SA in the top ranks for child-on-child violence
Cape Town - Violence by children against other children in South Africa is well above the global average.
There are various risk factors such as perpetrators experiencing or witnessing violence in their homes and neighbourhoods on a regular basis, associating with violent peers and abusing alcohol and drugs.
Criminologist at Stellenbosch University's political science department, Guy Lamb, said while there is no reliable year-on-year data on child-on-child violence, previous studies have show the numbers in SA are higher than global averages.
“Unfortunately, we do not have reliable year-on-year data on child-on-child violence, so we can’t tell if it is getting better or worse. From a variety of studies over the past two decades, we do know that the perpetration of violence by children against other children, especially adolescents, is well above the global average. SA has much higher rates than countries with data, such as in North America and Western Europe.”
During the 2019/2020 financial year, more than 10 000 child assault cases were reported to SAPS. Despite a decrease of 134 from the previous year, Lamb deemed this as alarming.
“They are scared that their abuser will hurt them again if they report the assault to the police, they don’t trust the police, they aren’t able to access a police station and/or view such violence as normal.
“Most assaults mainly happen in the home, and often at the hands of a member of a child’s household. Such violence also takes place in neighbourhoods. Some schools even continue to make use of corporal punishment,” he said.
More recently, a nine-year-old boy allegedly assaulted a six-year-old girl with a sharp instrument. The girl sustained head injuries.
Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel Andre Traut said a case of assault GBH was reported to Muizenberg following the incident and the matter was with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons said children learn from adults.
“Parents are the main role-players responsible for the care, wellbeing, nurturing and protection of their children. Their children’s behaviour is usually a result of their parenting and lack of intervention when children display behavioural problems. Parents must promote non-violence problem solving. Children learn violence from parents and their environment.
“If no intervention is made, the offender most likely will commit further serious crime as he/she grow up, land up in jail and even commit murder.
“If the victims do not get the correct support, the incident could affect them for the rest of their life. The trauma of the actual event and subsequent responses can further traumatise a child. He/she will live in constant fear and even become violent,” he said.
Medical officer at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital trauma unit, Dr Rochelle van Coller, said: “Some days are better than others but I can’t think of the last time I did a shift without seeing an abuse case. Over the last month we had more than 20 children in the hospital at any given time who were victims of abuse, including stabbings, gunshot wounds, physical assault and sexual assault. This translates to roughly 30 per month, meaning one a day. And that is only at our hospital.
“Most months, physical assault is the majority of cases. This is, however, closely followed by sexual assault. Penetrating injuries such as gunshot wounds and stab wounds are less, but we also hear about many of these children passing away before they even make it to the hospital. Doctors that visit from other countries are always horrified by how much violent trauma we see,” she said.
Child protection consultant, Joan van Niekerk, said there is no one reason why children younger than 18 are committing crimes but rather a combination of factors.
“Some of them include violent children have experienced violence earlier in their childhood or been exposed to violence as a way of dealing with life’s challenges and peer influence.
“Studies on adverse experiences indicate that the impact of violence and abuse on children may be lifelong and compromises physical, emotional, social and spiritual development. It disturbs family relationships even when the abuser is external to the family as if a child is hurt, the family hurts also,” she said.