Saturday, March 10, 2012

An account of being physically assaulted and mugged...

...or, my indoctrination into Glasgow.

When I first visited Glasgow a few years ago, a friend of mine said that you hadn't really lived here if you hadn't been mugged, raped, or stabbed.  It was a joking phrase but one that's stuck with me; Glasgow has a bad rep.  But I always thought that if you stuck to the right bubble of culture, you'd be fine.  After all, those nasty things happened to other people, and I wasn't an other person, I was me.

As usual, Life decided to prove me wrong.

So what happened?

First off, I live in a nice little cul de sac of families.  Trouble is, it straddles the line between a nice side of Glasgow, and a shady side.  Since it's secluded, it's always felt relatively safe.
At 10pm last night, while walking home from a very nice (and now ironic) chat about prolonging my time in Glasgow, I was jumped by two guys less than a block from my flat.  It was a rather typical situation: both guys were neds, both in tracksuits, and they were demanding my phone after they had me on the ground.  Instead of just taking the phone, they kicked and punched me, then grabbed my bookbag (filled with dirty gym clothes) and dragged me halfway across the road until I was able to free myself.  They took the bag and left me with a bloody nose, my phone, and my wallet.

What did you do?

I got home and immediately grabbed a rag to stop my nosebleed--it looked horrible.  I was covered in my own blood and figured that was the first thing to clean up.  I mentally debated calling the cops--after all, nothing important was stolen, and what could the cops really do?--then I picked up the phone and dialed the emergency number.  They kept me on the line and made sure I was okay as they sent a car over.  I figured they'd give me the once-over, say 'tough luck, kid,' and leave.  Instead, when they arrived they told me the suspects (three of them, as there'd been a girl on the sidelines watching) had been located next to the 'locus' (which is such a badass word) and in custody.  They had me change my clothes so they could run forensics, then took me to the police station.

How were you treated?

I'll admit, I have never had the best view of cops.  I've had fairly negative experiences before, so I didn't know what to expect.  I'm from a small town and have always lived in rural, hippy areas: I've never known someone who was attacked/mugged, and had no clue what was going to happen.
And this is where the night was salvaged.

I have to send a huge thanks to the Strathclyde Police Force.  I was kept in the station until 3am (five hours) because they needed statements and for me to identify the suspects, and every moment of my time there was spent sharing stories and jokes and secrets about the city.  If not for the fact I was there because, well, I'd been attacked and mugged, I'd actually say I enjoyed the banter.

When they took me back home, the driver got a note of panic in his voice and said, "buckle up, there's a situation and we need to respond."  My main thought was, oh shit, I have to pee as we raced down the roads at fantastically fast speeds...only to end up at my drive.
"You have to love doing that," I said as I got out of the car.
It's one of the perks. what?

In terms of injuries, I got off light.  A few scrapes and bruises, a bust lip.  Some torn and bloodied clothing.  My glasses are irreparable and I'll need a new bag.
The guys that did this are in custody and will be facing a criminal trial for assault and robbery.  Even though their home base is close to mine, I've been reassured I'll never see them again.  And, if I'm ever in any trouble or worried, I have a direct line to the local police.  I say my name and they'll be on the scene immediately, no questions asked.

Are you scared?

I want to say I'm not.  But I also don't like lying.  I forced myself out of my house today (with a friend) to visit the supermarket.  I passed the spot I'd been attacked and felt my breathing go a little funny.  And I will admit, everyone I passed, every person who looked at me, registered as a threat on my inner radar.  (Having blue hair means I get looks.  Not a good combination with mild PTSD.  I may change it or take to wearing a hat in this end of town.)  It will take a few days, but I know this will pass.  Am I going to take self-defense lessons?  Maybe.  Do I feel like a victim?  No.

Bad things happen all the time.  The strange thing is, you never expect it to be you.  I remember thinking, while on the ground and being pummeled, not oh shit, oh shit, this is bad, but wait, really? this is actually happening?  It's absolutely surreal.  And it will never be something that seems like it could be a part of your life, until it happens to you.

What's going through your head?

So many things.  I've been silent on this blog for the last month because I haven't known what to say.  I've been homesick and nostalgic and overly confused about what's going on.  I've loved and hated the city, the country, my program, everything.  But this seemed like a wake up call.

I've been considering traveling for ages, now.  After this, I know it's going to happen.  I'm going to be backpacking across Europe for the later summer months and catching up with old friends.  I'm going to be volunteering at holistic retreats and maybe working in a hotel or two in the Highlands.  I'm getting out of the city and into nature, because that's where I feel most at home.

And after this, although I can't say for certain, I'm probably going to head back to America.  I want to find an artsy little country community on the West Coast and settle in.  This helped remove my rose-colored glasses.
Glasgow is a rough city, and if I can like it here, the chances of me loving another--safer/cleaner--city are quite good. Especially if I can live on the outskirts in a nice little cabin nestled in the woods.

As for my thoughts on the event itself...I actually feel really bad for the guys who did this.  They lived in shitty housing, probably from horrible families.  They wanted my phone, which was a free pay-as-you go number from the Stoneage.  The police said they were known quite well for being reckless nuisances.  Their joy came from jumping strangers on the street.  Now they're in jail for serious criminal charges and are looking at a couple years in prison.  What hope can they have for a happy life after that?

I plan on forging ahead.  I was getting calls and texts from friends all through the night, sharing their love and support, and the kind thoughts keep coming my way.  I am blessed beyond measure to have such a support system in times of need.  It only further enforced the idea that no matter what
no matter where
you're never really on your own.