The majority of the assaults and malicious damage to property cases reported at Mitchell’s Plain police station are still related to domestic violence.
The perpetrators are most often family members or known to the victim, and most of them are men.
These were the facts shared with Mitchell’s Plain police officers and volunteers, who participated in a victim empowerment and domestic violence awareness programme at the police station, in Eastridge, on Monday August 19.
Mitchell’s Plain police’s Victim Empowerment Programme co-ordinator, Constable Gregory Haas, said the methods of abuse included punching, slapping and even biting.
Items used to seriously injure victims include knives, hammers, cups and beer bottles.
“Alcohol usually plays a role as well as drugs such as when the perpetrator demands money for drugs from the household. Abuse patterns often start in childhood and need to be broken,” he said.
They distributed pamphlets and spoke to members of the public in the police station’s charge office.
Constable Haas invited youth to join the team and increase the number of victim support volunteers.
Sergeant Candice Williams, the station’s domestic violence co-ordinator, said domestic violence was often thought to only include physical violence, but the acts, behaviour and consequences that made up domestic violence vary in nature and frequency as it is defined int he Domestic Violence Act.
“It could be sexual abuse, whether you are married to the other person or not; physical abuse or assault (for example, slapping, biting, kicking and threats of physical violence); damage to property or anything you value; stalking (when the other person follows or approaches you or your children repeatedly); economic abuse, that is, when the other person keeps money to which you are legally entitled from you in an unreasonable manner, for example by refusing to pay or share the rent or mortgage bond for the home you share or disposing of any property (household goods) in which you have interest, without your permission; emotional abuse (that is, degrading or humiliating behaviour, including repeated insults, belittling, cursing and threats); and any other controlling or abusive behaviour which poses a threat to your safety, health or well-being.”
Sergeant Williams said every person had the right to apply for a protection order at the nearest police station or magistrate’s court or lay a criminal charge at the police station and apply for a protection order.
A protection order is issued by a court at your request, ordering a person with whom you have or had a domestic relationship, to stop the abuse.
It may also prevent the person from getting help from any other person to commit such acts
An interim protection order can also be issued at any time of the day or night for your protection
She said any victim of domestic violence could apply for it, parents or guardians of minors or anyone acting on behalf of someone, who is responsible for them or a police official may apply.
“It is our commitment as SAPS to treat victims of domestic violence with sensitivity and care.
“As police officials, we will treat victims with respect and protect your dignity; listen to what victims have to say; not insult or blame or suggest that it was their own fault that they were abused; assist you with empathy and care; and inform victims of their rights and options,” she said.
To ensure that this has been done victims must sign the occurrence book at the police station; officers should provide victims with a notice in a language they understand, and explain how they should proceed; make an effort to find someone to speak to the victim in the language he or she understands; take a victim’s statement in privacy and not in the presence of the abuser or the public; decide on the basis of the victim’s statement whether to arrest the abuser and take his or her firearm, as well as determine the victim’s needs and how to assist him or her; serve a protection order on the person against whom it was made, as directed by the court; keep a copy of the protection order and record every arrest made as proof for victims; and note their complaints in the incident register at the station as further proof that they reported the matter.
This will also enable the police to give a report on the progress of the case.
Sergeant Williams said that at the scene of the crime the police would locate the complainant and take reasonable steps to protect the complainant from any further danger, create an environment that is conducive to communicate and obtain statements from the complainant and witnesses.
If there is reason to believe that an act of violence has been committed, the suspect must be arrested immediately without a warrant.
Police will search the premises and seize (for safekeeping) any firearms and or dangerous weapons in the possession of the person who has either threatened to kill or injure another person.
“We will also do this if we are satisfied that the offender’s mental state, inclination towards violence and or dependence on alcohol or drugs could influence his or her behaviour and pose a threat to anyone,” she said.
The police, where possible, will help the victim find access to medical attention, shelter and victim counselling.
“We will inform you of the support services that are available in the area; alternative shelters if available; counselling services if required; medical assistance; free services that are available and the time of day these services are available.
“We will ensure that a medical officer collects and records any medical evidence in support of a criminal charge,” she said.
Sergeant Williams said they will go with to the victim’s home to collect personal belongings, if this is provided for in a protection order that has been issued.
Mitchell’s Plain police station can be contacted at 021 370 1600 or 021 370 1706.