The reality and influence of sexual violence and crime is enormous and already proving to have devastating effects. Some call the disregard for human life a feature of a culture of violence. The Unit for Religion and Development Research (URDR) has embarked on a major initiative to research the social development needs of local communities and to empower faith-based organisations (FBOs) to play an active and effective role in alleviating poverty and meeting the needs of the people.

Neither government nor any other NGO can reach and influence the public more regularly and consistently than FBOs can. They offer social support and channel a large amount of volunteer activity. They might do this independently, but often these services are rendered directly or indirectly in partnership with other organisations. However, the capacity and involvement of the FBOs in communities have not yet been quantified. Christian organisations will be taken as an example of such engagement in this article. Given the situation of violence and the potential of Christian churches to impact positively on the situation, the following question was formulated for the Church and Community Research Project in Paarl, Western Cape: What are Christian churches of all denominations in Paarl doing to provide services to address unemployment, HIV / Aids, sexual and/or violent crimes, and substance abuse? A pilot study was launched in 2001 in the Paarl/Mbekweni area, where all places of worship were mapped using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology; 10 percent of households were surveyed by means of a questionnaire; and a questionnaire was distributed to some members of the leadership of congregations. In conducting this research, people from the community itself were trained in research methodology in order to gather the data. The obtained data were put into a geodatabase, indicating that all data are related to a specific geographical location. The geodatabase was coupled to a Geographical Information System (GIS), which makes it possible to produce maps displaying spatial variation in the data. Thus, this article firstly describes and examines the results of the pilot project in Paarl regarding sexual and/or violent crimes, specifically against women and children. Secondly, the article describes a possible process to define where strategic intervention is necessary. This process entails the analysis of primary and secondary data in a GIS in order to identify areas most in need and the relevant role players in the area to address the problem.

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