The ins and outs of getting a protection order
If the person you wish to restrain has ever hurt or threatened to hurt you and/or your children in any way, if the person is harassing you in a threatening manner, or if the person has demonstrated violent behavior around you, you may be eligible for a Protection Order.
Arm Yourself With Knowledge
Did you know that one in five South African women has experienced physical violence from a partner? That means someone you know, a colleague, friend or family member, is one of those women. It might even hit much closer to home for you.
In South Africa, the Government has taken a determined stand against gender-based violence. Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law domestic violence amendments to provide victims with greater support and to strengthen the response against offenders.
Yet many women may remain in abusive relationships because they are unaware of their rights or how the law can help safeguard them. If you experience abuse at home, whether physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological or financial, you can get a protection order against your spouse or partner.
This is a court order that instructs an abuser to immediately stop their behaviour. It also specifies conditions to prevent the abuse from happening again, such as prohibiting the abuser from entering your home. It even prohibits them from enlisting another person to assist them in any way.
What you need to know
Protection orders are available 24/7. You can apply for a protection order at any time. During the week, the application is done at a local magistrate court (Monday to Friday 08:00–16:00). After hours, you can apply for a protection order at your nearest police station. The police will notify a magistrate or clerk of the court on your behalf.
It is free. There is no cost involved in applying for a protection order, unless you ask an attorney to apply on your behalf.
What are the steps to get a protection order?
- Report the complaint (the abuse) to the police station.
- Apply for a protection order at your nearest magistrate court.
- A magistrate will consider the application.
- An interim protection order will be granted if the court is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence that there is/was domestic violence, and that the person seeking the protection order will suffer undue hardship if an interim order is not issued.
- The interim order will then be served on the person responsible for the abuse (known as the respondent in legal terms). The respondent will be warned to appear in court on a specific date.
- A court proceeding or hearing of evidence will determine whether a final protection order should be granted.
Important to remember
When the court grants an interim protection order, it simultaneously issues a warrant of arrest against the respondent. This warrant is suspended as long as your abuser doesn’t break the conditions of the protection order. If the conditions are broken, it can result in a fine or a prison sentence, in some instances both.
What about criminal charges?
When you request a protection order, it does not mean that you are automatically laying a criminal charge against the abuser. But if the abuse is also a crime, for example, physical assault or rape, you can apply for a protection order, lay a criminal charge or initiate both actions.
- Mosaic provides abused women with advice on the practicalities of obtaining a protection order.
- POWA offers both counselling and legal support to women who have experienced domestic violence.
- Contact the Gender Violence Helpline on 0800 150 150 or *120*7867#
- For counselling, call the dedicated toll-free number as provided to you by your employer.
There is help!
- Information supplied by Jolané van der Walt, LLB, LLM (https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/obtaining-protection-order)