More than 170 Australians have died from coward punch assaults since 2000 and these senseless acts of violence are not happening where most of us think.
More than 170 Australians have died from coward punch assaults since 2000 and new world-first research has found many of these senseless acts of violence are not happening where most of us think.
The research conducted by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine took an in-depth look into coward punches in Australia between 2012-2018 and found that while yearly deaths had declined, they were increasingly happening in domestic settings, instead of pubs and clubs, with victims getting older.
Recorded coward punch deaths decreased by more than 50 per cent, from 14 in 2012 to 6 in 2018 (82 in total) with the average age rising from 33 in 2000-2012 to 44 in recent years.
More than two thirds (70 per cent) of fatal coward punch attacks took place in settings not involving alcohol use – including homes, train stations and footpaths.
Head of the Drug Intelligence Unit at the VIFM, Associate Professor Jennifer Schumann, said the research indicated coward punch messaging had been working to reduce deaths in young people and places where alcohol was served but now more had to be done to target domestic settings.
“We’ve seen a drop of about 10 per cent in the number of deaths that involve alcohol,” Prof Schumann said.
“And we’ve seen a very big decrease in the number of one-punch fatalities occurring at pubs and clubs and other licensed venues, so it really demonstrates that the message is getting out there.
“Of course, we still need to do more. We’ve seen an increase in the number of one punch deaths occurring in the home and during the weekdays, and initially we thought this might have been due to an increase in family violence, but actually none of the assaults involved intimate partners.
“It was more often friends or housemates or neighbours as the perpetrator.”
Prof Schumann added: “Given that we’re coming out of lockdowns and restrictions from Covid across Australia, we know from international evidence that has coincided with an increase in assaults, both in the domestic and social settings.
“We’ve also seen a big increase in alcohol consumption throughout the last two years. So because of that association that we’ve seen with alcohol and these one-punch assaults, it’s something that we really need to closely monitor.”
According to Stop the Coward Punch Campaign founder and world champion boxer Danny Green, the findings will help direct resources in education and awareness campaigns.
“While it is very pleasing the numbers have fallen, they are still happening, and one death is one too many,” Mr Green said.
“A coward punch assault causes significant lifelong injuries both physically and mentally so the need for awareness and education to change behaviour is essential.”
There are some wounds time will never heal and for the Walker family, time only worsens the pain of losing their son to one senseless act of violence.
It’s a key message Jon and Heidi Walker have aimed to spread since their son, Jaiden Walker, became the victim of a fatal coward punch in 2017.
Jaiden was 22-years-old when Richard Vincec struck him outside a Melbourne bar in 2017, sending his head on a collision course with the pavement.
The young man suffered a fractured skull and remained unconscious until his life support was switched off four days later.
Every year since, Mr and Mrs Walker relive their pain to retell Jaiden’s story for Stop the Coward Punch Campaign week, November 14-19, to help stop anyone else going through what they have.
“In that one split second, it was one bad decision that resulted in us losing our son and that person (Vincec) spending a number of years in jail,” Mr Walker said.
“There are so many people, family and friends, that have been affected by one coward punch that took literally a couple of seconds and resulted in a person’s death.
“We won’t recover from this for the rest of our lives. It actually gets harder because you think about what, in Jaiden’s case, would he have been doing now, five years later?
“Would he have travelled? Would he have started his own family? He wanted to start his own business.
“It doesn’t heal with time at all.”