Jon bought our home about 10 years ago. I’ve lived with him in our home since 2010. I fell in love with the beautiful landscaping, big green trees and the quiet of the complex despite being in the middle of a very busy little suburb within Fourways.
Over the years, friends have marveled at the fact that our home has always been open. When visiting, friends have often lectured us on leaving our doors wide open and moaned to us about our windows upstairs not having any burglar bars.
Aside from two minor opportunistic theft incidents where a handbag was taken from a kitchen counter within a house that had the front door wide open, and a cellphone being nicked from a side table near a window, we’ve always been quite smug about the sanctuary of our little complex. I’d personally never felt at all out of my comfort zone, or afraid of being alone. Until tonight.
I went to the bathroom around 8pm after Jon and I had finished dinner and had settled into bed to watch tv. As I was washing my hands I noticed in the mirror that there were flashing lights outside. At first I thought someone had left their hazards on in the parking lot. But then I realised it was a vehicle that had stopped in the middle of the road and left their doors open. How inconsiderate, I selfishly thought. This, in addition to the irritating footfalls of some people running at speed past our bathroom window about a half an hour previously, our complex was ridiculously busy tonight. Disturbing my peace. I was annoyed. Didn’t people understand that communal living equaled an unspoken agreement of keeping the peace and considering others? It’s a week night for goodness sake!
So prone to complaining we’ve become. As I dried my hands on the hand towel, I peered out through the bathroom window to see what was going on. Immediately I felt an unsettlement in my gut. Something was wrong. There were lights everywhere. Blue, orange and red lights. Security vehicles, cop vans and medic cars, about 4 or 5 of them in total. Nobody was in the road but I could hear hushed voices from different sections of the complex. In our sanctuary of watching tv in our room, with the curtains and bathroom door closed, Jon and I are completely oblivious to the outside world sometimes.
This is not the first time we’ve heard commotion in our complex. One night just as I was heading to bed an elderly lady came screaming through the complex with her younger (grand?) child needing to be rushed to hospital. Anther night I nearly fell off our balcony from fright during my last smoke break of the day, for one of the security guards had walked past our house to do his rounds. Just last week Jon and another guy from one of the units inside the complex confronted a drunk neighbour who was screaming at his apparent “whore” who had been sleeping with another man. We would’ve ignored the screaming had it not been for the slapping sounds that followed. My point is, we’ve had our fair share of neighborly disturbances. But this was something different. This was eery. It was too quiet.
I called Jon to pause the TV and come look to see what was going on. At first he told me to stop being nosy, but then I think he must’ve heard that tone. My tone of “this is serious, I’m not joking around”. He came to the bathroom and was a bit annoyec with me because I insisted on calling the main gate to find out what was going on.
I called Lloyd at security to find out what was going on and after a few attempts he eventually picked up. He sounded shaken and not like his usual jovial self. He told me that the single lady at unit 34 had sounded the alarm and then he was quiet and mumbled something about 2 men having jumped the wall. I panicked and asked if they’d been found and he responded that that’s what all the cops and security were busy doing, searching the complex. Immediately Jon and I went around the house to make sure we’d locked the doors. We sat on the bed and stared at each other, listening to the sounds coming from outside the windows. Every leaf crunch had me jumping. 15 minutes later I heard the vehicles leaving and I breathed my first real breath. I called Lloyd again. This time he sounded audibly upset. He told me that the ambulance had just left with the lady from #34. I asked him what happened and he blurted it out in a hurry, I think in complete shock, that the 2 men had jumped over the wall at unit 34 at 7pm while the lady was watering her garden. They raped her right there in the garden and then left. At 7pm on a Monday evening, in a complex of 40 units, all within close proximity to each other.
Let me be clear. This was not 100m from my house, while I was at home with our doors wide open. We heard nothing. We saw nothing. Until 2 months ago I often used to sit outside alone, doors wide open and lights on or off, it never seemed to matter. At 7pm Jon is rarely home so I’m by myself with the boy cats.
I have no idea what made them choose that poor woman’s unit, I can only speculate of it was an opportunistic crime or a calculated one. I’m sitting here shaking and trying to get the images out of my head that my imagination is throwing at me. I feel sick, I feel sad. I feel scared. I feel guilty for even writing about my own feelings right now.
When Jon heard what Lloyd had to say, he lost all colour to his face. He immediately mentioned how glad he is that I no longer smoke, because that means I spend way more time inside the house.
In the last hour, I’ve sat on the bed and come up with a million different scenarios of how easily this could’ve been me. I’ve realised and re looked at every weak point of our home’s security. I’ve demanded that tomorrow morning, first thing, we will be installing an alarm system and burglar bars. I’ve threatened to give the body corporate an inquisition on why they’ve not yet installed the additional cameras promised after the first two petty-theft incidents 6 weeks ago. I’ve thanked God that it wasn’t me tonight. I’ve prayed to God for that woman of #34 to give her strength and stamina and bravery to get through this.
And in writing this post, I’ve realised that this shit happens every single day in this country, and that although I know statistically it happens every six seconds, the six seconds that seem to matter the most are the ones that happened 100m from my front door.
And for for that I am ashamed.