a random time to see if she is all right. If it’s your neighbour, keep an eye out on the house and your ears pricked for any signs or sounds of violence.
Be a resource. Help her find the assistance she needs, whether it is legal information, local domestic violence programmes, or finding a safe place through a battered women’s shelter. The greatest danger women face in these situations is often the actual process of leaving, so finding a safe place may be key. Knowing this information beforehand may be helpful, but assisting her in the research and even making phone calls for her will also help speed things up.
Document! Document! Document! Document any incidents that you witness. Take note of dates, times, injuries, and any other observations. Your ongoing documentation can help bolster a victim’s courage and credibility when they are finally willing to pursue legal action against their partner.