‘It’s not worth it’: The plea from Leeds victims who carry emotional and physical scars of knife crime
“I know you might feel safe carrying a knife, but it’s not worth it. It’s really not worth it."
"Everybody has equal rights to survive, to exist, to live."
These are the powerful words of those who know all too well the devastating impact of carrying a knife.
For Vincent Uzomah, a teacher from Leeds who was stabbed by a pupil in a racist attack, and Sarah Lloyd, whose son was knifed to death in Harehills, the scars of knife crime are something they can never forget.
As the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign looks at preventing an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown, Vincent and Sarah have shared their heartbreaking stories.
The marks left on Vincent’s stomach are a constant reminder of the dreadful day where he was left to die in his classroom in Bradford, after being stabbed in the side with a six-inch knife in an unprovoked attack.
Yet it is the psychological effects of the attack that have had the biggest impact on Vincent, who still fears an attack could happen again.
Knowing the attack was carried out by a 14-year-old boy has left Vincent questioning how such harmful thoughts could enter a child’s mind, as he calls for more education around the consequences of carrying a knife.
Vincent, 54, told the YEP: “The marks are still there on my tummy, on one side of my tummy and bulging out the other side. It will never return back to normal, it will be with me for life.
“It has a psychological impact, I fear the incident may happen again.
“It’s at the back of my mind when I’m near a group of people, particularly mixed-aged groups. I try to move away, just in case something like that happens again so I’d be able to protect myself.”
The attack sent shockwaves across the city, but Vincent fears it is his children, aged 16 and 18, who will suffer for the rest of their lives.
“For my family, the impact is something my kids may never forget”, he said.
“It flashes back in their memory and their minds that their daddy was stabbed by a student.”
Kieran Butterworth was 17 when he was fatally stabbed in Harehills in 2013.
His mother Sarah Lloyd, who is now a student, campaigner and street crime educator, said the loss of her son is “devastating” to this day.
Sarah has channelled her pain into her activism, currently working with West Yorkshire Police and the Leeds United Foundation to deter youngsters who are at risk of violence.
After marking the 12th anniversary of Kieran’s death in February, Sarah has pleaded with those thinking of carrying a knife to understand the dreadful consequences that have rocked her life.
When asked what motivates her work, Sarah, 46, said: “The pain I'm still suffering and watching the pain my family are still going through. I keep going to try and stop other families going through what we're going through.
“I'm trying to make sure that eventually I can take my teaching and pass it onto someone else”.
Sarah is a final year student at the University of Leeds, where she researches knife crime and analyses her work educating young people in schools across West Yorkshire.
“I’m discovering that a lot of victims are becoming perpetrators because they’re scared”, she said.
“There’s a real fear. Poverty, a reduction in services, poor education and inequality has a lot to do with knife crime as well. I think the lockdown and the current economic situation is going to make it worse.
“A lot of them lack an education. It’s raising awareness on not just knife crime, on criminal exploitation and sexual exploitation and all the other dangers that they face on a daily basis”.
Vincent echoed Sarah’s concerns of the impact of lockdown on children at risk of violence.
He said: “This period of lockdown may have affected some kids’ morals, mentality, attitude. We may expect to see some changes in society - for better or for worse.
“People’s mindset has been affected, so we must be ready to face that change.”
Both Vincent and Sarah recognised the complex circumstances that underpin knife crime in Leeds and called for more education across mainstream schools, steering away from blame.
Vincent said: “We should do more to let children understand that everybody has equal rights to survive, to exist, to live, to carry out their own work.
“It’s important that children, in addition to learning academic work, should also learn morality about protecting one another, co-existing together and looking after one another.”
Sarah’s message for those thinking of carrying a knife was clear.
“It's not worth it. It's really not worth it”, she said.
“I know you might feel safe carrying a knife, but you're more at risk because you've got to be prepared to use it or somebody else will turn it on you.
“Actions have consequences. And just picking up and carrying that knife is an action with a consequence in itself.”
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