Sometimes victims of gender-based violence (“GBV”) endure violence at the hands of their abuser for a long period of time. It may be that they are afraid to speak up and seek help or that they simply believe it will not happen again or they are working up the courage to seek help. The violence may take place over a short or long period of time or it may just be a single instance. Whatever the case may be, it is important for the victim to gather as much evidence as s/he can, which will be helpful when or if s/he decides to seek help and take legal action. This article will give some guidance of the type of evidence that may be applicable.
Witnesses: Victims should keep a record of any witnesses to the violence by taking note of their details, such as their names and contact information and what they know about the matter. For example, family members or neighbours that may have witnessed incidents of violence. Affidavits or statements from witnesses can also be obtained, however, if the matter comes before a court, the witness will have to testify in court
Photographs: Photographs of injuries and damage to property caused by violent acts of the perpetrator should be taken, such as photographs of bruises or broken doors, tables, dishes and so on.
Record of incidents: If the violence is occurring over a long period of time and/or numerous occasions, victims should keep a record of the details of each incident as it occurs. The record could include information of these incidents, such as the dates and times of the incident, what the perpetrator did or said, what actions the victim took (reporting to the police or another organisation), were there any witnesses and any other relevant information.
Communication and social media: If there were any communications of a degrading or violent form between the perpetrator and victim, the victim should also save any voicemails, e-mails, or text messages as proof of the violent behavior. Social media posts should also be saved in the form of screen shots to limit the risk of not seeing it at a later stage if it was deleted.
Reports: Previous police reports, hospital and doctors’ reports related to the violence must be kept by the victim.
These are just a few examples of what evidence a GBV victim could have. It is not an exhaustive list, nor does a victim need to have all of the listed types of evidence. This list merely entails what victims should bear in mind when pursuing their matter.
Any type of evidence the victim may have can be very helpful with investigations and in later court proceedings, whether it is in a criminal trial or an application for a protection order. However, victims should not be discouraged to report instances of GBV or seeking help if they have no or little evidence.