'What is my responsibility to report domestic violence?' A lawyer advises

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Neighbours should consider reporting the abuse to the police or encouraging the victim to report the abuse.
Neighbours should consider reporting the abuse to the police or encouraging the victim to report the abuse.

A concerned reader wrote to ask Parent24 about his responsibility in a situation where he suspects a neighbour is a victim of domestic violence.  

He tells us he was made aware of an issue between his neighbour and his wife, and he asks us what he should do. We spoke to Anchen Faber, a Candidate Attorney at Di Sienna Attorneys in Johannesburg to find out more about an individuals duty to report domestic violence. 

Imran writes, explaining: 

"The security personnel informed me at our residential complex about the domestic issue between my neighbour and his wife and he asked me to do something, as he was worried about the worst happening.

I am not sure what to do, as I'm not sure about the reason for the argument between the two individuals and how this could affect the individuals privacy, as well as my relationship with my neighbour.

What is my responsibility as an individual who was informed about domestic violence, without affecting harmony amongst neighbours?" 

Also see: This is how you know if your ex is turning your child against you

Faber offered advice, first by explaining that domestic violence is a serious social evil in South Africa, perpetrated mainly against the most vulnerable members of our society, those being women and children. 

"This crime often goes unreported due to the fear and shame associated with it," she adds. 

She also clarifies that Section 2 of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 imposes a duty on any member of the SAPS, at the scene of an incident of domestic violence or as soon thereafter as is reasonably possible, or when the incident of domestic violence is reported, to assist and inform the victim of his or her rights. 

Therefore, she says, Imran should consider reporting the abuse to the police or encouraging the victim to report the abuse.

"In instances where domestic violence has occurred and the parties are involved in a domestic relationship, the victim of abuse may seek recourse against the abuser in terms of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998," she says.

A victim of abuse may approach the Magistrates Court to apply for a protection order against the perpetrator. This application may be brought by the victim or on behalf of the victim by a person who has a material interest in the wellbeing of the complainant.

Also see: OPINION | Who really should be barefoot in the kitchen?

In the event that the abuse of a child, mentally disturbed or elderly person is suspected, very clear legislation exists, Faber says:

The Children's Act

The Children's Act 38 of 2005 (as amended) mandates certain professional sectors to report any child abuse, neglect or maltreatment that is suspected on reasonable grounds to a designated child protection organisation, the provincial department of social development or a police official. Ordinary citizens are given a discretion to report child abuse, but are not compelled to do so.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 compels all citizens who are aware of the sexual exploitation of children or mentally disabled individuals to report the offence to the police. Any person who fails to do so is guilty of an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine or imprisonment or both.

The Older Persons Act 13

The Older Persons Act 13 of 2006 mandates any person who suspects that an older person has been abused or suffers from an abuse-related injury to notify the Director-General or a police official of his or her suspicion. Any person who fails to do so is guilty of an offence.

Faber suggests that Imran consider referring the victim to various organisations that offer assistance, such as:

FAMSA - https://www.famsawc.org.za/

POWA - https://www.powa.co.za/POWA/

Trauma Centre - https://traumacentre.org.za/

Tears Foundation - https://www.tears.co.za/

Childline South Africa - https://www.childlinesa.org.za/


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