The impact of an interim protection order (Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998) on the victims of domestic violence
Domestic violence is a serious social problem, both in Southern Africa, as well as globally. From March 2003 to February 2004 a total of 27 071 men and women were assisted by Mosaic to apply for Interim Protection Orders (IPO), in the domestic violence sections of eleven Magistrates’ Courts in the Western Cape in South Africa. Mosaic is a nongovernmental organisation and provides free support services to all victims of domestic violence. The IPO, which is the practical tool and legal document of the South African Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998, is issued by a Magistrate’s Court. It is supposed to protect victims from physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, verbal and/or economic abuse, harassment, intimidation, stalking, damage to and entering of their property without their consent, in the interim period before a Final Protection Order is granted. The primary objectives of this study are to determine the impact of an IPO on the nature and the extent of domestic violence, the impact of an IPO on the general well-being of the victims of domestic violence and the efficiency of the application procedure for an IPO. The secondary objectives are to compile a profile of the victims of domestic violence in different cultural groups, to describe and compare the nature and the extent of domestic violence in different cultural groups, to review the role of the police in the implementation of an IPO, to make recommendations where applicable, and to inform the South African Government and policy makers of the findings of this study. An extensive literature study focusing on domestic violence, general well-being and the link between the two concepts provides the theoretical basis of the study. The empirical study confirms the link between domestic violence and general well-being. A quasi-experimental research design is used in this study. The study comprises two groups, namely an experimental group (N=884) and a control group (N=125). The control group, which appears similar to the experimental group (in the sense that they also experienced domestic violence) is drawn from the same communities as the experimental group. Both groups were pre-tested (completed a first set of questionnaires). The experimental group was exposed to a treatment (the application for and granting of an IPO). Both groups were then post-tested (completed a second set of questionnaires). Two standardised questionnaires were used, namely The Abuse Disability Questionnaire (McNamara, 1999) and The Spiritual Health and Life-Orientation Measure (Gomez & Fisher, 2003). Participants in the experimental and control groups experienced all forms of domestic violence as described in the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 (RSA Government Gazette, 1998). Results indicated that the IPO did not contribute significantly to the reduction in total abuse exposure, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse or sexual abuse, as both the experimental and control groups experienced similar changes from the first to the second measurements. The IPO was found to contribute significantly to a reduction in total impairment. On a physical level, the IPO contributes significantly to the reduction of health status issues. On a psychological level, it contributes significantly to the reduction of concern with physical harm, psychological dysfunction, life restriction and inadequate life control. On a social level, the IPO contributes significantly to a decrease in relationship disability. The IPO does not contribute to a reduction in anxiety and substance abuse as participants in both the experimental and control groups experienced similar changes from the first to the second measurements. The IPO does not contribute significantly to an increase in the personal, communal, environmental and transcendental well-being of participants in the experimental group as participants in both the experimental and control groups experienced similar changes from the first to the second measurements. “Breaking the silence” and awareness of support had a similarly positive impact on domestic violence in the control group, as did the IPO in the experimental group. This indicates that it is not only the IPO, by itself, which has a positive impact on the victims of domestic violence. There are shortcomings in the IPO and Interim Warrant of Arrest that need to be addressed. Improving the information, education and support structures, both in the courts and in the community, will empower the victims of domestic violence. Although the present research was conducted in metropolitan areas in the Western Cape in South Africa, improvements in the system that result from it will benefit all communities. The key findings of this study have already been channelled to representatives of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Lower Court Judiciary, Non-Governmental Organisations, South African Police Service, policy makers and other interested parties. Avenues for future research have also been opened.