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What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a devastating social problem that affects every segment of the population.  Even persons not involved in domestic violence should be able to identity victims in order to protect them from further harm.

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world. And, sadly, domestic violence is the most common and widespread human rights abuse in South Africa. Every day, women are murdered, physically and sexually assaulted, threatened and humiliated by their partners, within their own homes. The South African Police Service’s (SAPS) 2016/17 crime statistics showed that in that financial year, 53 263 women reported being assaulted and 2 930 women were murdered, many at the hands of their intimate partners. (

Domestic violence is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA, 1996) as “a pattern of abusive behaviours, including physical, sexual and psychological maltreatment used by one person in an intimate relationship against another to gain power unfairly or maintain that person’s misuse of power, control and authority.” A domestic relationship can be described as a relationship between a victim and an abuser in a marriage, living together, parents of a child, customary relationship, engagement, dating or sharing the same residence.

The “harm” can take a variety of forms, whether it be from:

  • Verbal abuse like shouting, blaming, name-calling and raging.
  • Emotional abuse like manipulation, repeated threatening and obsessive/jealous behaviour
  • Physical abuse like hitting, punching, or another physical behaviour that brings a risk
  • Sexual abuse like rape, inappropriate touching of either the woman or her children, forcing of painful and distasteful sexual activities.
  • Financial/economic abuse, unreasonably depriving die complainant of financial resources or household necessities
  • Harassment by behaving in a way that makes a victim feel afraid of being harmed.
  • Intimidation
  • Stalking
  • Damage to property

This is regulated by the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. The Act was introduced in 1998 with the purpose of affording women protection from domestic violence by creating obligations on law enforcement bodies, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), to protect victims as far as possible.

Social workers in the employ of Free State Care in Action are able to assist the public, victims and perpetrators with information, support and counselling.  Awareness programs are launched in communities to create awareness and to educate the public on the impact of domestic violence on the victims and the community.  For more information call 051-4446143.