Personal Views

No easy way to deal with violence

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 16 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:715
  1. Tony McCullagh

    Violence against people and property is commonplace in the inner city. This makes it no less distressing. Yesterday I had two separate consultations involving patients, one man, one woman, who had been mugged the previous day. The first was a security officer who had been violently attacked with a club over a parking dispute at work. He was offered no formal help from his employers or the police. He asked for two weeks' sick leave. I gave him the certificate.

    The second victim was a young mother who was entering her house with her 5 year old daughter at dusk. She was approached by two youths; one black, one white. One of them grabbed her from behind while the other punched and pushed her to the ground, snatching her handbag, and running off with it. “Neither of them spoke a word,” she said. This violent choreography was over in seconds, leaving her numb and disoriented. Now, seated in front of me, she was composed. “By the sheer arbitrariness of their act they have condemned me to change my behaviour… . I will no longer carry a handbag.” She had been crying all morning over the telephone to her friends, feeling the anger, the humiliation, and the power-lessness. Now she left to return to work, recognising that for her the normal daily contact with the familiar would start a …

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