The Psychological Impact of Crime on the South African Society

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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
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work and Criminology, University of Pretoria
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

I have been teaching Criminology on post- and undergraduate level for 14 years at the University of Pretoria. I hold the following degrees: BA (Criminology), BA Honours (Criminology), MA (Criminology), DPhil (Criminology). I also hold a MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Oxford (2003/2004). I am comfortable with qualitative and quantitative research methodology and have a keen interest in the functioning of the Criminal Justice System, youth misbehavior, hate crimes and theories of crime. I supervise students on Masters and Doctorate level. Currently I teach contemporary criminology (e.g. human trafficking; risk society etc.), psycho-criminology (e.g. profiling; terrorism; mental disorders and crime and the psychological effect of crime on the victim etc.) and methodology on under- and postgraduate level. I have developed several other courses in all the different sub-fields in Criminology on post- and undergraduate level. I have initiated and implemented several crime prevention projects and generated funding from different role-players for these projects. I am very passionate about Criminology and would like to see the science grow even more in future. I am the vice president of The Criminological and Victimological Society of Southern Africa (CRIMSA). I have attended several International Conferences.

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