Crime

The country where kids are raised to be criminals

16 September 2018 - 00:00 By GRAEME HOSKEN
A growing number of children are victims of violence and this leads them to drug abuse, crime and violence in adulthood.
A growing number of children are victims of violence and this leads them to drug abuse, crime and violence in adulthood.
Image: 123RF/ Sasi Ponchaisang

SA is breeding a future generation of violent criminals - the research backs it up.

Crime statistics and various recent studies on children and violence show that a growing number of children are victims of violence and that this leads them to drug abuse, crime and violence in adulthood.

Added to this are funding cuts taking NGOs to the brink of collapse, so that they can no longer offer shelter and support to enough high-risk children.

"Our society is becoming increasingly brutalised," said Professor Linda Richter, director of Wits University's Centre of Excellence in Human Development.

"With this level of violence we are breeding angry and poorly controlled people.

"The prevalence of violence is incredibly high. It's not as though there is just a particular or small group of people who will become problematic in adulthood. It is a vast number who are at risk. Children across the country are increasingly witnessing abuse in their homes, on the streets and in schools. The violence has become normalised."

Police crime statistics for 2017/2018 show that 985 children were among the 20,336 people murdered, up from 839 the previous year. About 1,059 children survived attempted murders, up from 936, while 10,446 were victims of common assault, up from 10,211.

Research into sexual abuse of boys, which was released by the centre in July, found "evidence is becoming clear of a link between the experience of sexual violence by boys in childhood, mental distress in adulthood and later perpetration of sexual aggression".

Police crime statistics for 2017/2018 show that 985 children were among the 20,336 people murdered, about 1,059 survived attempted murders and 10,446 were victims of common assault

The centre's long-term "Birth to Twenty Plus" study, released in March, showed that in the Soweto-Johannesburg area, 99% of children under the age of 18 witness or experience violence, and that 49% experience violence in their own homes.

The study, which surveyed 3,273 children, and which is still under way, started 30 years ago, with Soweto and surrounding areas selected because of its dense population and rapid rate of urbanisation.

A report from the National Treasury in July shows a government funding shortfall of nearly R9.2bn to NGOs sheltering abused children. It said funding levels for social welfare services were low, "constituting about 2.3% of provinces' aggregate budgets".

The report was compiled after the National Association of Welfare Organisations & NGOs took the Free State government to court in 2010 over the issue of funding for nonprofit organisations.

The judgment found it failed to recognise it had a constitutional and statutory obligation to provide care to children and older and vulnerable persons in need, and this had led to some organisations having to retrench staff or even shut down.

The "Birth to Twenty Plus" report states that the high level of violence in SA has at least some of its origins in violence witnessed and experienced in childhood.

"The data reported here... documents the saturation of violence in the everyday lives of children. Close to half of preschool children were reported to have been victims of violence, most often through physical punishment by parents.

Exposed children are at risk of becoming insensitive to future violence exposures, uncaring towards others, and violent themselves.

Long-term effects into adulthood of childhood exposure to violence and abuse include drug and alcohol abuse . criminality . leading to a vicious cycle of violence".


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