The cartoon above might be funny, but what I’m about to talk about is deadly serious.
An article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald today that caught my attention. This article, titled “Punched over cigarette: man critical after alleged attack” dredged up a dark past that I don’t often want to think about, let alone be reminded of.
The article outlines a random and unprovoked physical attack on an unsuspecting victim, all because he refused to give the attacker a cigarette. The attack happened at around 9.30pm on a Wednesday evening, in a nice, quiet, well-to-do area on Sydney’s lower north shore, just across the street from where I use to live. The bashing victim was a young male in his mid-20s, walking with a group of friends along a main road, when the attacker approached them. After knocking his victim to the ground, it is reported that the victim’s friends had to crouch over him to shield him from being kicked by the attacker. The victim is currently in a critical condition at the Royal North Shore Hospital.
The article goes on to list some recent and equally unprovoked attacks – a young man (Simon Cramp) on a night out with friends spent just over a month in hospital after being in the wrong place at the wrong time, 48 hours of which was spent in a coma, and another young man (Thomas Kelly) killed by a king hit on his first outing to King Cross.
I look back on my younger days – my misspent youth – and it sends a chill down my spine to remember how I was involved in similar situations on a number of occasions.
On each and every one of those occasions, the attacks on my friends were unprovoked, and the attackers were random strangers. Unfortunately, none of those attackers were ever caught, free to continue their reign of terror on other unsuspecting victims.
I remember when I was 18, walking in broad daylight with a group of friends on our way to one friend’s house. We were laughing and joking around, and looking forward to more laughs and jokes once we reached our destination. We walked across a bridge, and saw a group of young men – boys, really – approaching from the other side. We didn’t pay any attention to them as they were strangers to us, and we continued our conversation. As our groups were about to pass each other, one of the boys took offence to something, and shouted “What? What are you f%$&ing looking at?” Stunned, none of us answered back, which made things worse. The boy took two big strides forward and threw an elbow into my friend Andrew’s face, sending him to the ground screaming in pain.
The gutless group of thugs ran off, laughing and yahooing as if they had planned to attack someone and they were pleased to have achieved their goal.
The elbow connected with Andrew’s open eye. The force of impact made a huge scratch on his eyeball and he ended up having to wear a patch over that eye for 6 weeks. Fortunately for him, Andrew didn’t lose his eyesight, but it was a close call according to his doctor.
We never made it to our friend’s house. We took Andrew to the hospital, and stayed with him for the next 6 hours while he waited to see someone. We called the police while we were waiting, and were asked to go down to the police station after Andrew had seen a doctor to give our statements. That took another 2 hours. And afterwards, we took Andrew home and stayed with him for another 6 hours before his parents could get back from their weekend away. It was nearly 3am by the time I got home, and I couldn’t get to sleep. I was still too wired from witnessing the attack.
I remember when I was 21, on a night out with my then boyfriend D, when we were approached by a group of young men, obviously drunk and looking for trouble. We didn’t know the men, but they started acting very aggressively towards us. D was a nightclub bouncer, on a rare night off, and really didn’t want to fight with drunken idiots. He politely asked the men to back off, but they kept coming at him, goading him and saying nasty things about me. D didn’t budge. He just kept calmly asking them to back down. Finally, one of the men lunged at D, with a knife in his hand. I hadn’t seen the knife until that point. D was sober and was able to quickly sidestep the lunging knife. Using his martial arts skills, D disarmed the idiot while shouting for me to call the cops. The rest of the idiots managed to push D off their mate, and they all ran off, minus the knife.
I remember when I was 24, on a night out with friends to celebrate a birthday, when a random drunk bloke came up to our group and asked for money. None of us wanted to give him any money, so he pulled out a syringe. With a needle. And started thrusting it at us. My group of friends scattered, and he came after me. I remember how scared I was, but I calmly tried to reason with the drunk, while my friends went to get hotel security. I remember talking to the drunk, asking him what he needed the money for, and if he wanted a drink, I was more than happy to buy him one, but he had to throw away the needle and syringe first. I remember my friends trying to pull me away, but every time my friends moved me a step away from the drunk, he moved a step forward so we maintained the same distance, no matter how far backwards I moved. I remember the sound of rushing blood in my ears as my heart pounded a million miles an hour, and I remember turning to my friends and chastising them for pulling me away, as I was having a good natter with the drunk. In the 5 minutes it took for hotel security to get to us, I think I aged 10 years. When the bouncers finally arrived and shoved the drunk away, my legs turned to jelly and my friends had to help me find a seat.
I remember when I was 27, on my way to meet up with my then boyfriend P for dinner, when I got a call from the hospital saying P had been in an accident. I raced to the hospital, to find P’s head was covered in stitches – massive cut on the back of his head, cuts all over his face, big gash above one of his eyebrows. And to top it off, he had 3 cracked ribs and 2 broken teeth. P told me he’d finished his shift at the pub and was walking to his car, minding his own business, when he was approached by a man asking for a cigarette. P told him he didn’t have one, and the man asked again. P repeated that he didn’t have any cigarettes, and turned his back to continue on his way. The next thing he remembered was waking up on the footpath, seeing a pool of blood, and knowing that he had been robbed. Thankfully, P wasn’t stabbed or hurt any more than he was, and whilst he lost his wallet and around $50, he was alive and with a lot of scars to show for his beating.
None of my friends nor I asked to be attacked. Each time, we were minding our own business, but were set upon by idiot trouble makers looking to punch on. What goes through these thugs’ minds when they set out to look for someone to punch? How many idiots go out on a nightly basis, looking for trouble? We are only hearing some of the more vicious attacks – surely, there must be dozens of similar incidents every night. And how many times do these dirtbags attack people before they call it a night?
The attacker who killed Thomas Kelly assaulted 4 other young men on the same night. Thomas was the 2nd man he’d struck. He went on to assault 3 other men before ending his violent spree, when he ostensibly headed home to smugly reflect on what a great night of punch-ons he’d had. This idiot was recently allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter instead of facing the greater charge of murder. This coward was basically given a “Get Out of Jail Free” when he was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter, because with time served, he will probably end up only spending a couple of years in the clink, for killing a man – a man who was someone’s son, someone’s grandson, someone’s brother, someone’s nephew, someone’s boyfriend, someone’s friend, who was enjoying a night out with his friends, minding his own business, when his life was cut short. So unfair.
The article today made me wonder about the choices I’ve made in my life, and how lucky I’ve been to still be in one piece, married to a beautiful man and mother to a gorgeous son. It also made me wonder about the choices my son will make when he grows up. It will be my duty to teach him that real heroes walk away. It will be my duty to teach him that violence solves nothing. It will be my duty to teach him that drinking in moderation is much more fun than getting totally shitfaced. It will be my duty to teach him to watch for signs of trouble, and to move away from it as safely and as quickly as possible. But how will I teach him to avoid a king hit, when there are cowards in the world who attack you even after you’ve walked away?
I hope, when Master S is older, he will be smart and safe on a night out with friends. He will know how to look after himself, and how to look after his friends. And most importantly, he will know when enough is enough, and come home to sleep it off. I hope, with all my heart, that cowards like the ones who have been attacking innocent young men in recent months will never cross paths with my darling boy, because they will be behind bars, rotting away for the senseless violence they spew out of their pores.