How we hurt each other

2011-09-10 16:26

The greatest threat to your safety comes not from the actions of strangers but from relatives and people you know, especially if alcohol is involved.

Crime statistics released this week show that the majority of murder, rape and assault victims this year were attacked by someone they knew.

Released on Thursday, the ­statistics indicate that most social contact crimes occur between ­relatives, friends, neighbours, ­colleagues and acquaintances.

Police crime research and statistics conducted over the past ­decade found that victims and ­perpetrators knew each other in:

»70% to 80% of murder cases;

»60% of attempted murders;

»75% of rape cases; and

»90% of all assaults.

According to the police crime ­report for 2010/11, alcohol and – to a lesser extent – drug abuse often plays a role in these crimes.

“Such crimes frequently result from arguments about money or property, sex or work-related issues. The arguments often become physical and then lead to assault to do grievous bodily harm and common assault,” the report states.

It adds that the latter two crimes can easily give rise to culpable homicide, attempted murder or murder because of the impaired judgment linked to alcohol and drug abuse.

The latest research indicates that 65% of murders are associated with social behaviour, such as the link between alcohol abuse and violent crime.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Thursday called on communities to make life difficult for criminals. “This should include an overhaul of gender and family relations and intolerance of abuse within communities.”

Shamien Garda, national executive director of the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca), said there should be stricter control of illegal liquor outlets. “Police don’t do enough to enforce liquor licensing laws. Alcohol is also sold from these premises to minors. Schools, parents and communities should make sure these businesses don’t operate in their communities.”

Francois van Jaarsveld, a researcher at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, agrees that legislation on legal liquor licensing is in place, but is not enforced.

It is very difficult to police social contact crimes as many occur inside homes or places like shebeens and pubs. “Enforcing liquor licensing laws to curb illegal alcohol abuse is a very practical and preventative measure,” he said.

Garda believes that if alcohol abuse is curbed, violent crime will also decrease significantly. “The side-effect of alcohol abuse is a breakdown in social and sexual relationships.”

This sentiment is echoed by Vivienne Mentor-Lalu, advocacy coordinator for Rapcan, who believes fighting alcohol abuse and violence should be a dual effort.

“Just stopping drinking is not going to stop abuse. You have two problems here: high levels of violence and high levels of alcohol abuse. In dealing with this, you can not take resources away from the one and give it to the other.” 

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