Broken beer bottles, litter and scorch marks cover an area off Topsail Road between the Newfoundland School for the Deaf and Beaconsfield Junior High where a teenage girl was beaten so severely she had to be hospitalized. — Photo by Deanna Stokes Sullivan/The Telegram
A St. John’s grandmother says she can’t bear to think what could have happened to her 14-year-old granddaughter recently if she hadn’t been able to break away and run for help after a group of teens attacked her.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, went to the scene Thursday to show The Telegram where she says her granddaughter was assaulted between 9 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30. It’s an area off Topsail Road between the former Newfoundland School for the Deaf and Beaconsfield Junior High on Waterford Bridge Road.
To get to what’s called “the log,” where kids regularly hang out, you have to travel over gravel roads that are partly covered with grass and weeds and mud puddles, then walk down over an embankment where several downed tree trunks are surrounded by broken beer bottles and bottle caps, beer cartons, crushed plastic glasses and remnants from small outdoor fires.
The woman said teens frequent this area to hang out and drink Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, especially Fridays. The fallen logs are convenient to sit on.
She said her granddaughter went there with a group of teens and, sometime after 9 p.m., a male friend of her daughter’s received a call from the teenager, saying she’d been hurt.
The woman said her granddaughter told her one of the females punched her and it escalated from there.
“She took a bad beating,” from a mixed group of boys and girls, she said. “They literally beat her out of her shoes.”
They “laid the boots to her,” even to her stomach, she said. Most of her injuries were internal,” the woman said, adding the young girl shielded her face when she was on the ground.
Some of her friends pulled the bullies off her, she said, and her granddaughter, with nothing on her feet, ran through the woods over broken glass, up through the gravel roads and onto Topsail Road where she took cover in a nearby store.
Her mother’s friend picked her up at the store and brought her home. “When she walked in through the door and her mother saw the state of her, she called the police and then called the ambulance because she was getting ready to pass out at that point,” the woman said.
The teen was taken to the Janeway Hospital where she was hospitalized for five days. Her grandmother said she was lucky that she didn’t have broken bones. “I quote the doctor as saying, ‘You’re a very lucky lady, you got beat up not broken up,’” she said. “She had a lot of internal bruising.”
The woman and some family members went to the scene in the early morning hours after her granddaughter was admitted to the Janeway. She said they found one of her shoes still in the area near the logs where she had been beaten and the other had been found and dropped off by a friend of hers at the Topsail Road store.
Besides physical injuries, the woman said her granddaughter has suffered psychological effects and has had to change schools because some of the teens who assaulted her went to the same school.
“She’s still frightened today,” she said. “She’s afraid if she goes out and meets up with any of those kids, they’re going to lay a bigger and worse beating on her.”
The woman said she believes teenage drinking, bullying and violence is a major issue. “When I stop and think that my granddaughter came so close to dying. Had she fallen on any of those pieces of glass and fell the wrong way, she was going to be dead. I would have been burying her and it’s a scary, scary thought.”
She also worries that her granddaughter is likely not the first to be assaulted in this manner and probably won’t be the last.
Const. Suzanne FitzGerald, media relations officer for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, confirmed the incident is being investigated.
The grandmother commended the police for doing a good job. She said they also went to the area when the incident was reported and the teens scattered.
FitzGerald said it’s her understanding from the police report, the incident started with a verbal altercation between the victim and another teen. She said about 50 teenagers were in the area and alcohol was “a major contributing factor.” She said one thing that’s encouraging is that two teenaged males in the group stepped in and did something to stop the assault.
FitzGerald said underage drinking in general is a serious issue and something parents should discuss with their children.
Teens normally drink to get drunk, Fitzgerald said, but don’t understand how quickly alcohol can affect their bodies, the fact that they can lose consciousness very quickly. They can be more prone to injuries and accidents and could suffocate, through choking on their own vomit if they get sick, or die from alcohol poisoning.
“The parents I think should really know where their children are and what type of activity they’re engaging in,” FitzGerald said. “When young people do not have the tolerance and they’re more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, they’re not going to make good decisions and they’re perhaps engaging in violent activity. So that’s something for parents to have that conversation with their kids.”
The RNC also advises parents to be good role models and drink responsibly themselves, make sure they don’t purchase alcohol for children if they’re not of legal age, be aware of how much alcohol they have in their homes and make sure that it’s not only monitored, but also locked away.