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Abuse and harassment come in many different forms and victims can often feel powerless in these situations. In many cases, the abuse or harassment does not constitute a crime and victims may feel that reporting the aggressor's actions to authorities will do little to improve their situation. Under South African law, victims of abuse or harassment can seek relief in the form of a protection order. 

A protection order is a court order that details specific acts and behaviours that the respondent is prohibited from engaging in. When applying for a protection order, the complainant has to stipulate the reasons why they require a protection order and list the details of the abuse or harassment they have experienced. This information is then used to compile the protection order, which means that each case is different and therefore judged by its own merits. Complainants need to be precise when detailing the abuse or harassment that they have suffered and should be able to point to specific instances where these actions occurred. 

When approaching the court to apply for a protection order the complainant can also lay a criminal charge against the respondent at a police station if their actions amount to a crime. This could serve to strengthen the complainant’s case. If a final protection order is granted it will remain in effect until it is set aside or cancelled by the court. If a respondent breaches the conditions that are set out in the protection order, the complainant has to report this infringement to the police and the respondent will be arrested for failing to comply with an order of the court.

The difference between abuse and harassment

Harassment is a broad term that is used to describe a wide variety of actions, some of which can also be considered abuse. Abuse is generally considered to be a physical act of malice that often occurs between two people that have an established relationship or are living together. This includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and economic abuse or exploitation.

The Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011 defines harassment as: “directly or indirectly engaging in conduct that the respondent knows, or ought to know, causes harm, or inspires the person who is suffering the harassment to reasonably believe that harm may be caused, to that person.” This could include stalking behaviours, intimidation, sexual harassment, trespassing and even loitering near the complainant’s home or place of work. It can be considered harassment if these actions occur in person, in writing or via electronic communications such as telephone calls, e-mails or text messages. 

Who can apply for a protection order?

Any citizen that has suffered abuse or harassment is able to apply for a protection order in South Africa. If the complainant is a minor child they are able to apply for a protection order without the consent of their parent or guardian. A person can also file an application on behalf of someone else, as long as they receive written consent from the complainant when the complainant is older than 18. 

Contact Cawood Attorneys for assistance in obtaining a protection order from the court. We will guide you through the application process and answer any questions you may have. You can rely on our team of qualified attorneys during this trying time to make sure that your application is processed as quickly as possible so that you can get the protection you need.

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