BACKGROUND: Violence has been with us since time immemorial. In South Africa, violence plays a detrimental role in our daily lives, affecting almost everybody, directly or indirectly. The country experiences high levels of violence, with incidents of violence being reported in the newspapers and on radio and television on a daily basis. In the author’s personal experience as a casualty officer at Witbank General Hospital, a considerable number of patients with assault-related injuries were seen every day. The objectives of this study were to assess the demographic and social factors associated with assault incidents, as well as to establish the type of injuries suffered by the victims of assault. METHODS: The method used was a descriptive, cross-sectional survey, undertaken at the casualty department of the Witbank General Hospital in Mpumalanga Province from 29 October 1999 to 1 May 2000. All patients who attended for injuries due to alleged assault (interpersonal violence) and met the inclusion criteria were included in the study. A total of 547 patients were selected as subjects of the study. RESULTS:
The majority of the victims were male (71.8%; N = 389), 69% (N = 377) were single and 91% (N = 498) were of African descent. The age group of the majority (86.9%; N = 475) ranged between 17 and 45 years. All the respondents had injuries to more than one part of the body. Among the assaulted patients, 86.6% (N = 474) had more than one type of injury. The majority of the victims of assault (81.4%; N = 445) were not admitted for in-hospital treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: The study revealed that a typical victim of assault treated at Witbank Hospital was an African male between the ages of 17 and 45 years. He had been attacked during the night or over the weekend. He had also probably been drinking. He would have suffered minor injuries, mainly to the head and neck.