Fight, Flight, Freeze - Paul's Story


On a dark evening in 2004 I was making a call from the phone box on Punt Road, near St Kilda Junction, when a man became agitated and started verbally abusing me. 'Get off the f**king phone,' he shouted, before manhandling a woman he was with so she crashed into me.

'Hey man! Leave her alone!' I said, and I ended the call and walked into the shop in a nearby convenience store. But the man followed, picked up cans from a shelf and started throwing them at me.

I used the ice cream freezer as a barrier, and we paced around it like kids playing a game. All the while he was throwing cans of beans and soup at my head! Funny in retrospect but not at the time.

I offered to pay for a drink but the shopkeeper said, 'No, it's alright mate.' (Meaning 'Please get out now while you can!') I paid anyway, stepped outside and the man punched me in the face (what would today be called a coward’s punch or king hit). 

I did what any grammar school boy would do when being assaulted; I ran like the wind! I ran to the Pint on Punt and sheltered beside the bouncers. But It was dark and I couldn’t see the man, so I wasn't sure which way to escape. Then I heard horns beeping from the junction on Punt Rd. 

I learned later that the man had got a metal bar and started smashing the windows of a car waiting at the traffic lights. The car was trapped and could not escape. The man smashed the panels and windows while the driver beeped her horn in desperation. 

I gave a statement to police. My evidence was important as I was asked, 'Did the man have any distinguishing characteristics?' 'He had a messenger bag over his shoulder,' I mentioned casually. 'Aha, that’s important,' said the police officer.

Fast forward a few weeks and I attend a photo identification session at St Kilda police station. There are about 16 photos of men who all look like my assailant. I studied each of them carefully trying to remember what the man looked like. Then I spotted him.

'That’s the chappie!' I announced. The police officer wrote down my exact words. Apparently they have to state exactly how the witness makes identification.

Anyway, I needed victim counselling as the experience challenged me – still challenges me – as to whether I behaved bravely, 'like a man'. Do men run away? Do men stand and fight? Did I do the right thing? I wish I could answer those questions.