Until it happens to you

Source: southafricatoday.net

Source: southafricatoday.net

I have lived in South Africa for my entire life (not counting the time I was young and carefree in Barcelona).

For my entire life, I have always lived in houses with burglar proofed windows and have always known to always lock the door (and the burglar proof gate outside the door) when going out (even if it’s just to hang the laundry outside to dry). I have always lived in a house with an alarm system with strategically placed panic buttons all over the house.

Before buying my first car, the first thing I did was check all the car insurance websites for their lists on the most hijacked cars in South Africa and hence made a note to avoid all VW’s and Toyota Yaris models. I have always known that my car would have to be fit with a tracking device and paid a hefty amount for the “anti-smash and grab” window tint as I was advised by everyone at the time. I am that girl that knows that when driving through Jo’ burg at night (after 8pm really), we don’t stop at the traffic light – rather, all intersections are treated as four way stops so as to avoid giving potential car hijackers a chance to get to you at the traffic light.

I am that girl that triple checks my rear view mirror to make sure no one is following me when I drive home at night and checks even more that no one snuck into the garage after I drove in (and while I wait for the garage to close). I have done all of this sub-consciously my entire life. My friends living overseas felt the need once to highlight the fact that it’s not normal to be so paranoid. And yes, I completely agreed with them but my response was a simple “what else can we do?” As this is a product of the country we live in – South Africa is recognised as one of the most violent and unsafe countries in the world. The 2015 crime statistics released this year need no further explanations – South Africans do not feel safe at all.

Nonetheless, this paranoia we live in – it’s our “normal”. And for all of my adult life, I have lived like this and mercifully, never experienced a hijacking or house break-in until of course, last Monday night when a group of men decided it was my turn to experience this side of South Africa.

  • Physically we are ok. The police and the armed response team were spectacular on the night – honestly, we were all surprised by the swift and efficient response of the SAPS in particular.
  • Mentally and emotionally – I’m not ok. It’s not easy to describe how such an incident can shake you to the core. After my constant paranoia and meticulously making sure that I don’t place myself in danger – the simple act of driving into a driveway has now become something that causes heart palpitations.

Crime has always been “that thing” that happened to others and I would also say what’s expected of me when I heard of such a story – “at least no one was hurt”, ” we thank God you are all ok”, ” this crime is getting worse” etc. etc. I never really understood how much it rocks your life – really, my entire sense of safety and security is gone. Worse this happened in my driveway in my new home where I’m supposed to feel safe and secure. Electric fences, fancy sensors, panic buttons – all of that didn’t help. Hence I find myself asking everyone (including the professional trauma counsellor) – what now? How do I move on from this?

I am yet to receive a response that has truly dealt with the heightened sense of fear I am battling with.

So tell me dear readers, what do we do now that “the normal” has changed?