Domestic Violence, a threat to our society
The You and Huisgenoot Magazines recently asked my opinion and comment about a tragic murder that took place, when an ex-boyfriend killed his ex-girlfriend. The story appears in the latest You and Huisgenoot magazines.
Catherine Krog (28) had overcome her addiction to drugs and turned over a new leaf for her three-year-old daughter, Bella.
She seemed confident and successful, had her own staff recruitment agency and tried to help friends who were addicts.
But the young mother knew that her ex-husband, Clint Walley (50), was stalking her and it was only a matter of time before he killed her, because no one could stop him.
Her body was found on 8 September in her Durban home. Next to her lay Walley’s body. He’d shot her in front of their daughter and killed himself.
So many people saw it coming, Cat’s parents, the mother and sister that she adopted, her private investigator, the police, friends, neighbours and relatives. Her ex-boyfriend was threatening and stalking her and facing charges for an unlicensed firearm, kidnapping their child and the court released him on bail of R 2000. The full story can be read in the YOU and Huisgenoot magazines of 16 September 2011.
Many abused women might feel they have no one to turn to for help, but divorce attorney Bertus Preller disagrees. “The law is there to protect you. There are many different legal avenues for victims of abuse to explore. Running away or continuing to endure the pain by staying in an abusive relationship are not the only problems. A restraining order is a court order designed to stop harassment. As a court order it prevents the abuser from contacting you or approaching you in any way. “If the abuser breaks the stipulations they can face a penalty or even jail time”. While the stipulations and restrictions in any order are different, violating it puts the culprit in contempt of court which means immediate arrest and the offender could be fined or sent to jail. “Usually the perpetrator will be arrested, taken into custody and will have to appear in court to explain why the order was violated. A suitable punishment, either a fine or prison sentence, will then be decided on”, Preller says.
Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Emotional abuse is often minimized, yet it can leave deep and lasting scars.
What is a domestic relationship?
You can have a domestic relationship with – someone you are or were married to; your parents or guardian; any family member(s); including your own child(ren); anyone you have lived with, whether you were married to that person or not; your life partner of the same sex; someone you went out with, even for a short time, or had sex with; or someone with whom you share a child.
What is domestic violence?
The following may be regarded as domestic violence:
- sexual abuse (whether you are married or not);
- physical abuse or assault (slapping, biting, kicking, and threats of physical violence);
- damage to property or anything you value;
- stalking (when the person follows or approaches you or your children repeatedly);
- economic abuse, that is, when the other person keeps money to which you are legally entitled from you in
an unreasonable manner by –
- refusing to pay or share the rent or mortgage bond for the home you share; or
- disposing of any property (household goods) in which you have interest, without your permission;
- emotional abuse (that is, degrading or humiliating behaviour, including repeated insults, belittling, cursing and threats);
- any other controlling or abusive behaviour which poses a threat to your safety, health or well-being.
What are my options if I am being abused?
You have the right to –
- apply for a protection order at the nearest police station or
- magistrate’s court; or
- lay a criminal charge at the police station and apply for a protection order.
What is a protection order?
It is an order issued by a court at your request, ordering a person with whom you have or had a domestic relationship, to stop abusing you. It may also prevent the person from getting help from any other person to commit such acts. An interim protection order can also be issued at any time of the day or night for your protection.
Who can apply for a protection order?
Any victim of domestic violence may apply. Children, and if they are too young, a parent or guardian, or any person acting on behalf of someone who is responsible for them, but with their permission.
What can I do if an abuser disobeys a protection order?
Phone the South African Police Service. Thereafter a statement will be taken from you. Provide the police with the warrant of arrest you received together with the protection order (if you have lost it, apply at the court for another one). If you are in immediate danger the abuser will be arrested, otherwise the abuser will be given a notice to appear in court the next day.
About Bertus Preller
Tel: 021 422 1323
Bertus Preller is a Divorce Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.