Police urge public to report domestic violence

Sergeant Richard Smith, social crime prevention officer, distributing pamplets on domestic violence.

More than half of the domestic violence cases reported in the Mitchell’s Plain police cluster are being withdrawn by victims.

Cases are being withdrawn soon after being opened and often after the abuser is arrested, say police.

Apart from Mitchell’s Plain, the cluster includes: Strandfontein, Lentegeur, Athlone, Steenberg, Lansdowne, Philippi and Grassy Park.

Lentegeur police spokeswoman Sergeant Cathy Meyer pleaded with victims to follow through with the cases.

“If you know you are going to be killed or seriously harmed, then report to the victim support room at your nearest police station,” she said on behalf of the cluster.

Domestic violence includes: physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, economic harassment, damage to property, stalking, trespassing and any other abusive or controlling behaviour that threatens the victim’s health, safety or wellbeing.

Victims could apply for a protection order, but Sergeant Meyer said they should first be counselled on their rights, know what a protection order is and how legally binding it is.

A domestic violence protection order is a document issued by the court which places very specific restrictions on the abuser limiting access to their victim.

“We find that people are misusing the act, and we want them to understand that when they open a case, the person is arrested and if they want to withdraw the case, it is out of our hands,” she said.

Sergeant Meyer said the protection order could only be withdrawn by a magistrate.

“We are not allowed to withdraw protection orders at station level,” she said.

Sergeant Meyer said they seldom received serious cases of domestic violence. She explained that often the abusers were drug addicts, who would, for example, steal cheese from the fridge, which was a crime but it formed part of domestic violence because it happened in the family home. “We seldom have cases where the victims are about to be murdered or can die from their injuries,” she said.

Bonginkosi Hashe, a social worker at Families South Africa (FAMSA), said a domestic violence victim was often emotionally, physically and financially dependent on the abuser and homicidal threats were common.

“If you report me then I will harm you or other of their family members,” he said are often some of the threats.

Victims loved their partners or abusers; they had often been in the relationship for a long time and hoped the abuser would change.

“We advise people to come out and seek help,” he said.

Famsa also has Men Stop Violence Groups that work with perpetrators of domestic violence and probe the reasons for the abuse.

Mr Hashe said that in most cases, men shaped by cultural influences, believed women should be submissive and dominated.

Often abusers had experienced some form of violence in their early years and were repeating learnt behaviour.

Victims and those who witness abuse should report it because the information was kept confidential.

“Please go and report it. We are there to help victims and perpetrators. If you are experiencing any form of abuse, seek help,” he said.

He said hoping the abuser would change was unrealistic without action.

Famsa Mitchell’s Plain office is in the Mini Mall, Symphony Walk, Town Centre and can be called on 021 391 6015 or 073 308 1331.