Our Legal Question of the day: I am in an abusive relationship. Is there help out there?
No one deserves to be in an abusive and controlling relationship or be a victim of abuse. The causes and symptoms of abusive and controlling, romantic relationships vary. However, the unfortunate reality is that many decent people are trapped in one. And what is sad, is that they do not know how to get out of the toxic relationship, or to make it stop. There are many reasons why people remain in an abusive and controlling relationship. Some depend on the abuser for financial support, and others believe that they cannot or won’t get better should they leave their abuser. The even more bitter scenario is when you remain in the abusive relationship for the sake of the children.
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Then there are other types of abusive relationships. They comprise of a parent abusing his or her child, or a brother abusing the sister. Even neglecting a child is abuse. This can happen when parents deprive their children economically, of decent clothing, food and shelter. The list goes on. The law terms the above type of abusive relationships under the banner of Domestic Violence. At the same time, the law affords victims of domestic violence help. The applicable legislation is the Domestic Violence Act, 116 of 1998.
What is a Domestic Relationship?
As you would see below, domestic violence is any controlling or abusive behaviour inflicted to someone in a domestic relationship. Therefore, in short, according to the Act, a domestic relationship is between family members, people living together, or people who were in a romantic relationship. You do not have to be married to someone to seek help from the law. An adopted child can also seek protection from the Domestic Violence Act. This makes it very convenient as most domestic relationships are covered by the Domestic Violence Act.
Therefore, what is domestic Violence?
The Domestic Violence Act defines it as follows:
- Physical abuse;
- Sexual abuse;
- Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse;
- Economic abuse;
- Damage to property;
- entry into the complainant’s residence without consent, where the parties do not share the same residence; or
- Any other controlling or abusive behavior towards a Complainant.
Now, as you can see, the ambit of domestic violence is quite broad. It should cover most situations.
How to stop the abusive behavior?
Now we deal with the crux of our question and answer segment on Domestic Violence. How can you make it stop?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, and you want protection, you should visit your local Domestic Violence Court and obtain a Protection Order. For an outline on how to apply, visit this article named ABC guide on how to obtain a Protection Order.
Even though you are seeking protection from the law, you can still maintain a relationship with the person, but he or she would be interdicted from committing any acts of domestic violence against you. If he or she again commits an act of domestic violence, after you obtained an interim, or final Protection order, the law would ensure that he or she gets punished.
Final words to victims of Abuse
If you are a victim of abuse, remember the law is there to protect and help you. Unfortunately, the law cannot change people’s personalities. It further cannot make someone love you or care for you the way they should, or you want them to. However, if you have no option but to remain in a relationship, with your spouse, lover, or other significant person, seek protection. Most times, that is the best you can do for yourself and those close to you.
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