Domestic violence: Helpless and living in fear

2015-11-30 08:02


Her husband beat her son into a coma after he tried to protect her, and he died two weeks later.

And after 28 years of an abusive marriage, Martha applied for a protection order at the Lenasia Magistrates’ Court. But she didn’t get one.

“The application was dismissed for reasons unknown to me. [My husband] did not take the application for a protection order seriously and said it was meaningless to him.”

In her court papers, she states how her husband burnt her with boiling water in 2005, and how in 2008 he broke her wrists.

“The abuse I have suffered over a long time … has made me anxious, depressed and at times suicidal. I feel like I am powerless to prevent it,” she says.

In a counselling session in 2012, which she attended with a black eye, she told counsellors that her husband had been abusing her verbally, physically, emotionally and economically.

“During the counselling session, it was observed that the client was confused, hurt, angry, hopeless and powerless,” reads a report attached to the affidavit.

The report recommended that she be granted a protection order because she was a victim of domestic violence. However, she cannot get one because she is married in community of property and police are reluctant to evict her husband from their shared home because of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, which often conflicts with the Domestic Violence Act.

After her court bid failed, Martha had to go back home, only to find her clothes thrown outside. Her husband forced her to sleep on a thin mattress throughout the winter and then evicted her.

When she approached lawyers for help, he allegedly told her he would kill her.


In Diepkloof last year, just after 7pm, an argument broke out between Nhlanhla and her husband of 13 years. In court papers she tells of how her husband accused her of being unfaithful, and this was not the first time.

“He grabbed my cellphone and sent text messages to everyone with a male name on my contact list … [He] started yelling at me and telling me because I am a working woman, I work with a lot of men [and] that I am unfaithful and cheating,” she said in her statement.

Nhlanhla was pregnant with their second child at the time.

“He also suggested that our son is not his biological child and that he is a product of an affair.”

The abuse continued for hours in front of their son. When her husband told her she needed to resign and she refused, he beat and strangled her.

She tried to free herself and grabbed a piece of broken glass, and stabbed him with it. She also threw a kettle of boiling water at his face.

“I feared that if I did not act first, [he] would attack me and kill me,” her statement reads.

When the police arrived, Nhlanhla was arrested and charged with assault. One week later, her husband was granted a protection order against her – forcing her to find a new place to stay, and fend for her young child and unborn baby.


He threw acid on Swazi, burning her face, neck, chest and wrists. He was found guilty of attempted murder in 2013, but after serving six months of his sentence, the department of correctional services is ready to release him.

Swazi says in her statement how her husband argued with her one night for filing for a protection order against him.

He allegedly asked her to burn it and when she refused, he wrote on the order that he would kill her, and then he burnt it himself.

He allegedly told her that she would never leave him and asked if she knew that there were many things he could use to kill her.

The next morning, Swazi woke up to get ready for work. Her husband then poured acid into a cup and told her he wanted to drink it and that they would die together.

She refused and later managed to escape the house and run to her neighbours.

But when he found her there, he tossed the cup of acid into her face. As she screamed for help, he ran back to their house and tried to burn it down.

According to her lawyer’s letters to correctional services, the man is a repeat offender who was convicted of rape in 1991 before he met Swazi, but was released early.

In 2009, he was convicted of assault but was given a R2 000 fine, suspended for three years.

Just after that period had lapsed, he tried to kill her. Now he is set for release again.

*Not their real names

Read more on:    16 days of activism

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