Crime: The night that changed my life

Physical assault is fortunately a rare occurrence in Shetland, but when it does happen it can have devastating consequences. Below, a victim of a violent attack that took place seven years tells their story, anonymously, to Shetland Life.

I used to think that when physical injuries healed, you were back to full health. Well that was until the night that changed my life. I remember that night seven years ago like it was yesterday. Even writing this down now brings flashbacks of the blows to my head and body as I lay on the cold pavement waiting for it all to end.

The night started just like any other. I was staying at my mate’s house and we watched a couple of films. Later he said he had to go out for a while, so I lay on the couch watching TV. I fell asleep for some time before being suddenly woken by a window being smashed.

I decided to go out and find my friend to tell him about the window, so I headed to where he’d told me he was going. But when I reached the house they said he hadn’t been along at all, though they had been expecting him. I phoned his mobile and arranged to meet him back at his house. I actually passed my own place on the way back, and to this day I wish I’d just gone home.

On the way back to my mate’s I met him standing speaking to his ex-girlfriend. She was with a group of guys and I later learned that that they had already attacked him. I was asked to phone the police, which I did, before walking on towards the house. My mate ran past me, followed by the group. I had no reason to run so I walked on. (Actually I’m unable to run fast or far due to a disability, but that’s a different story.)

As I walked I was grabbed from behind and punched square in the jaw, and before I realised what was happening I was on the ground, feeling each and every blow to my head and body. I was convinced that I wouldn’t survive.

I lost consciousness at some point, although I don’t know for how long. When I came round, I struggled to my feet and started walking the short journey back to my mate’s house. He burst into tears when he saw me covered in blood. He told me he had phoned the police twice and said he would phone again. I told him “Forget the police. It’s an ambulance I need!”

I fell to the ground and passed out, but I must have come round again fairly quickly as I remember the police arriving. I asked the officer to get an ambulance for me but he seemed more intent on arresting those responsible. I said “no complaint” three times before he agreed to get an ambulance for me. At the time I felt I had more immediate need of medical help, and that justice could wait a while. The ambulance arrived within minutes. I knew both paramedics and one of them seemed a bit surprised when he realised it was me under the blood.

After receiving stitches and other treatment in casualty I was taken up to the ward. The porter that was to take me up was actually a good friend of mine. Small world, eh?

The following morning was when I saw the extent of the injuries to my face. The nurse came in and asked if I felt able for a shower. I said no but asked him to help me to the sink to get washed. When I looked in the mirror and saw my injuries I was shocked. I already knew my jaw was broken (trying to eat toast had taught me that) but I wasn’t prepared for the bruising and swelling to my head.

That day was filled with friends visiting as they heard on the grapevine what had happened. I was glad to see them, but having to tell the story 20 times in one day was a bit too much.

I was in the Gilbert Bain for a couple of days before being flown down to Aberdeen for the operation on my jaw. Coming round after the operation I had the first of many flash backs. I was convinced that I was still lying on the ground trying to get up.

The following morning I was still sore but was able to walk around. My parents came in to visit and I realised that I hadn’t told them what happened, but they had heard from someone else that I was there. I was kept in Aberdeen for a couple of days before being allowed home again.

The day I arrived home I went to the police station to give a statement. I arranged to go back when the officer that attended the scene was on duty.

The problems really started after arriving home. I found I would have panic attacks if I went out alone at night or if I went near where it had happened. I had to make sure that I always had my mobile phone with me and that there was always credit in it.

My friends and family were a major source of strength. Any time I needed company they were always there. I will never forget how strong they were. I actually realised that friends and family would drive around to look for me if I was out for a walk. It’s amazing how much we take them for granted.

Going back to work was hard. I had a part-time job as a cleaner, which meant I was often finishing after dark. Forcing myself to carry on as normal was the best thing that I could have done though.

A year passed and I got a full-time job. I told senior management about the assault and the panic attacks in my first week there. A few months into the job I had a breakdown and was signed off with depression. The company couldn’t have been more understanding. They gave me so much help, including the offer of counselling, and when I felt ready to come back they let me start part-time to build myself back up.

The build up to the court case was hard. The gang weren’t pleading guilty, and I would have to testify at the trial. Many times I nearly withdrew my statement because I just couldn’t face the witness box. I decided though that I had waited long enough to see justice and nothing would stop me testifying.

Then came the best day of my life. Imagine the joy of receiving a call from the procurator fiscal’s office to tell you that the defendants had pleaded guilty! I sat in the office at work and wept and laughed and all I could say was “Yes, thank you” to the person on the other end of the phone. I didn’t care what they were pleading guilty to; all that mattered to me was that I wouldn’t have to go to court. I decided not to attend the court for sentencing but to go to work instead. I asked my mum to phone the court the day after the sentencing and let me know what the outcome was. I’m not going into details, but I was satisfied with the outcome.

Seven years after the assault, I still get flashbacks occasionally, although these are now few and far between. Sometimes passing where it happened, or hearing people running up behind me can bring back the memories. I honestly don’t think that I will ever forget that night.



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