I was attacked by a gang on my gap year in Spain
My boyfriend found me unconscious and bleeding in the back of an ambulance
Erasmus is one of the best experiences that I have had in my life. As a French and Spanish student at the University of Southampton, I decided to go to Spain for my year abroad. My first choice was Granada but sadly I didn’t make the cut. I ended up in Alicante with the sun, sea and sangria. Can’t really complain though can I?
Alicante has some of the best fiestas I have ever been to. We would stay out until sunrise singing Bailando and Taxi without a care in the world, laughing about the silly flirty boys in nightclubs and the unbelievably cheap “gin-tonics” and chupitos. The Spanish boys taught us salsa. They also taught how to take tequila shots by licking salt off each other’s necks. It was all quite hilarious and rather exciting. I remember my first “blowjob shot” which consisted of having my hands behind my back and consuming a shot full of whipped cream using only my mouth. The boys loved it. They would buy me more drinks and we would dance the night away. I never get this kind of attention in England. I felt on top of the world.
The first few months passed by very quickly and before we knew it we believed ourselves to be practically Alicantinas. It isn’t a huge town. I soon started working in bars and eventually got a boyfriend. Alicante was my town. I knew everyone. I felt safe, secure, happy.
So then one night we went out, and on our way home in the early hours of the morning the girls and I marched triumphantly to our favourite kebab place on the high street. I had argued with my boyfriend and shouted at him to go home. I stayed with the girls, laughing about the carefree life we had and the stupidity of relationships. “Who needs a boyfriend anyway?” I asked myself. As I waited for the girls outside the kebab place while they ordered pizzas, a group of about ten boys gradually surrounded me. Obviously I just imagined they were queueing up to get some food. Besides, what would make me think I was in danger? Alicante was my town, and I knew everyone.
I was wrong. While I was distracted one of them grabbed for my bag. I turned around and leant towards him in hope of getting it back. Then everything happened very quickly. I was violently beaten to the ground.
I’m not sure how long I was unconscious but when I awoke all I could feel was the throbbing pain coming for the back of my head and the warm blood dripping down from one side of my face. My left eye felt like it had been pushed into my nose. I couldn’t feel my nose. Then people appeared everywhere looking at me in horror. The ambulance and police arrived, and so did my boyfriend who had apparently heard noises and came back to see his girlfriend covered in blood on the pavement. The girls were screaming and crying. Once I got into the ambulance, the adrenaline kicked in for a short moment and I found the situation quite amusing; “I’m fine, haha, they are just silly boys!”, I laughed, dazed, while blood continued to ooze from my eye and stick to my hair.
The next day was a blur. All I can remember was my boyfriend being distraught. He felt responsible for the attack. “If I was with you this wouldn’t have happened” he repeated constantly. I no longer felt the adrenaline and instead felt an intense bruising all over my face and an inexplicable sense of insecurity and sadness. I was scared to go out. I was scared to walk back alone in this unfamiliar place. Alicante was a nightmare. I knew nobody. I cried.
Luckily passers-by managed to grab two of the boys, and after reporting the incident at the police station with the help of some classmates, there was eventually a court case. The day of the trial was horrible. The gypsy families of the boys who attacked me were all present- literally every member of the family down to their young children. The mother of one of the boys glared at me with an evil rage. Her young daughter glared. As we waited for the trial I couldn’t stop feeling guilty. But for what? I kept trying to tell myself that taking these boys off the streets was a good thing. But every time one of the family members scowled at me I felt intimidated and questioned whether what I was doing was right. It got so bad that they put me in a different room to avoid being threatened, or even attacked again. That day I was escorted out by two huge bodyguards through the back entrance to avoid further aggression from other family members who were apparently waiting for me at the entrance.
Fear and anxiety was replaced by anger and frustration, and these feelings are what remain inside me even now when I look back on what had happened. My boyfriend’s words stay in my head so vividly. But I keep asking myself the same question: Why should girls need their own personal male bodyguards to make sure they get home safely?
What made me even more angry was when I was in France a few months later I asked a male course friend to walk me home after a night out, as I was staying in a less secure suburban area. He got irritated and accompanied me reluctantly, exclaiming that the flirty way I acted in nightclubs meant I was asking for trouble and deserved it. Memories flooded back of dancing on bar tables in Alicante. Furious, I asked him “does that mean if you spend your entire night flirting with girls, you deserve to be beaten up in the street on your way home?”. Unsurprisingly, he had no answer.