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Talking about knife crime

Istock knife crime

As you may know I have given talks to secondary schools as part of the work I do with the Uncut Project but more recently I have been asked to talk to young offenders about the dangers of knife crime.

These young people have been found in possession of a weapon and they had been told by the courts to attend a series of weekly sessions. These sessions usually involve group work or guest speakers where subjects like conflict resolution and communication are covered.

Something a little bit different

My colleague Jackie and I went along with open minds. My experience of previous talks has always been to large assemblies – quite impersonal really. This was different. There were just three young people and initially they looked somewhat bored and worryingly sullen, no doubt thinking that they would rather be anywhere but in a room above the library with a couple of paramedics preaching to them.

To act as a bit of an icebreaker the organiser asked them about the previous weeks group work. They responded mono symbolically and I remember thinking to myself that this was going to be a particularly tough audience to crack.

Introductions

We had a brief chat to outline who we were, why we were there and what we were going to talk to them about. We talked firstly about the importance of keeping themselves safe when confronted by knife crime so that they can help the victim to the best of their ability and not simply become the next victim. We covered the basics of how to make a good 999 call so the ambulance can be on its way to exactly where it is needed, as quickly as possible.

The message

I then played the tape of a genuine 999 call made by a sister whose brother has been stabbed in the head, neck and chest. It is horrific to hear, but very powerful because it brings home the shear terror and reality of being caught up in a situation where somebody has been stabbed. She is understandably very distressed, but the tape also serves as a useful tool to illustrate perfectly how she inadvertently delays the ambulance from being dispatched by not answering the questions from the operator in her panicked state.

The tape, having set a very sombre mood, was followed by me reading a passage (from my book) that relates to a genuine call I attended where a young man had been fatally stabbed. It describes the dreadful scene that I was faced with, our actions, the reaction of the bystanders and my feelings at the time. I tell of how, despite our best efforts, the young victim still sadly died that evening.

We also talked about the possibility of surviving a knife crime but sustaining a serious or life limiting injury. We covered areas such as paralysis, life in a wheelchair, colostomies and catheters.

Audience feedback

We then had a question and answer session and they were just brilliant and got really involved, asking lots of sensible and relevant questions and creating a great discussion about the whole subject – what happened to the sullen lads we witnessed earlier?

Impact

Does it make any difference? I honestly don’t know, but I hope that we at least got them thinking about some of the decisions they make in their lives. We have been asked to go back and I for one am really looking forward to it.

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  1. [...] The sessions take place in the education centre within the prison grounds; I normally deliver two sessions over one day – one in the morning and another in the afternoon. As the young people come in to the room they always acknowledge me respectfully and say ‘Hello Miss’ – female staff and visitors are always addressed as ‘Miss’. At each sitting there are up to 12 young people and 2 or 3 prison officers present. The sessions follow a similar format to the ones that I have described previously. [...]

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