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Step. Back. Think. - Fact Sheet

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Step. Back. Think. - Fact Sheet

Step Back Think is a group trying to prevent one punch resulting in shattered lives forever.

Dave Mitchell was a typical 19 year old guy. He had just started his apprenticeship in carpentry, loved playing footy, and hanging out with his mates. On what seemed like a regular night out with his friends, Dave's mate fell into a dispute with another guy who told him to "come outside".

Dave followed his mate out of the pub to "play the peacemaker" and try to diffuse the situation. He was then king hit, fell to the ground and had his head stomped on, not once but three times. Unconscious, Dave was dragged across the road to safety by his mates who then called an ambulance. Soon after Dave arriving in hospital, Dave's family received a call from the hospital asking them to come in as he was unlikely to make it through the night.

Miraculously, Dave pulled through but when he woke surrounded by his family, he had security remove them as he did not recognise them. His injuries were so severe that it took Dave over a year to physically recover from his attempts to break up a fight.

Dave describes his rehabilitation like "being born again" - he had to learn how to walk, read, cook, make his bed, and had to get his licence back. Had this tragic event not happened, Dave might be qualified as a carpenter and might still be playing footy. He misses this interaction with his mates. Dave relives that moment every day, replaying it in his mind, but feels lucky to be alive today.

If Dave could say one thing to people, he would say "just think... could this punch end this person's life, and what will happen to you? Is it worth it? Is that going to get the matter resolved, over a drink being spilled, or a girl being pushed? Will the punch actually resolve what it's all about?"


Dave lost two years of his life, and he's one of the lucky ones. His attacker is serving six years in prison. Both young men offer a tragic example of how easily young lives can be derailed by street violence. If you want to meet Dave and see his full story, visit:


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So, what are the steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of getting tangled up in a situation which could turn violent? First, it is important to recognise the warnings signs within yourself. As humans, our bodies give us a variety of signals that indicate that we are getting angry or "wound up" before we become physically violent. Similarly, it becomes equally important to recognise the warning signals in other people too. Here are some tips on what to look out for.


Recognise the warning signs in yourself
Physical signs:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweaty palms, tensing of muscles
  • Feeling hot in the neck and face


Emotional signs:

  • Feeling irritated or anxious
  • Losing your sense of humour
  • Feeling like striking out verbally or physically.


Recognise the warning signs in others
Their body language:

  • Red face and neck
  • Tensed muscles (clenched fist/jaw)
  • Hostility, glaring looks
  • Encroaching on your personal space.


Verbal aggression comes first! In almost every case, aggressive tone, shouting, or yelling will precede physical aggression. Recognise these as warning signs and then act.

Remove yourself from the situation by walking away, distracting yourself elsewhere, or suggest to your friends that you change venues.

Act early! If you leave it too late, the situation will only escalate and get out of hand.

What if someone else becomes aggressive toward you?:

  • As long as they are in an aggressive and aroused state they are not thinking clearly, so trying to diffuse the situation with words is only likely to provoke them more
  • Step back, do not react/challenge/provoke/argue because you are only adding fuel to the fire
  • Use friendly and open body language (e.g. hands up, step back) rather than provocative or defensive gestures (e.g. crossed arms, fist in air).


Flip the tradition of "got your back mentality" on its head, and instead of flying the flag, you can make sure you protect your mates by keeping them away or distracting them from a situation that could explode into a punch on.

Pull them away from the situation and suggest you move on to a new venue/new area, or calm them down by taking them outside for a walk or for something to eat.

Will fighting this person resolve the issue? What if you or he is seriously injured? You could face life with a brain injury, or time in prison.

Having a criminal record may stop you from getting the job you desire, or entering some countries, is it worth it? Will you even remember what the argument was about in a weeks' time?


Our brains are unable to think rationally when we are in this state or 'emotionally charged' so your thoughts and feelings are likely to be exaggerated. As long as you or another person are in this aroused state, no words will resolve this issue.

Alcohol exacerbates our feelings of aggression when we are out, so whilst it is okay to have a few drinks socially, drinking in excess is more likely to result in a violent situation.


When we drink alcohol, we are effectively altering our mental state. We all respond very differently to alcohol; some become happy, some sad, some silly... and some aggressive.

Most importantly, alcohol disengages the rational part of our brain that helps us make thoughtful and well-guided decisions, and our "emotional brain" takes over. This is why many people say or do things they might not normally say when they are sober.


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