What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic abuse can be defined as any form of cruelty or mistreatment in a domestic relationship, including physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological and economic abuse. This extends to incidents of intimidation, stalking, damage to property, or any controlling behaviour that threatens your safety or health. If the abuse involves violence, it is referred to as domestic violence.
You are in a domestic relationship if you:
- Are or have been married, whether you live with your spouse or not.
- Are same-sex partners, whether you live together or not.
- Were or are engaged, if you are in a customary relationship, or in any relationship that you or the other person believes to be romantic.
- Have been in a sexual relationship, even for a short time.
- Are the parent of a child, or have guardianship of a child.
- Share or recently shared the same home or residence.
You can be a victim of domestic abuse whether you are male or female. Domestic abuse does not discriminate against sex, age, race, cultural background, ethnicity, or even economic standing.
Often the main purpose of domestic abuse or domestic violence is for the abuser to obtain and maintain control over the victim. This abuse can take the form of shame or guilt. An abuser may also threaten you and your loved ones with violence. Regardless of the form the abuse takes, you should remember that domestic or any other abuse is not acceptable. It is your basic human right to always feel safe, loved and respected.
Do You Suspect That Someone Close to You is Being Abused?
Domestic abuse is a sensitive issue, and it is often difficult to determine for sure if someone close to you is being abused. There are general signs that may indicate some form of abuse.
Someone who is being abused may:
- Seem afraid of their partner.
- Always be anxious to please their partner.
- Be harassed by their partner, often through frequent phone calls.
- Frequently talk about their partner's possessiveness and temper.
- Often have to check in with their partner to report their whereabouts.
It is important to take these warning signs seriously. If you suspect that someone is being abused, you should approach them with your concerns. Talk to them, offer your support and listen to their fears. It is important to let them know they have your support and that they are not alone.
You Can Get Help
According to the Domestic Violence Act, everyone is entitled to protection against domestic abuse. As a victim of domestic violence, you may apply for a protection order against your abuser. A protection order is a legal document that specifies what actions an abuser is or is not allowed to do. Obtaining a protection order means that you have the power to have your abuser arrested immediately, should he or she commit an act of abuse.
We are Here to Help You
There are various avenues of help available to victims of domestic abuse. The Western Cape Government provides access to various facilities around the province that serve as shelters for victims of violence.
You can also contact FAMSA, an NGO committed to developing good relationships in families and communities.
Alternatively, you can contact the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, for help with obtaining legal advice, or the Department of Social Development, which works to help victims of domestic abuse.