COLUMN: How to use the law to protect victims

2016-03-15 06:00

Domestic violence is an ever-increasing problem. And it is not uncommon for domestic violence to escalate into even more serious crimes like murder.

It is for this reason that helping mechanisms, like “restraining order”,” protection order” and “domestic violence interdict”, have been introduced. It is available for free and should be used to protect the victim.

There are many categories of victims who may apply for such legal help. It is most often used in domestic relationships. The court order tells an abuser to stop the abuse and sets certain conditions preventing the abuser from harassing or abusing the victim again.

Applying is free, unless an attorney is used. When an attorney is involved, each party usually bears his own costs.

The victim can apply at a court, but for after-hour applications they must go to a police station. Once a protection order is granted, it is valid until the victim withdraws it.

The magistrate will first grant an interim (temporary) protection order to stop the abuser from:

. Committing domestic violence.

. Asking another person’s help to commit domestic violence.

. Entering a shared residence or a specified part thereof.

. Abusing the victim financially.

. Entering the victim’s residence (which the order may also keep secret).

To ensure the victim has a strong case, take note of the following.

Keep written notes of all the dates, times and types of domestic violence committed. Get all the personal details of the abuser, including his home and work addresses, telephone numbers and identity number. Ensure you have your identity document. You don’t have to, but it will help if you also have photos of the physical abuse; a photo of the abuser and:

. Photos of the violence if any goods or property were damaged.

. Papers showing who bought the items if your goods or property were damaged.

. Letters confirming the fact that you have been abused. You can get letters from social workers, doctors, etc.

. Statements from people who witnessed the abuse.

. A J88 form completed by a doctor of injuries (bruises, wounds, etc.).

Any member of the police must help the victim in every way necessary, including explaining your rights, what you can do to stop the abuse by using the law, finding a safe place for you to stay or helping you make arrangements to find a place and getting you medical treatment. Remember abuse is not just physical but can be emotional abuse as well, which would include threats.

This column was contributed by Denzil Jacobs, an admitted advocate with expertise in commercial law. For guidance on legal issues email him on dr.ddj@­hotmail.­com or read his column in People’s Post next month.

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