At about 5h00 this morning our house alarm went off. J got up to switch it off and make sure that everything was OK. As it turns out, everything was not OK.
Some nasty little frakker had broken into our home and stolen both our mobile phones and J’s MacBook. As soon as he realised that the stuff was gone, J charged out of the house and ran down the street to look for the scum and/or the private security company. In his underpants. Which would be funny if it wasn’t so downright scary.
I keep thinking about what would have happened if he Had found the guy. Would I be dealing with even more trauma right now? He didn’t find the culprit, but he did find one of the local security companies’ patrol cars. He notified them of the burglary and asked them to search the area for the guy, which they did. No luck though.
This is not the first time that this has happened, so we were prepared and familiar with the process that then started. About 15 minutes after the alarm, our security company arrived (with big guns) and searched the property to make sure that the criminal was no longer on the premises. They examined the criminal’s access point, took a statement and called the cops.
Standard procedure for our security company is to call after they receive an alarm signal to find out what the problem is. Because our phones were stolen, they were unable to reach us. So they called J’s mom and told her that our alarm had gone off and they couldn’t contact us or gain access to the property. I cannot imagine how scary it must have been to receive that phone call. Obviously, she freaked out and rushed straight over.
A while (about 3 hours) later the police arrived. With even bigger guns. They then searched the property, examined the site of the break in and took statements.
Thankfully, E slept through all of this and didn’t have to witness the parade of security personnel with large firearms. This time. He has been witness to this before though. More than once.
I hate guns. I hate the look of them. I hate what they do and I hate the fear that they inspire. I really hate that they seem to be a necessary evil. More than anything, I hate that when the men with big guns arrive, I feel safer. Most of all I hate the fact that guns, and the big guys in bullet-proof jackets that carry them, are a fundamental part of my son’s reality at only 3 years old.
I was one of Those parents. You know the ones that won’t even allow toy guns into their homes? But how do I maintain this ban on weaponry in the home, when E has seen men with the real deal tramping through my house in the early hours of the morning on more than one occasion? I don’t think I can, because weaponry in some form is becoming a part of our every-day lives. Like a friend said this morning, I can keep him away from the movies and video games. I can keep him away from the violent TV shows. But, short of drugging him when we have a ‘security incident’, I can’t keep him away from the harsh realities of life in South Africa. I am so angry about this.
It would appear that I’m angry about a lot of things.
While I’m extremely grateful that he is safe, I am angry with hubby for running out of the house and risking actually finding the guy. I am angry at our government and police for not making sure that I am safe in my own home. I am angry with myself for not being able to protect my son and for feeling so helpless. I am angry that that he has to grow up in a world where the bad guys can actually come into your home, take your stuff and get away with it. This sort of anger can’t be healthy to carry around.
More than that, I’m afraid. So very very afraid. Once the police left, J had to go out to get the phones sorted. I was too afraid to be left at home alone. I recognise that this is a slightly paranoid reaction, but the fact is that my sanctuary has been violated for the umpteenth time and I simply do not feel safe in it.
Each time we have a break in (and this is about the 5th time in the 2 and half years that we’ve been in this house) I feel less and less safe. I feel more stressed and paranoid. And I have no idea what to do to feel safe again.
My electric fence is not enough. My alarm system and private security company are not enough. My dog (who kept E company and slept through the experience) is not enough. The padlocks and burglar bars are not enough. What is? What do I have to do to sleep soundly at night?
Every time this happens, for at least a few weeks after the event, J and I have trouble sleeping and startle at every little sound. We just got E out of our bed and I have been so pleased about that. But I know from experience that for the next few weeks – perhaps months – I will want him in my room because I will be completely paranoid about someone breaking in, but coming through His room. I am constantly running through various possible scenarios and what I would do in each eventuality to ensure that my family and I stay safe. I am becoming increasingly distrustful and jaded. I am afraid to let my son out of my sight for even a moment. I obsessively check that doors are locked and the alarm is armed. Not that this seems to make any difference whatsoever.
I know that it was just stuff that was taken (well, that and all the IP and data stored on the devices) and, as is the norm in South Africa, we have had the usual stream of messages saying “At least no-one was harmed”, “At least you didn’t get held up/stabbed/shot/beaten” etc. I appreciate the sentiment and that people want to make us feel better. But I can’t help wondering and worrying about how many ‘free’ passes we get before someone Is hurt.
Besides, the fact is that I WAS harmed. The stress and emotional distress of having this happen on a regular basis is starting to take its toll on me. How is it that, as South Africans, we have become so good at down-playing the trauma of having someone invade and brutalize our personal space.
I’m really beginning to believe that this ongoing exposure to crime and the threat/fear of it becoming violent is causing me to experience some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Wikipedia sites the diagnostic symptoms for PTSD as:
“re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” (http://tiny.cc/jycvp)
Pretty much all of those apply to how I live my life. I don’t think that I am naturally a paranoid person, but I do feel as though I am being forced to be. I have been told (by people older and wiser than me) that I get to choose my reaction to this situation and I believe that to be true, to a certain extent. But I also know that because it has happened so often, I feel incredibly dis-empowered so it is difficult to feel in control enough to choose a positive approach to the stress.
And if this is how I, as an adult react to crime, what sort of impact is it having on my 3 year old son? I don’t know the answer to this question, but the possible answers terrify me.