By Kotie Geldenhuys
Photos by Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
Violence is the one term with which the majority of South Africans are not only familiar, but also an act which many have experienced and/or are still experiencing. The most recent Gallup Law and Order Index, listed South Africa as the fifth most violent country out of 144 countries which were covered in their survey (BusinessTech, 2020), while the Global Peace Index 2020 lists South Africa in position 123 out of 163 countries (IEP, 2020). And sadly, it is hard to disagree with both these indexes as the SAPS's annual crime statistics for the 2019/2020 report period confirm that violent crimes such as murder, assault and sexual offences are on the increase (SAPS, 2020). Our country is plagued by high levels of violent crime which have a negative impact on people's livelihood and our economy.
Violence is a global phenomenon which costs millions of people all over the world their lives every year. Almost 20 years ago, in 2002, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that each year, more than 1.6 million people die worldwide as a result of violence (WHO, 2002a). Almost two decades later this figure must be much higher.
People in different countries have different perceptions of what violence is due to their culture or belief systems. Since violence is such a complex phenomenon, it is difficult to find a clear definition for it, but the WHO defines it as follows: “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation” (WHO, 2002a).
Categories and types of violence
The WHO divides violence into three broad categories:
- Self-directed violence which refers to violent acts a person inflicts upon him- or herself, such as self-mutilation and suicidal behaviour.
- Interpersonal violence refers to violence that is inflicted by another individual or by a small group of individuals and can be divided into two subcategories:
- Family and intimate partner violence includes child abuse and abuse of the elderly; and
- community violence occurs between unrelated individuals and includes random acts of violence and sexual crimes by strangers as well as violence in institutional settings such as schools, workplaces, correctional centres and nursing homes.
- Collective violence is when people who identify themselves as members of a group use violence against another group. This includes violent conflicts between nations and groups, terrorism, rape as a weapon of war, the movement of large numbers of people displaced from their homes, gang warfare (WHO, 2002b) and organised violent crime (SaferSpaces, Nd). Between 2004 and 2015 South Africa experienced a 155% increase in collective violence. Research found that public protests, which often become violent, are motivated by vigilantism, demarcation disputes, xenophobic incidents, housing problems and political party disagreements (Brankovic, 2019). In South Africa, 29.7% of all protests, or public order incidents, were classified as unrest (SAPS, 2020).
SaferSpaces further divides these three categories into four, more specific, types of violence which can occur in each of the previously mentioned broad categories and their subcategories (except for self-directed violence):
- Physical violence which includes assault, bullying, attempted murder and murder.
- Sexual violence which includes rape and sexual assault.
- Psychological violence which includes verbal and non-verbal communication used with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and includes:
- expressive aggression such as humiliating and degrading behaviour;
- coercive control such as limiting access to goods or people;
- threats of physical or sexual violence;
- control of reproductive or sexual health; and
- the exploitation of people’s vulnerability such as immigration status or disability.
- Neglect or deprivation occurs when someone has the responsibility to provide care for an individual who is unable to care for him- or herself, but fails to do so (SaferSpaces, Nd).