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Police urged to take urgent action as assaults on pregnant women increases

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Published Jun 18, 2022

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Johannesburg - Across the Western Cape health care workers have over the last year and a bit noticed a concerning trend.

A third of injuries to women arriving at 34 hospitals across the province were because of assaults.

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And half of these women were pregnant.

“When we looked at the assault data in pregnant women, we saw a higher percentage of assaults in the second trimester compared to the first or third trimester,” explained Dr Melvin Moodley, Director: Health Intelligence Strategy Cluster Western Cape Government Health.

“The timing suggests that it may be when women disclose their pregnancy status to their partners, but we can’t be certain – we will need to research this further,” he said.

This statistic was highlighted in a parliamentary portfolio of police committee meeting which convened to analyse the recently released national SAPS fourth quarterly crime statistics of 2021/2022.

The statistics revealed once again that the crime holiday brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic lock downs is truly over with increases in all major crime categories.

Bearing the brunt of this rise in criminality were women, the presentation showed.

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In that time period there were 12 314 cases of common assault against women.

Common assault for the fourth quarter 2021/2022 stood at 75.1 people per 100 000, this compared to 68,1 per 100 000 during the same period in 2017/2018.

The more serious assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm was 71/ 100 000 people this last quarter, having risen from 60 from the same time last year.

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“I have stated here that it is clear that I think communities are having difficulty with conflict resolution,” said researcher Nicolette van Zyl-Gous, who presented the analysis of the crime statistics to the committee.

“When you consider that murders, attempted murders and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm is caused by arguments and misunderstandings,” she said.

She added that she believed it is important that the SAPS delve deeper into what kind of arguments and misunderstandings were leading to increases in these crime categories.

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Van Zyl-Gous also suggested to the committee that for the SAPS to understand motives behind serious crimes they needed to share information with other analysis centres.

One of these Van Zyl-Gous highlighted is the safety dashboard that was launched last month in the Western Cape by the Department of Health.

The dashboard uses the Hospital Emergency Centre Triage and Information System (HECTIS). This is a web-based system that collects information on patients attending emergency centres. It was through the use of HECTIS that researchers noticed the large number of pregnant women appearing at hospitals as victims of assault.

The data was for the period January 1, 2021 to April 23, 2022.

“In a more updated report, the Western Cape Health Department’s Sentinel Trauma report recorded 79 058 trauma presentations to 27 of our Emergency Centres from January 1 to June 6.

“Of these cases 35 108 were related to interpersonal violence – representing 44,4% of all trauma cases. These patients are young adults often between the ages of 20 to 40 years,” said the Western Cape Health Department spokesperson, Mark van den Heever.

During the committee engagement after Van Zyl-Gous presented her findings, South African Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Nissen stressed the need for all to help in the fight against crime.

“We need to bring partners together to ensure we mobilise support to make South Africa a safer society,” he said.

The Saturday Star

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