What to do if you're being abused

Your abuser's trauma does not justify them abusing you.
Your abuser's trauma does not justify them abusing you.


  • You are not alone. You are not responsible. You can get help.
  • To protect yourself from domestic violence, you have to know your rights.

Also see: Suicide is not an option: Useful ways parents can help their teens this summer

Have a plan of action

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you need to start planning what you would do in a crisis situation. This is critical for the safety of you and your children.

  • This plan could include storing emergency clothes, money, special children’s toys, important documents, addresses and telephone numbers and duplicate car keys with someone you trust.
  • Plan how to contact emergency help at any time. It may be useful to agree on signals with a neighbour if you can’t get to a telephone.
  • Always carry a list of emergency numbers with you. (See below but also add your local numbers.)
  • Make sure that the people you usually visit have a copy of the protection order and/or the warrant of arrest.

Whether or not you decide to leave the abusive situation, one of the national helplines or support services can help you to plan how to leave in an emergency and find a place of safety.

Also see: Printable: Emergency contact information 


  • If you decide to move away, make sure it is safe and that you cannot be traced straight away.
  • Leave when your partner is not around, and take your children with you.
  • Make sure that you have all essential documents.
  • Research a list of safe houses and shelters in your area in case you urgently need a place of safety and protection.

Also see: "How boys learn domestic abuse, and how girls learn to forgive it"

Getting a protection order

Because those who commit abuse are violent or unstable people, the ones reporting the abuse may fear for their safety. Under the Domestic Violence Act and the Children’s Act, it is possible to obtain a Protection Order to prevent the perpetrator of the abuse from gaining access to his or her victim or the person reporting the abuse.

1. Report to the police

Before a Protection Order can be granted, the abuser must first be reported to the police.

2. Magistrate's Court

The order can then be obtained from the Magistrate’s Court to prevent the abuser from coming within a certain distance of the victim.

Important telephone numbers:

    • Gender Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428 – for a social worker dial *120*7867 http://gbv.org.za/

    Chat back:

    Are you a victim of domestic abuse? Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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