I was attacked. I wasn’t hurt but it could have been serious. It reminds me that I’m not bluffing when I tell volunteers that street youth can be dangerous when those very most extreme conditions come along. It also reminded me to never become too complacent. Most of the time (99.99%), it’s not going to happen. But it IS going to happen sometimes.
Here’s what happened. I saw one of my clients passed out on the sidewalk. My first duty was to make sure he was breathing. He was. After thinking things through for a minute, my next duty was to VERY carefully try to wake him. Even well rested and well adjusted people sometimes wake up wrong. I nudged his foot from a distance and called his name. No response. I shook his foot, carefully out of range of any likely response. No response. I gently shook his shoulder and called his name very loudly, telling him who I was. No response.
After some additional observation, I decided to call the police. Someone would do it anyway, and probably better that I do it than I just walk away. I had my phone out, when a passerby not previously involved flagged down a patrol car. The same passerby also grabbed water from someone walking by and suddenly tossed it into the face of the sleeping man. I didn’t expect that and would NEVER have suggested it! It was a dangerous thing to do. The client woke up and came out swinging. I was the closest victim. Fortunately, the “scared white man” dodged faster than the groggy man, even in his drug-crazed state. He only connected with my shoulder.
The police officer ran over and quickly pinned the client down. I declined to press charges. I accept responsibility for putting myself into a potentially risky situation. However, I urge everyone to NEVER throw water in the face of someone passed out who is breathing. You don’t know what sort of reaction you might trigger, but you can expect a strong one.
Today’s incident will not deter me. I will put myself in this predicament again. It’s just part of what I know how to do and am called to do. However, the next time a stranger offers to help, I will advise them to step back. I will step back also. Even if a police officer is close enough to see the client, I think I will step back anyway. I am grateful that the officers were so helpful and prompt. They had a pretty big job subduing him.
It will be interesting to see the reaction of my client when he finds out he attacked me. He knew me, but he was crazed by drugs. I anticipate a very guilty reaction. But that’s another day and perhaps another blog.
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