Youth symposium at Chrysalis Academy

Chrysalis Academy chief executive officer, Lucille Meyer, with Chrysalis trustee, criminologist and author of Gang Town, Dr Don Pinnock.

More than 52 000 incidents of youth-related trauma are reported to police in the Western Cape annually, says criminologist Dr Don Pinnock.

Dr Pinnock, the author of Gang Town, was one of several speakers at a symposium on youth and trauma, held at the Chrysalis Academy – a leadership training organisation for young people – in Tokai, on Thursday June 28, in the last week of Youth Month.

Against the sounds of students marching in the nearby parade ground, Chrysalis’s head of training, Janine Turner, welcomed people involved in various youth-related organisations, including, among others, representatives from universities, the Department of Education, and the judicial system.

“The statistics we will hear will be grim and gloomy but we must emerge hopeful and deepen our collective understanding of trauma and offer hope,” said Ms Turner.

Chrysalis Academy CEO Lucille Meyer said trauma held youth back and almost blinded them to their potential.

She described different types of trauma, from a once-off traumatic event to an accumulation of risk and dysfunction over time.

“We are seeing the effect on the 18- to 25-year-olds who have been neglected as children, some abandoned, some men and women sexually molested as children, injured through domestic violence, or having seen what happens when a bullet hits a head in front of them, some having no food and living in abject poverty, or having been deeply humiliated in the classroom – just because of their skin colour they are seen as a threat,” said Ms Meyer.

She said the academy had looked at what others were doing around the world and in South Africa to disrupt youth trauma.
Dr Pinnock said Cape Town did not have a gang problem so much as it had a youth problem, with gang being one of the by-products.

“The statistics we will hear will be grim and gloomy but we must emerge hopeful and deepen our collective understanding of trauma and offer hope,” said Ms Turner.

Chrysalis Academy CEO Lucille Meyer said trauma held youth back and almost blinded them to their potential.
She described different types of trauma, from a once-off traumatic event to an accumulation of risk and dysfunction over time.

“We are seeing the effect on the 18- to 25-year-olds who have been neglected as children, some abandoned, some men and women sexually molested as children, injured through domestic violence, or having seen what happens when a bullet hits a head in front of them, some having no food and living in abject poverty, or having been deeply humiliated in the classroom – just because of their skin colour they are seen as a threat,” said Ms Meyer.

She said the academy had looked at what others were doing around the world and in South Africa to disrupt youth trauma.

Dr Pinnock said Cape Town did not have a gang problem so much as it had a youth problem, with gang being one of the by-products.

Dr Pinnock said he level of violent crime in Cape Town was worse than in many war zones.

“In this city, if you’re young, urban, black and poor you are going to be picked on by police, gangs or gang bosses. 
There are nine million unemployed of which five million are under 35.”

“Half the kids don’t get to matric, don’t get a job, feel fear and helpless. They are taught the intellectual stuff but not what they need to get a job,” he said.

Dr Pinnock’s other suggestions:

Reduce community violence and increase cool things for teenagers to do.

Rethink education and include parenting training.

Rethink drug laws – too many youths are being criminalised.

Rethink the criminal justice system. The situation at present is that when youths do wrong and are awaiting trial they are locked up with other bad people and could potentially end up as gangsters.

Rethink prisons – they do no social good and much personal harm.

Fact box

* The Western Cape is home to 2.1 million youth.

* The unemployment rate of youth aged 15 to 24 was 41% in 2011.

* More than 60% of youth do not have a matric certificate.

* Only 28% of youth aged 18 to 24 attend college or university.

* Nationally, in 2016, 44.7% of all deaths recorded were of non natural causes in youth aged 15 to 19.

* HIV and TB were the leading causes of death among female youth aged 15 to 24, from 2010 to 2013.

* In the Western Cape, in May 2018, out of 18 195 sentenced prisoners, 2.5%, 455 total, were juveniles (aged 18 to 20); 16.5%, 3 000 total, were aged 21 to 25.

* A 2017 study by the Western
Cape government of June 2018 found more than half of all children in the Western Cape
had experienced some form of physical,
sexual, emotional violence or neglect over the course of a year.

* Young boys who see their mothers abused are at greater risk of becoming domestic violence perpetrators themselves later in life.

Information courtesy of “State of Youth
inSouthAfrica”,aWesternCape
government fact sheet published in June 2018.