The Psychological Impact of Crime on the South African Society
South Africans are confronted by crime on a 24-hour basis. Violent crime is outstandingly high in South Africa. A high number of people are murdered, raped, tortured and robbed each day. If one does not become a direct victim vicarious victimisation (usurp others’ victimisation) takes place in many instances. It is believed by many citizens that crime is out of control and because of this people live in fear. Many factors fuel this fear or crime hysteria, namely the mass media, the lawlessness of many gangs and syndicates, mob violence, emotionally coloured statements of politicians as well as the absence of an effective criminal justice system.
For many citizens’ crimes has become a part of every day life. A significant number of South Africans view crime as “normal”. The psychological effects of crime are however severe and incalculable. Many South Africans suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS), are desensitised, experience damage to the self-esteem, have become paranoid and a lot of citizens are starting to take the law into their own hands. In addition many people develop psychosomatic symptoms and also abuse substances to numb the emotional and psychological aroused state they experience because of the crime situation. Scientists believe that the youth are being brutalised by the constant barrage of serious crime incidents. They start to act out and become incorrigible which also impact on the psyche of their guardians. A significant number of youths become alienated and desperate. This can cause them to commit crime and become part of the crime problem we experience in South Africa. This contribution explores all the above factors to indicate what impact crime is having on the South African citizenry.
Keywords: Psychological Impact, Crime, Post Traumatic Stress, Victimisation
Dr. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work and Criminology, University of Pretoria