Children are psychologically more at risk than adults through violent experiences. Follow-up studies of disasters found 80% of children had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder one to two years later, compared with 30% of adults. Children’s potential for long-term recovery without the support of a significant adult and/or the relevant treatment, is markedly less than that of an adult. Their conceptual and emotional inability properly to understand the violent event, and to have some measure of control over their environment, are factors which mitigate against a swift recovery.
When we talk about the effects of violence, we generally refer to the effects of political violence – such as riots, the repressive actions of security forces against people opposing this government, battels between hostel dwellers and township residents. However, a great deal of the violence that children are exposed to, is the violence of “ordinary” crime – such as sexual abuse and assaults. The most common violent crimes in South African society are the sexual crimes – rape, sexual assault, incest. Women and children are the most common victims of sexual crime.
Children are increasingly becoming involved in crime and in the perpetration of violence. In 1988 the average age of the first offender in South Africa was 22 years. A disturbing new trend emerged in 1990 when the average age of the first offender dropped to 18 years. This means that in the early 1990s most of the criminals who are arrested, charged and imprisoned are children.
A lot this “ordinary” criminal violence can also be caused by political factors. Alcohol abuse, poverty, unemployment and dangerous living conditions for example, all contribute to the incidence of crime, and all these factors can in turn be linked to the apartheid policies of education, employment, accommodation and influx control. However, to call all acts of violence political, is a mistake because it can result in people not properly understanding the causes of the different types of violence and not being able to recommend realistic