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Bulletin | Covid-19

What you can do if you are in lockdown with an abusive partner

Reading Time 3 minute read

Gender-Based Violence (“GBV”) cases are increasing as millions of people are forced to stay at home during the National Lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. The increase in GBV is attributed to survivors, who are now isolated from broader society, being confined to their homes with abusive partners. The abusive behaviour is further aggravated by economic pressure, due to loss of income. 

While our courts are not fully operational during the National Lockdown, in urgent circumstances GBV cases are being heard in the lower courts.

Applications for Interim Domestic Violence and/or Harassment Orders:

South African Magistrates Courts remain open during the lockdown to allow applications for interim domestic violence protection orders and applications for protection against harassment. 

Domestic violence can take a variety of forms and generally includes but is not limited to the following acts: 

  • Physical abuse (any act of physical violence to cause injury or bodily harm);
  • Sexual abuse (any conduct that humiliates, degrades, or otherwise violates the sexual integrity of a person);
  • Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse (a pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct towards the survivor privately or publicly, including repeated insults, name calling and/or repeated threats to cause emotional pain);
  • Harassment (engaging in a pattern of conduct that induces a fear of harm in the survivor); and
  • Economic abuse (the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which the survivor is entitled under law or requires out of necessity).

If you would like to apply for an interim protection order it is important to:

  • Keep a record of the abuse - note the dates, sequence of events or threats made;
  • Keep any evidence - photographs, statements/affidavits, medical reports, voice notes or videos taken; 
  • Ensure that you are safe – the application for a protection order does not automatically guarantee your safety. An protection order can only be enforced if it is breached.  To enforce a protection order you have to report a breach to the South African Police Services. 

In some instances the application may aggravate the perpetrator of violence to commit further acts of domestic violence and not necessarily deter the perpetrator. Given the inherent risks involved, it is important to consider relocating to a shelter before proceeding with an application for a protection order. 

Other Assistance Available to GBV Survivors:

Online Services

The South African government launched the following services, available 24/7, which can be used by survivors of GBV during lockdown:

  • GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428
  • Skype: Helpme GBV
  • Call or send a “please call me” to: *120*787#
  • Lifeline Domestic Violence Help: 0800 150 150

GBV shelters remain open

Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu announced that shelters will remain open during the lockdown period. The South African Government has created 51 Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs). All TCCs are open as 24 hours essential services for women needing assistance and TCCs provide a range of services to survivors of sexual violence and abuse, including counselling and assistance in dealing with the police and justice system.

  • Call toll-free line: 0800 042 8428
  • Call or send a please call me to: *120*7867

Should you be at risk of GBV, the above options may provide you and those in your care with relief and protection from abusive relationships.

Fasken runs a Pro Bono Helpdesk in Partnership with NISAA Institute for Women’s Development and Pro Bono.Org.


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