Children as young as nine default to "protection" as being the reason to carry a knife.
The latest statistics are out – knife crime is at the highest level on record. The latest information from the ONS makes sobering and deeply depressing reading. The facts are clear - knife crime and other crime involving sharp instruments has soared exponentially since 2013.
I’ve been a Facilitator for the Ben Kinsella Trust since December 2018 and have delivered more than fifty ‘Knife Crime – Choices and Consequences’ workshops to primary, secondary and specialist groups of children and young people from across London.
One of the first questions we ask the groups is the obvious – ‘what reason might someone give for carrying a knife’?
Without a moment’s thought, without exception, comes the inevitable reply - ‘Protection Miss, innit’. This is the stock reply from every group, whether they are year 5 (9/10 years-old), or year 13 (17/18 years-old). Just think about that for a moment. Without even needing a thought, children as young as 9 default to ‘protection’ as being the reason to carry a knife.
We then get into a discussion about the fact that if you carry a knife, statistically you are more likely to be killed . Some of the primary school groups look shocked by this; many of the secondary school students nod knowingly; this is not news to them.
How did we get to a place where our children are actively thinking that carrying a knife will protect them? How did we get to a place where a knife or other weapon is carried ‘just in case’?
Knife violence is never the answer. In 2019/20, there were 46,265 knife crime offences recorded by police in England and Wales. More than a third of these were in London. Each of these knife crime offences represents a family, even a whole community, ripped apart by violence, be it a serious assault, or a death. The figure is hard to comprehend and represents only the ‘recorded’ offences. But 1 knife crime offence is 1 too many. 1 life lost to knife crime is 1 too many.
The anti-knife crime workshops at the Ben Kinsella Trust enable children and young people to think through the impact of knife crime, in a safe space where they are free to ask the questions they may never have asked. Participants learn about Ben’s tragic story and the devastating impact that Ben’s murder had on his family and the wider community. The sessions explain the law around knife crime, as well as exploring the actual physical harm that a knife can cause, as well as what to do if you find someone who has been stabbed.
The charity works tirelessly to reach children and young people in London where it offers workshops at a permanent exhibition at Finsbury Library, and in Nottingham at the National Justice Museum, to show them the impact of knife crime on the victim, the family, the community, as well as those of the perpetrator.
We cannot stay in this place where knife crime is increasing year on year; where the idea of ‘protection’ seems to legitimise the carrying of a weapon. This is not ok. This is as far from ok as it gets.
We as practitioners, influencers and role models have a responsibility to show our children and young people that violence is never the answer; that they can make their voices and opinions heard in positive, meaningful, legitimate ways; that they can stand up for themselves without needing to arm themselves, by being assertive, empathetic and understanding. Let’s get to a better place.
Helen BB, Facilitator