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#HimOrMe: Mother of two goes on trial following abusive partner’s death

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Next Monday, CALS will appear in the Palmridge Magistrates Court on behalf of a woman accused of killing her abusive partner during one of his frequent attacks

We recognise that our client’s story is not unique. Rather, it is one of the many examples of our country’s pervasive domestic violence problem which for women can end in their deaths and less often in criminal charges against them for responding to the perpetrator’s violence. For them, the options literally become #HimOrMe.

Domestic violence is recognised as a widespread and life-threatening problem globally, and one that particularly affects women and children. Though data can be difficult to gather because of the nature of domestic violence occurring in private spaces and the challenges survivors face in reporting abuse, it is thought that up to 50% of women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes in our country. And this kind of violence is expected to intensify over time: South Africa has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world.

“The almost inevitable culmination of escalating domestic violence is that someone will die, most often women,” says Sheena Swemmer, head of the Gender Programme at CALS. “There are only a few cases where women have acted to protect themselves or their children and instead killed abusive partners. Our courts have not yet recognised this as a defence or properly engaged with the psychological aspects of domestic violence.”

On Monday 2 December, the trial of a woman accused of killing her abusive partner begins in the Palmridge Magistrates Court. Prior to his death, she had spent a year facing beatings from him so severe that she suffered a miscarriage. CALS will be acting in her defence. Despite the fact that she poses no threat or flight risk, our client has been denied bail and instead forced to await trial in prison away from her children for almost a year.

This is just one in a series of cases we intend to use to challenge how women are treated in the criminal justice system, and develop a defence for survivors of violence who try to protect themselves and their children against abusers. 

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