This factsheet provides an overview of assault and sexual crime trends between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015 as recorded by the South African Police Service. The Institute for Security Studies is using the recalculated figures released by the South African Police Service on 29 September 2015 for the years 2004/05 to 2014/15 and takes no responsibility for the accuracy of these statistics.Researched by the Institute for Security Studies with AFRICA CHECK.
A note about SA’s crime statistics: On the day of their release, these statistics were already at least six months out of date. That means that the current crime situation, particularly at local level, could be very different to that described by these statistics. For a guide on how to interpret crime statistics see the Africa Check Factsheet. For more factsheets, infographics, interactive maps, analysis and graphics on crime visit the Institute for Security Studies’ Crime Hub.
Cases of domestic violence are likely to be recorded as cases of assault. Given the serious nature of domestic violence, it is important that assault victims are encouraged to report incidents to the police.
The police do not release the details about the number of assaults that involve intimate partners although they are required by law to record cases of domestic violence in a register at police stations and have victim friendly rooms available. Despite these requirements, regular compliance is very low:
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 came into effect in December 2007 and created a number of “new” sexual offences. It also expanded the definition of rape. This makes it difficult to compare the rape statistics before December 2007 with more recent figures.
Reported cases of rape continue to decrease. Between 2008/9 and 2014/15 recorded cases dropped by 7.4%, from 46,647 to 43,195 respectively.
“Total sexual crimes” as recorded by the police may include up to 59 separate crimes ranging from different forms of sex work to rape. Increases or decreases in such a broad category of crime tell us very little about the trends or extent of any of the specific offences contained therein. The category of sexual offences is therefore not useful and the police should publicly release statistics for each of the crimes that fall under the broad category of sexual offences.
The rape statistics recorded by the police cannot be taken as an accurate measure of either the extent or trend of this crime. Various research studies have shown that depending on the locality, as few as one in thirteen rapes are reported to the police. The National Victims of Crime Survey results show that the proportion of rape victims who report their victimisation to the police decreased by 21% between 2011 and 2014.
While the reporting of rape to the police must be encouraged, this alone is unlikely to improve reporting rates. Overall, reporting is likely to increase when there are substantial improvements in the service culture at police stations, and specifically, if those who want to report rape are assisted by specially trained police officers at each station.
In addition, there is an urgent need for reforms in how police performance is measured. According to performance targets, the police are expected to reduce violent crime by between 4% and 7% per year. This creates a profound disincentive for police to record all violent crimes reported to them.
If victims are encouraged to report rape, and the police indeed record all these reports, the number of recorded rapes will increase. This should not impact negatively on assessments of police performance.
This fact sheet was prepared in collaboration with the Shukumisa campaign by Lizette Lancaster, Chandre Gould, Lisa Vetten and Romi Sigsworth.
Photo by EPA/JON HRUSA.