John's story

John started carrying a knife in self defence at a young age and ended up in and out of A&E and young offenders institutes. Now, he’s now on a more positive path thanks to the Violence Reduction Unit.

In John's words...

I began carrying a knife at 16 as a retaliation to a fight with a cousin in which I was seriously assaulted.

I never cared about the risk at the time. But now that I am sober and clear-headed I feel guilty about the impact it had on the guy I stabbed and on the people in my life, like my Mum. In some ways, I am thankful as the situation could easily have been a lot worse than it was.

Back when I was carrying knives, my father had begun struggling for work. He and my mum were also drinking more often which was making my mum’s depression a lot worse. 

This led me to stay out for days at a time, blocking out my problems with drink and drugs and bringing trouble to my parents' door. During this time my mother passed away which made me feel suicidal and I had no care left for myself or for anyone else.

John's challenges

I was making repeated trips to young offenders institutes and hospital A&E. I’d been struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol for years and this was causing seizures.


The last time I was slashed and ended up in hospital I knew I had to change. I had spoken to the Navigator project from the Violence Reduction Unit a few weeks before when I was in the hospital for the last stab wounds, but I didn’t feel ready to change then. 

This time I was ready. This time I told them I wanted help and with their guidance and support I began taking baby steps to change my life which I found difficult but very rewarding. 

I had to change my phone, change my group of friends and not be around people who were still in that way of life. It was building these positive relationships and moving away from negative people in my life that helped me to get better. It took me until the age of 21 to begin taking responsibility for my actions.

John's lessons

I would say I am now resilient in the changes I have made in my life. In two weeks’ time, I will have been working with the Violence Reduction Unit for 12 months.

I have been clean from my addictions for almost one year and have been in full-time employment for just under 6 months. I have not carried a knife since the last time I was stabbed and I know I will never carry one again. I enjoy this new way of life without the chaos and pain

"If I could speak to my younger self I would tell him to stay away from drugs and gangs and carrying knives. It’s not worth the life it brings you. I would tell him to stay positive and to not be afraid to ask for help because there are people out there who can help him.”
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