Children rarely listen to adults, but they almost always imitate them
Over the last few days we've been provided details of the crime stats across the various provinces in South Africa. Before I give you a sense of the detail, note that the stats are already six months old. The snapshot of assault and sexual crimes below have been gleaned from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS):
The number of cases of assault with the intention to inflict grievous bodily harm (GBH) recorded by the police increased by 0.1% between 2013/14 and 2014/15, from 182,333 to 182,556 recorded incidents.
Cases of common assault recorded by the police decreased by 2.8% from 166,088 to 161,486 incidents. According to ISS, there is, however, reason to doubt that these figures reflect a real reduction in assault levels because most victims don’t report these crimes to the police. The Statistics South Africa National Victims of Crime Survey found that most assault victims knew the perpetrators. The perpetrators were either from the same community (34.2%), a spouse or lover (16.8%) or a relative (9.2%). Less than a quarter were described as unknown or categorised as ‘other’.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 came into effect in December 2007 and created a number of ‘new’ sexual offences. It also expanded the definition of rape. This makes it difficult to compare the rape statistics before December 2007 with more recent figures.
Reported cases of rape continue to decrease. Between 2008/9 and 2014/15 recorded cases dropped by 7.4%, from 46,647 to 43,195 respectively. ‘Total sexual crimes’ as recorded by the police may include up to 59 separate crimes ranging from different forms of sex work to rape. ISS state that rape statistics recorded by the police cannot be taken as an accurate measure of either the extent or trend of this crime since various research studies have shown that as few as one in thirteen rapes are reported to the police.
I will not go into murder, house breaking , car theft and other categories, other than to say they are as depressing. The overall stats got one commentator to say that the details are similar to countries that are caught up in war. The reality is we not caught up in war. This is all home grown.
So what do we do to turn this around? Recognizing that this is a complex issue with many variables influencing the trends, I would like to suggest we start at home. Yep, adults and the example set from home.
I do a lot of traveling on our public roads and visit many communities as part of my job, and I can tell you many adults carry a lot of aggression. And many adults are plain grumpy and negative about life. From road rage, to swearing and vulgarity to resolve a problem, to prejudice in dealing with different opinions and cultures, adults carry tonnes of baggage with them. And all of this poison is being fed to the children that surround them. So it is no wonder that our children grow up to behave in similar fashion.
I know you may feel that this is a rather simplistic way to look at our crime stats and its potential reversal but we need to start somewhere; and that somewhere is in the home, where we have time as adults to nurture the next generation, to teach them about the value of life, respect for others, diversified thinking, conflict management, the rule of law, our tragic past and our potentially great future. If we can't do this at home, we surely not going to get this right in the overpopulated prisons across our country.