Dealing with violent crime
The impact of violent crime can be devastating for everyone involved, yet many crimes go unreported. We look at the issues you may face following an attack, and how to reduce your chances of being hurt.
Cases of knife stabbings and firearms crime are highlighted in the media on a daily basis. Hospitals have reported a rise in stab wounds, particularly among young men under the age of 25. Many of you will know someone who's been attacked with a weapon. Or maybe it's you who's been the victim. You may have reported it to the police, or perhaps you've kept it to yourself.
Dealing with violence
Patrick Green from Borough Support Southwark explains what to do and who you should speak with if you've been the victim of violence.
It could be you who's attacked someone with a weapon and is scared of what will happen if you hand yourself in, or get caught. Or you may have been a witness to a crime. Whatever the circumstances, if you're aged 16 to 24, you're at a far higher risk of all types of violence. The British Crime Survey 2007/8 revealed that 13.4% of young men were most at risk of being a victim of crime. For women the risk is about half that of men.
Violent crime is often carried out because of a desire to fight, according to a report by the Economic and Social Research Council. One offender claimed: "It's for the fun. Because the point of street robbery is to get them to fight back, isn't it? I'd give him a couple of slaps and tell him to fight back. If he won't fight back, we just give him a kick and go."
Dealing with it alone
Many of you who've been the victim of a violent crime have decided not to report it to police. This may be because you feel the crime was trivial compared to others. Or perhaps you felt the police would, or could, not do much about the situation. You may be scared to tell people about what happened in case it happens again, or through a fear of being labelled 'a victim'.
In April 2006, Victim Support Southwark set up a Vulnerable Young Adults Project (VYA) to help 'hard to reach' victims who haven't reported the crime to the police.
"Some young people are afraid to report the attack for fear of retaliation and some don't trust the police. There's also fear within a peer group of being seen talking to officials," says Patrick Green, Borough Director at Victim Support Southwark. "It can be quite confusing to many what it's like to enter the criminal justice system.
"Many young people who we deal with want to know about criminal injury compensation. Another aspect is about normalising the process, and the feelings and reactions you will have being a victim of crime. Some may internalise feelings and shut themselves off, or their behaviour may change and they may feel the world is not a safe place. A lot of our work is about saying that these initial reactions are normal.
"People who have engaged in help and haven't slipped through the net have a better chance of dealing with emotions," says Patrick. "If you're a young victim of crime there's also a strong likelihood that you'll be re-victimised at some point, so we look at changing behaviours or environments to help reduce that risk."
If someone with a weapon attacks you, most importantly, don't play the superhero. Shout as loudly as you can and try to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. Don't try and fight back - it's too dangerous. Be prepared to hand over your money, phone or other valuables if asked. It's not pleasant, but at least you can replace these... as opposed to your nose. Once you're safe, call the police immediately.
There are ways you can reduce your chances of being a victim of an attack:
- On buses, sit downstairs; on trains, avoid empty carriages;
- When walking, avoid dark alleys; keep to well-lit and busy streets; and walk like you know where you're going;
- If you see a gang or someone who looks like trouble, cross the street to avoid them;
- Stay alert and make sure your personal stereo is off if you feel threatened or unsure of your surroundings;
- If you are being followed, knock at the nearest door and ask the people there to call the police;
- Take a self-defence class... it will help you escape more easily.