She knocks on your door, her left eye blackened. There’s a large cut on her cheek. You ask her what happened and if she’s okay. You decide to open the door and let her in.
She’s your neighbour after all. “It was him. He hit me, he did this,” she says as tears stream down her face. “I need help. I need to get away from him. Please, I don’t know what to do, I have no where else to go,” she begs.
It sounds like a typical movie scene from a thriller or a horror but in South Africa, which has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the world, it’s a reality.
Psychiatry Management Group says one in every six women in South Africa is abused and regularly assaulted by their partner, therefore, anyone can be faced with this scenario, even you.
The question is: What is the right thing to do when faced with such a situation? The Star spoke to Gender Links, a world-renowned non-governmental organisation in Joburg focused on gender equality and justice, about how to help an abused women.
“It’s important to get her to a place of safety and a neutral space. There are many shelters and NGOs in Gauteng and across the country where an abused woman can take refuge,” says Gender Links services manager Debbie Harrison.
“A shelter is a good place to go because there are rules and the abusive partner can’t visit her.
“If you take her to family or close friends, he can get in touch with her, visit her and there’s a possibility she’ll go back to him. The other scenario is if he’s violent he may threaten her or the family members protecting her.”
Harrison says many shelters and NGOs have a good relationship with the police.
“A lot of the time we see that if the helper calls the police, they won’t respond but if she’s taken to a shelter, the shelter or NGOs there, work closely with the police and they will come,” she says.
Harrison says that if he’s violent, it’s important for her to get a court interdict such as a restraining order or domestic violence interdict, and to remain firm when using it.
“If an abuse victim gets an interdict, the abusive partner can’t come near her. She can get it provided that she has a J88 form and that this is presented to the magistrate,” Harrison says.
A J88 form is a letter filled out by a doctor stating the physical injuries sustained.
“She must be strong enough to use the interdict. There are situations where the victim feels bad for using the interdict because her partner will be arrested, and when the police arrive, she tells them not to arrest him.
“This creates a negative circle because the police are eventually seen as unhelpful when he gets violent or abusive again.”