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Sexual homicides in South Africa: A national cross-sectional epidemiological study of adult women and children

Thursday, 9th of November 2017 Print

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 17;12(10):e0186432. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186432. eCollection 2017.

Sexual homicides in South Africa: A national cross-sectional epidemiological study of adult women and children

Abrahams N1Mathews S2Lombard C3Martin LJ4Jewkes R1.

1 Gender & Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town & Pretoria, South Africa.

2 Childrens Institute, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

3 Biostatics Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa.

4 Forensic Pathology Services, Western Cape/ Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Abstract below; full text is at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0186432

 

 

METHODS:

We conducted a retrospective national mortuary based study to identify all adult female homicides (18 years and older) and all child homicides (boys and girls < 18 years) in 2009 in a randomly selected, proportionate sample of mortuaries. Victim, perpetrator and crime data were collected in three processes: from the mortuary register, the autopsy report and from police with the identification of sexual homicides validated across the data collection processes.

FINDINGS:

Among the 2670 (95% CI: 2311-2979) adult women killed in 2009, 494 (95% CI: 406-574) were identified as sexual homicides which was 19.8% (95% CI: 17.6-22.0) of all adult female homicides and among 1277 (95% CI: 1091-1462) children killed in SA, sexual homicides were found in 104 (95% CI: 77-132) of the child homicides which was 8.7% (95% CI: 10.9-11.2%) of these murders. Strangulation was the most common cause of death for both children and adult females. A distinct age and sex pattern was found among children with only 1% boy child death identified as a sexual homicide and 92% of all the child sexual homicides were among girls. Strangulation was the most common manner of death among children (35.5%) and perpetrators were seldom strangers. However, no difference in the proportion of convictions between the sexual homicides and non-sexual homicides were found for both adult females and children.

CONCLUSION:

Rape homicide is not a rare event in South Africa, with one in five female homicides and nearly one in ten child homicides identified with an associated sexual crime. These high prevalences are amongst the highest levels reported in the literature with our study among the few reporting on the epidemiology of child sexual homicide. Reducing mortality is an important policy goal for South Africa and for the rest of the world and the prevention of female and child homicide is an important part of attaining this goal.

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