Thug escapes sanctions for violence
Victims of anti-social behaviour can be left with long-lasting physical and mental scars, writes Wayne O'Connor
A nose-breaking punch isn't as painful as it sounds but the inconvenience and stigma that come with being the victim of a violent assault are immeasurable.
My nose was shattered after I was set upon in my home town of Killarney, Co Kerry. My apparent crime was to sit and wait for a taxi with a friend after a night out.
I needed surgery, three trips to hospital and two weeks off work just to get myself back in the right place physically.
It didn't seem right to be going into work with two black eyes, a swollen face and whistling nose.
Mentally, the recovery took a lot longer.
The night had started well. Kerry were playing Cork at Fitzgerald Stadium the following day on a weekend that is usually a marked occasion in every local calendar.
A group of pals were back home after being away and I had finished college for the summer. It was the first time we had met up for months.
Afterwards, a couple of us sloped in to a fast-food restaurant, picked up a bag of chips each and walked to the edge of town, hoping we could pick up a taxi looking for an easy fare.
Two of us sat on a window sill outside a shop to eat our food when we noticed a man our own age trying to impress some girls nearby.
It was clear he had continued drinking well after crossing the one-pint-too-many threshold.
He tried to involve us in the conversation but we weren't keen to engage. His reaction was to draw his fist and throw a punch to the middle of my face.
The fact I was sitting down with a pane of glass to my back as he stood over me meant there was no escape.
I was dazed, confused. My friend jumped up to warn the thug away but I was struck again and this time my nose opened. My friend received another dig before the thug ran away.
I remember the sound of the blood splashing to the ground as it poured out of my face, painting the footpath crimson and my clothes red.
A woman across the road screamed. She called the Garda but our assailant had already fled.
Two gardai arrived immediately. They looked at my injuries, took brief statements and offered me a lift to the local out-of-hours GP service.
I was glad of the help but it was still me in the back of a Garda car, a victim in a seat most people usually see as reserved for criminals.
"What if someone sees me?" I thought. "What will they think?"
A doctor and nurse helped to clean me up and sent me home.
They told me it was pointless going to hospital for an X-ray because of the wait I would face in Accident and Emergency. They advised I wait until daybreak.
When I got home to bed I spent the night wondering what I could have done differently, thinking about what I would tell my family, friends, colleagues and the hospital doctors and nurses about what happened. "Would they believe me?" was the one question that kept coming up.
Three more visits to the Garda station proved to be a waste of time.
The CCTV camera in the shop was not working and gardai had no luck tracing the whereabouts of my assailant.
The attack has stayed with me.
Sometimes I wake in the night with nosebleeds. They can continue intermittently for days.
Instead of waiting for a taxi after a night out I now walk home because I feel less likely to encounter trouble on the move.
I won't be caught sitting on that window sill again with no escape - but it is of little comfort because nothing has ever come of my attacker.