Anna EliZabeth van der Hoven
Globally, domestic violence is a very serious social phenomenon. In South Africa, violence against women and children is widespread and on the increase. Family violence is a pervasive and frequently a lethal problem that challenges society at every level. Abuse in families has a devastating effect on its victims physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Violence threatens the stability of the family and has a negative impact on all family members. It is especially true in the case of children, who learn from it that violence is an acceptable way to cope with problems and to gain control over another person. Furthermore, it violates communities' safety, health, welfare, and economies as a result of medical expenses, psychological problems, and loss of productivity. It concerns governments, international communities, and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, which should address the problem urgently and effectively.
Domestic violence is a multidimensional phenomenon, and therefore it cannot be defined narrowly. According to section l(viii) of the Domestic Violence Act (no. 116 of 1998), domestic violence means: