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Case study 2. Bottle Assault.

This second Case Study takes a look at an Assault case. This case involves an incident between two females who previously knew each other and had a falling out at some stage. This, combined with alcohol on the night led to the situation turning violent when it didn't need to.

The Incident

broken bottle

Melissa Payne was out socialising with her boyfriend, off-duty Police officer Adrian King, when he told her there was someone calling her name. She then saw Niamh Duggan (aged 31) in the bar and a short while later saw her sticking her finger up at her. She described the woman as being "very intimidating".

Ms Payne said she later saw Duggan approaching her with a bottle in her hand. She saw her holding the bottle by its neck before she struck her on the shoulder with it. The bottle did not break but Duggan swung it again. At this point the bottle smashed and Duggan tried to stab her with the remains of it, cutting her shoulder before she gestured with it towards her stomach. King managed to apprehend Duggan and she was still on the premises when Police arrived.

Duggan later told Police in interview that she had been "provoked by someone she had known a long time ago". She later explained that she had a falling out with friends of Ms Payne a number of years ago. She claimed that Payne had been laughing at her on the night and she just "lost the head" when she went past her and struck her. She said if she had not been drinking she would have just walked away.

Ms Payne was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of the of the assault. She suffered a miscarriage a couple of weeks later.

Duggan pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal to assault causing harm to Ms Payne at the Abberly Court Hotel.

Judge Martin Nolan said Duggan had too much to drink on the night and had "imagined a grievance which had increased in size with more alcohol".

He said he was satisfied that Duggan did not know Ms Payne had been pregnant at the time.

Judge Nolan noted from reports before the court that Duggan had "major difficulties in her life and had a lot on her mind at the time but what she did was inexcusable".

- Source.

Analysis and Lessons Learnt

The Location

Being in a place of entertainment is right up there in relation to risk factors for Assault. A bar where people consume large amounts of alcohol is a very high risk location for being caught up in an Alpha Male scenario. Two personalities going up against each each other is not exclusive to males. As we can see and as we all know, it happens between females as well. Often, these incidences are much nastier.

Knowledge of Victim

As we can see here, the two females knew each other from the past - though it was distant. They had a history together and it seemingly did not last end on a positive note. This can be seen here:

"she had a falling out with friends of Ms Payne a number of years ago"

Assault does happen between strangers, but as we have already seen in Understanding Modern Violence, it mostly occurs between people who know each other.

This adds another dynamic to such situations. What if you get into an argument with your uncle? Or your cousin? Or your brother? Do you really want to unleash on them and rip their eyeballs out and tear out their throat? Leaving conflict resolution training to just physical skills is not always the best option - it is usually the worst option.

The following section shines a great amount of light into the underlying psychology behind the incident going physical:

"provoked by someone she had known a long time ago."

Using maximum violence to defend yourself is not appropriate in many circumstances. Especially if it is because of some stupid argument after a few drinks (or few too many). Settling with the attitude of "I will just unleash on any attacker" is not such a great idea is it? Self defence is not so simple is it?

Weapons

In cases of Assault, most often, no weapons are used. This is because it is generally not pre-meditated. It is often spontaneous. The only weapons that are generally used are those that one party already had or an improvised weapon close to hand. In this case, an improvised weapon was used. Bottles are a regular weapon used in bar fights.

There are many items that people can use as an improvised weapon. Almost anywhere you happen to be, there will be an item that can be used effectively as a weapon. Take a look around you right now. What could you use as a weapon? What could someone else use as a weapon?

Ash tray, coffee mug, umbrella, plate, can of soda, bbq tongs, steering wheel lock, screwdriver, chair... the list could go on and on.

Alcohol

Clearly, alcohol was a major factor in this case. This was admitted to by both the aggressor after the fact, as well as the judge. As we know already, alcohol is rarely a factor in Predatory attacks but is present in at least half of all assaults. This case is just one real world example about how this can play out.

Alcohol increases our confidence and supresses our inhibitions. Let's have a look at the following sections of the story above:

"he told her there was someone calling her name."

"...saw her sticking her finger up at her"

"...very intimidating"

"...approaching her with a bottle in her hand."

"Payne had been laughing at her on the night and she just 'lost the head' when she went passed her"

High emotions and posturing are evident throughout. Typical Alpha Male (Female?).

Summary

This incident is a good example of a real Alpha Male type of attack. It also clearly highlights that this type of violence is not the sole domain of men.

If just one of these two had an understanding of modern violence, they could have recognised what was happening, realised it could quickly get out of hand and been the bigger one to resolve the issue, neutralise it or if necessary, back down and/or leave. Some of the methods used to do these things were discussed in the Manifesto.

And when I am talking about recognising what is going on and avoiding or de-escalating, I am talking about well before the glass was brought into the picture. I am talking about the developing situation. As the situation was getting tense, when the aggressor stuck the finger up, the person could have gone to another part of the bar or simply left the venue altogether.

A more effective lifestyle risk management principle could see you choosing to not stay at venues serving alcohol past 10pm. This sort of self-imposed limitation could see you avoid most of these sorts of incidents altogether. This is how a knowledge of modern violence can be used for self defence.

But should you place such limiting controls of your own life? Shouldn't you be free to live your life? Isn't this living in fear? I'll let you answer those questions for yourself. In many instances, the answer will be 'it depends'.

When someone comes at you with a broken bottle, the time for avoiding has passed, it is time to begin de-escalting or preparing a physical response. And this is frought with risk - win or lose.

At the end of the day, Ms Payne did suffer a miscarriage a couple of weeks later. It is unknown from the case whether this incident had anything to do with it. It could have easily contributed considering the stress caused.

Is staying out driking worth the risk? Up to you to answer. Violence has very real consequences. Duggan was found guilty of assault. Both parties suffered consequences of an encounter that was not necessary.

And that is generally how many cases of assault end up -people suffering consequences from an encounter that was not necessary.