I don’t want to be one of those people who just runs away. I’m terrified of being that person. So terrified that perhaps I choose to live in denial instead but when is enough really enough?
This last week has really shaken me up. I don’t know why it was so different to any of the weeks before or the months, years before that. It hasn’t been really but maybe my perspective is changing?
You see, my 19month old son has been on school holidays for the last two weeks and it has been different for me because of him.
We’ve played a lot and we’ve had a ball mostly. We’ve also had some tough moments. So what’s different about this time than the time before you ask? Well, let me tell you.
This time, I’ve felt like a prisoner in my own home.
On Monday this week, there was an armed robbery at a filling station near my house. It’s maybe 1.5km from me. It ended with shots fired and a car chase. Then later that day, perhaps related, perhaps not, a store about a 5 minute drive from my house was also held up at gun point. WHAT the hell I wondered but we went on with our lives. I woke up on Tuesday morning to a message in my community group saying that there had been an attempted break in at a house near to mine. It’s Wednesday now, who knows what will come next.
Okay so on Wednesday night, I discovered the answer to my what would come next question. A house three houses away from me was broken into just after 8pm on Wednesday evening. Yay!
It’s not like this is new. I live in a fairly decent neighbourhood and in the four years we have lived here, they’ve broken into the house on my right, the house opposite mine and the house diagonally from mine. They stole our car from our driveway too. So it’s not like this didn’t happen before now, I’m just more aware now.
I just want to let my guard down for a minute
My son wants to play outside in the day but I’m terrified to be outside in case someone jumps over the wall. We have that happen around here you know, wall jumpers! Yeah it’s kinda ridiculous actually but you have to be afraid of people jumping over your wall while you’re home! Sigh
So this whole week really affected me on a deeper level. The level where I’m mom first and Jonelle second. The level where I want to protect my child but I’m not sure if I could if anything ever happened. So instead I take all the precautions I can. I walk around with the panic button in my own home.
This is no way to live is it? Checking that doors are closed, windows are closed, locks are latched, alarms are on… and repeat every single day of my life.
I can’t explain how much I love South Africa without it seeming like I’m justifying what I’m writing, so I won’t. You will just have to take my word for it, or don’t, that’s okay too. The bottom line for me is, I need to protect my child. I brought him into this world and I have a duty of care and responsibility to look after him. I want him to be safe and I want him to sleep well at night without being afraid.
I don’t want him to know the fears I know.
Until you’ve been forced to the ground and had your body searched while machine guns are pointed at you and you ask yourself over and over is this how I die, praying you don’t get raped, while hyper ventilating just at trying to get through this moment, you don’t know just how afraid you can feel.
I try not to play that memory over in my head anymore, it makes things worse. I do my best to let go but I’m constantly living in fear that I will wake up at night with men in my home and I won’t know how to protect my child in the other room.
A whole new world
I remember visiting my friend when I was 18 in a country far away from here. It was like a whole new world for him. We parked the car and walked through the park to get to the pub. At night! I was shivering in my boots and everyone laughed at me. “It’s not South Africa” I remember them saying. And I felt ashamed for the way my mind was programmed to look over my shoulder.
SIXTEEN years have passed since that experience and the only thing that has changed is my age.
Inequality, the cause of crime
It’s still not safe here. It’s getting worse every single day. How can it not, the level of inequality keeps rising and as long as we live with so much inequality, we will continue to have rising crime rates. The government blames everyone, everyone blames the government but in the meantime, there’s no real change happening.
I read an article that said Cape Town is the 13th murder capital of the world. Of course the data is biased in this situation because it is highly concentrated in certain areas over others so it’s not like I’m sitting here waiting to be murdered but the reality is that this is my city and that’s what the numbers show.
I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m getting older and watching things get worse and maybe it’s because I have a child of my own now but it’s getting harder and harder to see the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
I have no doubt that things will get better here but I’m just not sure that will happen during my lifetime. I’m just not sure that things will change for me and my family anytime soon and certainly not before they get worse.
So I’m left heartbroken, asking myself the question, is it time to leave?