This morning I learnt a couple of the most startling statistics. For men aged between 18 – 25, 1 in 8 deaths are related to alcohol as are 1 in 5 hospitalizations alcohol related. The impact on the community reverberates in a number of ways, emotionally through family and friends and on the public purse as well. In the last ten years there have been 90 deaths from one punch assaults, “King hits”. Need I say more?
So I was delighted to attend the Sammy D Foundation‘s Corporate Breakfast along with about 100 others where the Governor was recognised as Patron. It was my first contact with this foundation and I’m only sorry I didn’t learn more about them earlier and the great work they are doing in highlighting a significant issue.
My own personal experience with this occurred in the New Years Eve celebrations for 1999 when I was still of school age. I caught the tram into Victoria Square with a group of friends in order to see the fireworks (this was when the tram stopped at Vic Sq). We were all excited and chatting to each other in our small group. As we walked towards our destination we seemed to pass through a larger crowd of lads who were a few years older than us. It started off like any two groups passing through each other in a crowded city. As I was half way through I noticed one person seeming to change direction and head towards me. Whilst his change in direction felt a little odd at the time, it also seemed perfectly normal that someone might change their direction. But then as he got closer, it seemed his direction was just a little too directly towards me and without warning he flung a punch that landed across my jaw and cheek. In many ways I now realise I was lucky not to have been hit unconscious as many people are, not have then required hospitalisation for inflicted injuries or worse. All I had was a sense of dislocation and disorientation along with some stars in my eyes, a headache and some slight swelling that was most noticeable when I tried to smile. My friends didn’t even realise I’d been hit until I told them. They didn’t see it. The group that the boy belonged to stopped and positioned themselves about 5 meters away and looked in our direction perhaps to see if we would retaliate and a fight would start. We were not that way inclined and moved off in the other direction.
It was about the first time I had been out with my friends at that hour. We were heading into a safe part of the city, or so we thought. It was hard to comprehend why I’d been hit by someone I didn’t know, unprovoked. Being a teenager, there were questions in my mind that make you grapple and wrestle with your image, self doubt and confidence; there were questions about society and also about who this individual was that punched me. What was his problem? Why did he punch me?
I thank the courage of Sammy D’s parents for the way with which they are bringing this issue to light and advocating towards much needed cultural changes in society.