BY: NADIA ZAIDI
When we think of acid attacks, we often think of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or other South-Asian countries where acid is a heinous method of control. Now a surge of acid attacks by gangs in the UK are targeting men at alarming rates.
In fact, men are twice as likely to be attacked by acid as women in the UK.
Assault by corrosive substances is brutal, repulsive, and has horrendous affects on victims. They suffer from immense physical, psychological and societal consequences.
Police statistics show that since 2012, assaults by corrosive substances have doubled in England. Despite the surge in acid attacks, it is currently legal to purchase potent acid in the UK. In London alone, the number of incidents related to acid attacks rose from 186 in April 2014/March 2015 to 397 in the same period of 2016/17.
The use of acid as a means of control has gained leverage because charges are greater if assault accompanies a weapon like a gun or knife. Additionally, it is a more difficult offense to prove because there is likely little to no DNA evidence.
Street gangs use corrosive substances because it is more readily available than knives and guns.
Violent gangs have become an increasing problem in the UK. Data by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that the police recorded 4.8 million offences last year.
Gang culture is a difficult cycle to break because there are so many factors that influence choice, participation and momentum. Many young people as old as seven to eight are drawn to gangs because they don’t have positive influences in their lives. Falsehoods surrounding gang life are additional motivators, as well as the glorification of gang culture in music, film, and popular culture.
It’s also a means of protection against other gangs. This violent cycle perpetuates the emergence of gangs in the UK, and the use of non-traditional methods of dominance, control, and authority via corrosive substances.
Perpetrators know that victims of acid attacks are rendered unable to fight back at their aggressors due to disfigurement and countless subsequent surgeries and recovery. There’s also a huge mock-culture within UK-based street gangs, whereby young members are mimicking the actions of infamous mobs in the United States.
Many acid attack victims do not report their assault. The intention of the attackers in these cases is to humiliate the victim rather than to kill them. It has also become a dysfunctional means of conflict resolution, as it is believed that victims cannot retaliate upon being attacked by corrosive substances.
It’s important to understand the trauma inflicted to the body during an acid attack. It extensively damages skin tissue, and can often end up dissolving bones. Sulphuric and nitric acid are the most common types of acid used in corrosive substance attacks.
Notorious gangs in London have modelled their crimes from the LA Blood and Crips. There are around 200 gangs in the capital alone. Victims of this asinine crime are left with many feelings of isolation, chronic pain and pain management, skin grafting surgeries, corrective surgeries and emotional trauma.