South Africa: Rape, Time and Place - How to Understand South Africa's Geography of Violence


Simply identifying hotspots doesn't explain why some places report more gender-based violence than others. This limits our understanding of the problem and our ability to find a solution.

Look carefully at the SA Police Service's list of 30 gender-based violence hotspots, released last September, and you see that violence has a geography: places where it concentrates and intensifies over time; places where it breaks apart and subsides.

Why is this so? The list cannot say, because it offers information rather than understanding and limits our ability to do much about reshaping this violent landscape. To understand why the geography looks the way it does, and what to do about it, we need to go beyond simply naming a particular place a hotspot.

First, it's important to be clear about why a particular locale is designated a hotspot. One reason is that it is recording very high levels of violence. Another is that it demonstrates a consistent increase in violence recorded over time.

While the police rape statistics illustrate both trends, the service ranks its hotspot stations in order of magnitude only. But both kinds of analyses are needed, as they produce different, but equally important, results.

Police data shows just...

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