Kerr house is a hospice for women based in Durban, South Africa.

Hospice For Women, Durban, South Africa


Understanding Domestic Violence

Durban women's Hospice, Kerr House


Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, religion or sexuality, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. Abuse is prevalent at every level of society and has a devastating effect on the victims’ physical, emotional, spiritual and financial wellbeing. Violence on the family can destabilize the family structure and can have a negative impact on all family members.

Noticing and acknowledging the signs of abusive relationships are the first step to ending it. No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following warning signs and descriptions of abuse, contact us help is available.

Domestic violence is regulated by the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 and was implemented to afford victims protection from domestic violence at the same time creating infrastructure on law enforcement bodies such as South African Police Services (SAPS) as well as the Justice System to protect victims from further abuses within their relationships.

Forms of Abuse

  • - Physical Abuse (including sexual)
  • - Emotional Abuse (verbal and psychological) constant criticism, name-calling, mocking and swearing.
    1. Threats and Intimidation -- Threatening to harm the victim, children, family members, and pets. Putting the partner in fear by intimidating looks, actions and gestures, shouting, smashing things and destroying property.
    2. Harassment, stalking and cause damage to the victim’s property
    3. Isolation -- Controlling what the partner does, who she sees and talks to, where she goes, monitoring phone calls, reading mail.
  • - Economic Abuse -- Withholding money, credit cards and thus keeping the partner from work or school, alternatively interfering with the partner’s work.

Cycle of Abuse

Abusive relationships go through stages and the length of time in each stage can vary from person to person. It can be very difficult to break the cycle once it begins.

The four stages of an abusive relationship:

  • The tension-building stage

    This is when stress and strain begin to build just before an abusive actual abuse occurs. The abuser’s behaviour may become passive aggressive and communication is not all that clear. The victim will know that there is a strong possibility that ‘their behaviour’ could ‘trigger’ an abusive reaction, and so the victim may try to alter his or her behaviour to try to prevent their partner from becoming violent.

  • Incident of abuse stage

    This is when the act of violence takes place. The abuser will commit acts of domestic abuse like hitting, kicking, shoving, biting and/or throwing objects at their partner. Other kinds of abuse could present itself in sexual, psychological or emotional abuse, stalking, neglecting, intimidating or practicing any other kind of extreme controlling behaviour.

  • Reconciliation stage

    This is also known as the honeymoon phase. The abuser becomes contrite and apologizes for their behaviour. They may be overly attentive or affectionate; they may try to ignore what happened, or they may even try to blame the victim for the violence. They often shower their victim with gifts and/or over-the-top kindness, and are likely to appear remorseful, repentant and sad. Some abusers may threaten suicide to stop their victim from leaving. During this stage promises are made that the abusive behaviour will never happen again.

  • Calm stage

    This phase is considered an extension of the reconciliation phase. During this period, the abuser tries hard to show kindness to the victim and to resist the urge to fall back into abusive behaviours. The relationship seems calm and peaceful, leading the victim to believe that the abuser really has ‘changed’, and that the atmosphere will be different this time. Sadly, though, new conflicts inevitably arise, and the cycle repeats itself with the tension-building stage.

(Adapted from Lenore E. Walker 1979)

Recognise the Warning Signs of a Domestic Abuser

While not all abusive people show the same traits, or display the tendencies to the same extent, if several behavioural traits are present, there is a strong indication toward abusiveness. Generally, the more warning signs are present, the greater the likelihood of violence.

If you have answered yes to several of these point you are at risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence.

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What can you do if you are abused?

If you are in an abusive relationship you need not continue, you can make a decision for an abuse free future by making a safety plan and/or to obtain a protection order.

Start by making a safety plan

The aim is for the abused person to leave before the abuser stops them, although sometimes the abuse will escalate so quickly there is little time for warning.

Developing a safety plan demonstrates to the abused person that they have alternative options and that the escape is possible. It is irrelevant if the plan is immediately put into action, what is important is that they have a plan and that gives them a sense of power.

  • Locate a safe place to go in an emergency such as family, friends or a shelter.
  • Have an overnight bag hidden somewhere with clothes, money, keys and important documents such as passport, ID, birth certificates (of your children), marriage certificate, school reports (of children).
  • If you have young children you should consider a plan of how you are going to remove them from the house… taking your children with you will help you to keep custody.
  • Older children can leave, after a signal from you to meet you at a pre-determined venue.
  • Work out your escape route.
  • Applying for a protection order

    A protection order can be obtained from the family court in Durban.

    Lodging an application is made by the victim personally or on behalf of someone.

    The application form should be accompanied with an affidavit setting out the facts relating to the abuse as well as any supporting affidavits of witnesses or people who have knowledge of the abuse.

    Ensure that all names are correct and wherever possible ID numbers and the address of the abuser must be provided. Depending on your income there might be a nominal fee which is payable upon application.

    If possible arrive early at the court to ensure for enough time to see the correct people and to see the process through.

    The protection order is usually issued on the same day of the application and once served on the respondent it must be returned to the court by the applicant in order for the warrant of arrest to be issued.

    The applicant must keep the copy of the protection order so that the police are able to act on the terms and conditions of the warrant of arrest, if the protection order is breached.

    The Durban Family court is situation on the corner of Somtsue and Stalwart Simelane St, Durban. The domestic violence / family court are situation in room 1021A.

    Their opening hours are from 07h45 – 16h15 and they close for lunch between 13h00 – 14h00.

    Safety tips for a Protection Order

    If a person has obtained a protection note the following important information:

    • 1. A protection order should not be kept at home where it can be found and destroyed.
    • 2. Always have an emergency overnight bag at a friend’s or relative’s house which should contain
    • - clothing and toiletries for yourself and your children
    • - important documents such as ID’s & certified copies of birth certificates of children
    • - the protection order and warrant of arrest.
    • 3. The protection order can be copied and left with family or friends.
    • 4. If the warrant of arrest has been used a new warrant must be applied for as a warrant of arrest can only be used once. The protection order does not need to be applied for again.
    • 5. No statements should be made whilst under the influence of alcohol, although the police will arrest the abuser if the victim has been injured.
    • 6. If the abuser has broken any of the conditions on the protection order, inform the police to arrest the abuser.
    • 7. A photocopy of the protection order can be used, however, the warrant of arrest must be the original copy.
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    Latest News Updates

    - 04 July 2011

    Kerr House Knitting Skills

    The Kerr House ladies and participants have been knitting up a storm lately in order to raise funds. Donations of wool (any colours and varieties) will be welcome and greatly appreciated.

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