Over the summer, a Falmouth student was seriously hurt on a night out in Nottingham, for a big city this isn’t shocking but it caused her to feel unsafe at night; even in a small and seemingly quiet town like Falmouth.
A second year film student, Emily Marshall, studies here at Falmouth. She is also my sister. Whilst she was at home, enjoying her summer with friends and family, she and my brother were assaulted. Cameron Smith, a politics student studying at Nottingham Trent University, attacked them at a tram stop outside his university campus. He was on drugs and was unprovoked, my brother was hit at least 12 times, if he didn’t know how to defend himself, that many blows to the head could have killed him. Emily tried to stop Smith multiple times; as a result she was punched several times and thrown onto the tram lines. Luckily a tram didn’t come or she could have died. However, she received a concussion, multiple minor injuries and a broken phone which she had just brought.
This attack led her to feel unsafe and paranoid when out at night, particularly alone. “Since the attack, I felt have uncomfortable on a night out as it seems people just become unpredictable and dangerous,” said Emily. “A darker side of nightlife exists for me now. It puts everything into perspective when something totally unprovoked and irresponsible could have cost me and my brother our lives.”It also could have cost Smith his degree, but he was temporarily suspended. This irresponsibleness runs rife and there seems to be little repercussions for the students who break the law, or who fuel dangerous anti-social behaviour with their binge drinking.
This was seen here in Falmouth, which recently garnered national attention when CSM members wore shirts inciting rape and racial hatred. They didn’t receive any serious repercussions. Would you want to rip away a student’s future due to a drunken misdemeanour? Probably not, it seems unjust. However, there seems to be a lack of consideration, and little compensation for the victims of their crimes. Emily and my brother pressed charges on Smith but he walked away with a warning and a court order to pay them each £150 pounds, but in instalments at his leisure. It doesn’t cover the damage to Emily’s brand new phone worth £500, or the reoccurring painful headaches and anxiety which she unwillingly inherited from him.
This goes on in Falmouth too, despite the perception that there isn’t much of a nightlife down here. Of course, a town full of students, which continues to increase, causes some instability here in Falmouth. I spoke to a few current students that had been attacked here in Falmouth on a night out to try and uncover how these incidents tend to unfold. All of these sources wanted to remain anonymous, another interesting element to the culture behind these events. Victims of these assaults appear to carry more shame and embarrassment than that of the aggressor.
An Exeter student studying here in Falmouth was walking home from a night out when they fell victim to a jump attack. “I was walking up the steps by the church on the high street and three guys came down the stairs, the first one hit me over the head with a metal pole of some kind,” he told me. He got up immediately, as they began kicking, punching and hitting him with things. Luckily, he was more than able to defend himself with a black belt in karate. He fought back and they ran away. His friends took care of him and in the morning he went to the police to report the incident and give a statement. Then to the hospital, his head was fuzzy and his thoughts scrambled; he suffered a rather bad injury which caused some serious headaches for a while. Luckily the police had already arrested the culprits and were really supportive, as was the university while he got himself back on his feet. In this incident they served time, as they had attacked multiple people in the town and were taking drugs. “I rarely go anywhere alone now, my friends have been great and can tell when I’m not feeling comfortable.”
He offered advice to students on this issue: “Definitely don’t walk alone at night wherever you are, even in Falmouth it seems. That’s what I’ve learnt from it, better to be safe than sorry. There is a lot of it about in the world today.”
Another student has also fallen victim to drug fuelled attacks here in Falmouth. After having two pints in Beerwolf to celebrate a friend’s birthday, he was walking up the high street when a man randomly punched him in the face. “I didn’t do anything to provoke this attack from the young man, merely glanced at him as he stormed passed us,” stated the student. His instinct was to hit back in order to defend himself, which led to the attacker’s friend hitting him as well. “My friend whose birthday it was ripped him off me and we both ran down the street to find somewhere to phone to police.” What was meant to be a fun evening celebrating turned into a visit to the police station and Truro hospital, as he needed to get stitches in his lip. He was later informed the attacker was under the influence of MDMA and had no recollection of the event.
Only a few weeks later, he was back in hospital after attending the 80’s party hosted by the Stannary bar. His drink was spiked by a fellow student, or guest, so he does not remember the event. “Before I knew it I was covered in blood after falling down some stairs. Unlike the first incident I mentioned, this one was a nasty intended attack on a first year student.” His story highlights the dangerous culture that seems to come hand in hand with student life, an exciting time for young people, where they get to have new and exciting experiences with their friends. However, it must be practiced with caution, as it can be incredibly dangerous. Another student also came forward, recounting a story of how they drank too much on a night out a few months ago. He doesn’t remember any of it but he woke up with multiple injuries and had clearly been in a fight or beaten up the night before. “It was really disconcerting to wake up this next morning in a lot of pain, with no idea what had happened. I put myself in danger, maybe even other people, and I have ensured that it doesn’t happen again.”
One thing is clear, these issues can happen anywhere, whether in Falmouth or bigger cities in the UK. It raises questions on whether this kind of culture within universities is dangerous for its students; many appear to be left traumatised due to those who have not responsibly enjoyed a night out. A select few do not exercise any control and it can have dire consequences for themselves or people around them. While student culture will, and should go on – we must ensure that we try to be safe and not endanger ourselves or others.
I spoke to Chris Gaddon, one of the local police officers here in Falmouth. I asked how he would advise students to be safe on a night out and procedures they enforce, he told me they can all be found on their website. He also stresses that incidents involving students are treated like any other case, the only additional service they get is the support of the university.