It’s past midnight and I am afraid to fall asleep. When I lay awake I try to rationalise with myself, like a child. “The doors are locked” or “It’s late” and “It’s okay, the alarm is on”.
I know that none of these precautions matter.
We build the walls higher, make the lights brighter, add on more alarms, more beams, “secure the perimeter” we order as we swipe more cards and pay more bills to feel safe. The illusion of it all. We move to better neighbourhoods, some buy weapons, devices, whistles, panic buttons, pepper spray, radios and try electrocute people to defend ourselves, our possessions and families. We hire guards, create neighbourhood watch Facebook pages and Whatsapp groups while scanning the local paper’s crime pages for the weekly stats. “This one was right around the block from us” and “These people got tied up” we say emotionless to our spouses while sipping on our tea.
It doesn’t matter.
They will come whether you’re home or not. If the lights are on, or off. If it’s day or night, with or without electric fencing. Alarms are only soundtracks to the fear you either already have or someday will conceive. My family has worked in security for almost 40 years. A company that puts up fences to keep people out, and keep people in. The truth that my dad always communicates to clients is: “If someone wants to get in, *they WILL get in” and they do. We know this, so we continue to make it not impossible, but just more difficult.
* I don’t say “they” with racial undertones. Crime is not confined by any single race. Lack of judgement, fear, education and finances is a universal or global problem equally distributed across all cultures, races, countries and religions.
I have been affected by crime. I have been held at gunpoint. I have been pulled by my hair, assaulted, threatened with my life and sworn at. I have been stolen from (several times) and mugged. I have begged for my life. I have been afraid. I’ve come home to a ransacked house. We’ve had our car broken in to. I’ve pushed panic buttons. We had car windows smashed, parts stolen. Attempted hijackings. A man broke in to our property on a regular weekend morning, while we were watering our garden — mere metres from my children as we screamed and rushed them inside. Terror.
Equally, I have never met anyone who has not been affected by crime. We trade our stories like baseball cards. Petty crime. House break-ins. Muggings. Smash and grabs. “Which one have you had?” we ask nonchalantly. I have friends who have been violently assaulted. Sexually assaulted. Raped. I have learned that we are not safe anywhere. Not in our cars. Not in our homes. Not in any city I’ve ever lived in. Not in the suburbs. Not on farms. Not in remote areas. Not in townships. Informal settlements. Villages. Not even overseas.
The reason I am scared is because statistics tell me that it is going to happen again. It’s going to happen to me again, and it is most probably going to happen to you, whoever you are. I have a reason to be afraid. I have a reason to feel unsafe. Some days are better than others, and some nights I check on my children at least seven times before I am able to fall asleep in the earliest hours. Some mornings I panic and hope to still find them in their beds. Some days I am carefree.
My question is, what do we do? What can I do?
We build our walls higher, make our fences fiercer and our security beams wider in hope to keep criminals out of our homes and away from our children. To keep our treasures safe and possessions intact. To be able to feel safe in our beds. Our gardens. To protect ourselves and our families.
These are the conversations I have late at night while you’re asleep. The problems I try solve. Solutions I try find. Eventually I slip out of consciousness at the same conclusion every night: I can’t do anything more. I can’t do anything more to protect my sweet boys and myself from crime or potential violence. I can’t control this. I have no control.
There is nothing I can do.
Image – Gallo