Social Indicators Research

, Volume 72, Issue 3, pp 263–317 | Cite as

Resilient or Resigned? Criminal Victimisation and Quality of Life in South Africa

  • Valerie MøllerEmail author


A victimisation study conducted among 3300 householders in South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (NMMM) in the Eastern Cape Province aimed to inform a crime prevention strategy for the metropolitan area. The study found that the variables ‘fear of crime’ – measured in terms of perceived likelihood of victimisation – and concern about ‘personal safety’ had greater negative influence on life satisfaction than actual victimisation. Individual crimes against the person had greater negative influence on subjective wellbeing and feelings of personal safety than property and other household crimes. Individuals who perceived themselves to be at risk of becoming a victim of crime also perceived greater risk of other misfortunes. However, materially better-off victims reported higher levels of life satisfaction than non-victims in spite of their crime experience. South Africa has high crime rates by international standards and fighting crime presents the country with one of its major challenges in the second decade of democracy. Nevertheless, findings suggest that the negative impact of crime issues on achieving the good life are overshadowed by issues of racial inequalities and poverty. The conclusion is drawn that residents of Nelson Mandela Metropole are hardy when it comes to living with crime but nonetheless suffer stress in doing so. From a methodological perspective, the discussion considers whether subjective crime issues such as fear of crime and personal safety should be regarded as personal or neighbourhood quality-of-life issues. Based on survey findings, the conclusion is drawn that concern for personal safety is both. However, a crime-as-neighbourhood-issue is more likely to attract remedial action on the part␣of␣local authorities to better protect citizens and allay their fears of crime.


crime victim fear of crime personal safety life satisfaction South Africa 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Benjamin C. 2003, ‘Calls of the return of the noose grow louder as horrific events hit the news’. Business Day (Johannesburg), October 23, p. 4.Google Scholar
  2. Business Day 2003, ‘Special Report – SA ten years on. Crime in the new SA: is the death penalty cure or an illusion?’ Johannesburg, October 23, p. 4.Google Scholar
  3. Cummins, R.A. 1995‘On the trail of the gold standard for life satisfaction’Social Indicators Research35179200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cummins, R.A. 2000‘Personal income and subjective well-being: A review’Journal of Happiness Studies1133158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cummins, R.A., Eckersley, R., Pallant, J., Vugt, J., Misajon, R. 2003‘Developing a national index of subjective wellbeing: The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index’Social Indicators Research64159190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Denkers, A.J.M., Winkel, F.W. 1998‘Crime victims’ well-being and fear in a prospective and longitudinal study’International Review of Victimology5141162Google Scholar
  7. Hale, C. 1996‘Fear of crime: A review of the literature’International Review of Victimology479150Google Scholar
  8. Hopkins, M., Tilley, N. 2001‘Once a victim, always a victim? A study of how victimisation patterns may change over time’International Review of Victimology81935Google Scholar
  9. Hough, M.Du Plessis, A. eds. 2003Combating Crime in South Africa: Contemporary PerspectivesInstitute for Strategic Studies, University of PretoriaPretoria, South AfricaGoogle Scholar
  10. Kiessl, H., Würger, M. 2002‘Victimization of incarcerated children and juveniles in South Africa’International Review of Victimology9299329Google Scholar
  11. Kynock, G. 2003‘Personal security concerns in South African townships’. Institute for Security Studies, PretoriaSouth African Crime Quarterly5710Google Scholar
  12. Legget, T. 2002‘Is South Africa’s crime wave a statistical illusion?’South African Crime Quarterly179Google Scholar
  13. Leggett, T. 2003‘Crime statistics 2002/3’South African Crime Quarterly615Google Scholar
  14. Louw A. 1997, ‘Surviving the transition: Trends and perceptions of crime in South Africa’. In: Møller V., (eds). Quality of Life in South Africa (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht). Social Indicators Research 41(1–3):137–168.Google Scholar
  15. Masuku, S. 2002‘Addressing violent crime in South Africa’. Institute for Security Studies, PretoriaSA Crime Quarterly2512Google Scholar
  16. Masuku, S. 2003Finding local solutions: crime prevention in the Nelson Mandela Metro’Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria. SA Crime Quarterly52935Google Scholar
  17. Michalos, A.C., Zumbo, B.D. 2000‘Criminal victimization and the quality of life’Social Indicators Research50245295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Møller, V. 1998‘Quality of life in South Africa: post-apartheid trends’Social Indicators Research432768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Møller, V. 2001‘Happiness trends under democracy: where will the new South African set-level come to rest?’Journal of Happiness Studies23353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nelson Mandela/HSRC Study of HIV/AIDS2002South African National HIV Prevalence, Behavioural Risks and Mass MediaHuman Sciences Research Council PublishersCape TownGoogle Scholar
  21. Shaw, M. 1995‘Exploring a decade of crime’University of Natal, Durban. Indicator South Africa Crime and Conflict11215Google Scholar
  22. Smith, R.W., Torstensson, M., Johansson, K. 2001‘Perceived risk and fear of crime: Gender differences in contextual sensitivity’International Review of Victimology8159181Google Scholar
  23. South African Police Services (SAPS) 2003, ‘Crime statistics’ Scholar
  24. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR): 1997, South Africa Survey 1996/7 (Johannesburg).Google Scholar
  25. Sparks, A. 2003Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South AfricaJonathan BallJohannesburgGoogle Scholar
  26. Sparks, R. 1982Research on Victims of Crime: Accomplishments, Issues and New DirectionsUS Department of Health and Human ServicesWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  27. Stadler, A. 2003‘To hang or not to hang, that is the question’Helen Suzman Foundation, Johannesburg, Focus321619Google Scholar
  28. Statistics South Africa1998Victims of CrimeStatistics South AfricaPretoria, South AfricaGoogle Scholar
  29. Wemmers, J. 2002‘Restorative justice for victims of crime: a victim-oriented approach to restorative justice’International Review of Victimology94359Google Scholar
  30. Wikström, P.H., Dolmén, L. 2001‘Urbanisation, neighbourhood social integration, informal social control, minor social disorder, victimisation and fear of crime’International Review of Victimology8121140Google Scholar
  31. Winkel, F.W., Vrij, A. 1998‘Who is in need of victim support?: the issue of accountable, empirically validated selection and victim referral’Expert Evidence62341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Winkel, F.W., Wohlfarth, T., Blaauw, E. 2003‘Police-based early detection of persistent Type A trauma symptomatology in crime victims: the validity of rapid, objective risk assessment’International Journal of Law and Psychiatry26191205CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Wohlfarth, T., Winkel, F. W., Brink, W. 2002‘Identifying crime victims who are at high risk for post traumatic stress disorder: developing a practical referral instrument’Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica105451460CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic ResearchRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations