Hostage

Hello everyone. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. Today, I’m breaking from tradition and instead of giving writing tips as I always do, I’m going to tell you the true story about the night we were held captive in our home during a robbery. Bear with me here, it’s quite long, but I’ll try and write it down as well as I can remember it.

On 5 January, we caught someone skulking in our yard. I saw him in time and we phoned the police. He came back on the 6th and the 7th, and then all went quiet. We stood guard in the house for a few days, but he stayed away, and we started relaxing, thinking we may have scared the guy off for good. Unfortunately, that is exactly what they were hoping for.

On the night of 15 January, I told my husband that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was just too tired. He tried to reassure me, saying that they wouldn’t be back, and I should go to bed. He said he’d stay awake, but also being dead tired, he fell asleep somewhere along the line.

In the early morning hours of 16 January 2015, four armed men broke into our home.

My husband and I woke from a dead sleep, to see them standing at the foot of our bed, big smiles on their faces, guns pointed right at us. 9 mm pistols. My husband screamed, being suddenly woken like that. They forced him onto his stomach, bound his arms and legs with galvanized wire, and pushed a pillow over his face, so he couldn’t see what they were doing.

They dragged me from my bed, pushed me down onto the floor, and bound my hands with the steel wire behind my back. Due to a previous shoulder injury, I couldn’t get my left arm back all the way, and they forced it, causing more damage to my arm. At this point, while the one robber was telling me, “Go to sleep,” (close your eyes), my little 7-year old boy ran into the room, saying “Daddy, I heard …” They grabbed him before he could finish his sentence, and put him next to me.

Out of fear, he started crying. They tried to tie him up too, but being 7 and not understanding the danger he was in, he fought them like a lion. That little boy was braver than any grown man I know. Because of his screams, two held him down, while one started taping his mouth shut, but he was still fighting them. With a smile on his face, one of them told me to tell him, “Tell him I’ll kill him like a chicken if he doesn’t shut up.” I wasn’t about to tell my son that, and I just shook my head. Ignoring me, he turned to help his accomplice tie up my child.

I don’t know what happened, I think I might have gotten up in a desperate attempt to help, and they pistol-whipped me on the forehead. I lost time for a few minutes, and when I came back to reality, they were choking my son with one of my towels. I’ll never forget his struggle, the desperately fearful screams into the towel, his little arms and legs drumming on the floor as he tried to draw air into his lungs. I could only watch, dazed from the blow to the head, and with my arms tied behind my back, as the thought, my child is going to die rushed through my head. Then the thought, they are only trying to get him to pass out came to me, and as horrific as even that was, it cleared my mind and I could concentrate on keeping us alive.

My son passed out, they tied him up, taped his mouth shut and put him next to me. When he came to a few minutes later, I said, “Go to sleep, and when you wake up it will all be over.” My boy closed his eyes, and promptly fell asleep (this often happens to children who are in a deep state of shock or fear).

After that, one of the robbers went outside to keep watch, one kept an eye on us, holding a knife in his hand, and the other two started ransacking our house. They found a second key on the safe’s key ring, and asked me where the second safe was. I told them we didn’t have another safe, only the one. They asked me where the money is. I told them we don’t keep money in the house. At one point, they found my husband’s gun holster in the closet or the safe, and asked me where the guns were. I got to my knees, and said we don’t have guns. They pushed me back down and told me to shut up. They asked my husband, and he explained to them that we handed our guns over to the police for ‘destruction’ years ago. At least they believed that part.

They emptied my jewellery boxes, and asked me where I kept my other jewellery. Not thinking clearly, I told them that I only had the jewellery they already took. I did have costume jewellery in the house, but it’s worthless so I didn’t even think about it. They found the costume jewellery, and hit me in the face with my jewellery box because I “lied” to them. In the meantime, they still wanted “the money” we kept in the “second safe”. I told them I had a little money in my wallet, I wouldn’t lie because I won’t put my child’s life at risk like that. The more aggressive one of the two yelled at me, “Fuck you and fuck your children, I’ll kill your children while you watch.” It didn’t have the intended affect, because he didn’t scare me, he just frustrated me, because I kept telling him we don’t have money, and he kept asking for things I didn’t have.

They grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me to the study, insisting I tell them where the safe is. I told them we don’t have another safe. They started gathering electronics, asking me if they’re still working. I said they did. They took me back to the bedroom, while one of them went to the downstairs laundry to fetch my iron. He couldn’t find a place to heat it up in our bedroom, so he went to the kitchen, filled it with water, heated it up and brought it back to the bedroom. Holding the warm iron close to my face, he said, “Can you feel that? I’ll burn you if you don’t tell me where the safe is. I’ll kill you like a chicken if you don’t tell me where the money is.”

Still feeling frustrated, I said, “I know you are going to torture me now, but I can’t shit a safe where there isn’t one!” He didn’t like my defiance, and blew the hot steam in my face. Understanding that he needed me to feel scared and intimidated, I screamed, “We don’t have another safe, I promise, I promise, I promise,” then called out to my husband for backup.

He told them that we don’t have money, as he’s unemployed, and we don’t have a second safe. Somehow, I squeezed out a single tear, and that satisfied them. He put the iron down, and they started ransacking the house. I offered up more cheap as shit jewellery, and showed them where it was. At this point, these guys became super polite. Every time they bumped into me, they apologized. When they unhooked our television and started carrying it out, the guy even said, “sorry.”

All the while, one guy with a knife stood guard over us. He got bored or something, and tightened the bindings around my wrists, cutting off the blood supply. I sat on my knees for hours. My legs went numb, then started hurting like crazy. My son woke up, found out his hands and feet were still bound, he was still gagged, it wasn’t over as I had promised it would be, and he started whimpering. Risking another blow, I ‘knee-walked’ over to him, asked our guard for permission to comfort my son, and when he didn’t answer me I did it anyway. I kept promising my boy that “it will be over soon, to be quiet, that I know it hurts, Mummy hurts too, but they will be gone soon.” At one point, he couldn’t keep it in anymore, and despite the layers of tape around his mouth cried out. I had to be strict with him, for his own safety, but until the day I die, I will never forgive myself for being “stern” with my boy while he was in a state of absolute fear, shock and pain.

I listened as they opened our front door, and started loading up our car with their loot. They went through the kitchen, looking for goodness knows what, making a hell of a racket. And there I sat thinking, goodness you gag my son to keep him quiet, but you’re making one hell of a noise now. But that is when I knew it was almost over.

One came back and asked, very politely, “Ma’am what is your business?”

“I’m a writer.”

“And what is your husband’s business?”

“He designs websites,” I answered.

He left, and they came back to the room with our keys, asking me which key would unlock the gate. Since I couldn’t point it out with my hands, I had to use my nose. They pushed me onto my stomach next to my boy, tied my feet with a PlayStation controller and shoe laces, tightened the wire around my wrists again, then one came over with my asthma inhaler, and asked, “Ma’am is this yours?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Open your mouth, please,” he replied.

I opened my mouth, and he squirted a good dose of asthma medicine into my mouth. I thanked him, and he taped my mouth shut. It was at that point that I knew we were going to get out of this alive. They replaced my husband’s wire with a shoe string so he could get out easily once they were gone. We listened as they left the house, locking the door behind them, opened our gate and drove off with our car, careful to close the gate behind them (but thankfully didn’t lock it). They left with all our house keys, and later we had to hunt for a key to open the back door.

My husband slipped his hands out, and that was when I started freaking out. “Untie me, untie me, untie me,” I yelled at him. He got my hands loose, then untied our son, while I tried to release my feet, but finding it impossible, I bunny-hopped to the kitchen, woke our live-in housekeeper and screamed at her to cut me loose.

A few things kept me sane that night.

1) When I opened my eyes and saw the men standing around our bed, my first thought was, here they are. Finally. Now it’s over. They had terrorised us for days and I was just relieved that the “end” (as it were), had come.

2) Prayer. I said one prayer. God, help us.

3) Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Whenever they weren’t threatening me, asking me questions, or dragging me through the house, I remembered those four verses. To me, it’s fine if others don’t believe, but I do and holding on to my beliefs kept me calm and in control of myself – I knew I couldn’t control them and what they did, but at least I could control myself.

This home invasion could have been much, much worse. I wasn’t sexually assaulted (we often are, because that’s how they assert dominance. I think the fact that we were immediately compliant and helpful might have helped with that). The robbers weren’t particularly violent. Though I didn’t understand their language, one of them got upset when his accomplice was hurting our boy, and told him to stop. I only know this through their body language, and the way the ‘gagger’ reacted when his friend started talking loudly and slapping at him with the back of his hand. After my son passed out, and they tied him up and gagged him properly, they took a blanket from the bed, and lay him down on it, as if they were concerned for his comfort despite what they had just done. They closed my youngest son’s bedroom door, and never entered his room, so they wouldn’t wake him, and every time they walked past his room or were close to it, they whispered and walked softly.

Even when they threatened me, I could tell there was no real violence in them. The guy who stood guard over us, holding his knife didn’t scare me, but he did make me anxious. I wanted to ask him if they were going to murder us, and if they were, to please just make it quick, because I didn’t want us to suffer. My thought was, if they do murder us, then at least all this will be over, and we’ll get some peace. We’ll go be with Jesus, and we’ll never have to be scared again.

I didn’t fear pain, because even though I noticed injuries after the fact, I didn’t feel a damn thing while they were ‘busy’ with me. I have two broken toes, I don’t know when that happened, but I only noticed it hours later. I was pistol-whipped, but felt no pain until someone asked me what happened to my head. Even when they held that hot iron close to my face, and I should have felt the heat and hot steam, I felt nothing. I knew my body was protecting me from the physical trauma, so I was pretty much convinced I would have been able to handle the torture (if it went that way, but thank God it didn’t).

Three hours, my husband, son and I were held hostage in our own home, and no one knew. There was nothing we could do. I could only look up to the bed where my husband lay on his stomach, pillows over his head, breathing heavily and I know, praying. I could only get on my knees, and lean over my son to put my head on his, so I could whisper in his ear.

When I woke to see them around our bed, an extraordinary calm settled over me. When my husband screamed, I quieted him. When my dog ran in, and they kicked him, I sent my dog away. When my son got scared, I calmed him. But when they left, I fell to absolute pieces, and I’m still a wreck. I will be able to put myself back together in time. I know I will, but I think the cracks will always be there.

I’ll talk about the trauma and the affect the home invasion had on me next time. This is what I can handle for today. Thank you for reading, and if you had a similar experience, and want to share or just talk, then feel free to leave a comment below (or if you don’t want to talk about it publicly, then email me here).

10 thoughts on “Hostage

  1. Elaine, this hurts to just read, and I can only begin to imagine the horror you’ve been through. I hope time will heal your and esp. your son’s wounds, I almost cried at his ordeal, poor little boy. Just know that I am always here for you and I hope you’ll get over this in time, whatever that means. I am proud of you and your bravery, and glad your faith helps. I also think your honesty will help others who have experienced somethign similar. Thank you for being so brave and to let us get a glimpse of what you’ve been through. I love you and hope being a writer deep down will help you mend. Take care and take your time to heal. Hugs xxx

  2. Oh Elaine, thank you for sharing. I’m sure this will help with your healing process as well. As you may know, crime is one of the reasons I left Gauteng. I went through 2 hi-jackings and a restaurant hold-up years ago, and although not so violent nor traumatic – the scars remain. One of the reasons I love the South Coast is we are fortunate not to have such a high level of violence attached to crime here, and I am not constantly ‘watching my back’. Bless you for keeping your cool during those hours xxx You are a strong, powerful, open & honest woman and I am sure that with all the love and support you are surrounded by, you will find your equilibrium again – give yourself as long as it takes, be kind and gentle… and come and shout at the waves whenever you want! Much love to you all xxx

    • Thank you, Joan. We all experience traumatic events differently. A seemingly ‘small’ event can be huge to other people, and severely traumatic. When compared to other crimes, what happened to us wasn’t that bad either, but apparently I cracked (it wasn’t my first traumatic event – guess every camel has a straw). This used to be a quiet, safe neighbourhood. Some nights, when I look out the window and the beautiful, well-kept lawns and houses, the quiet serenity of the street, I have a hard time believing it happened at all.

  3. Wow. This has brought back all the awful memories of when this happened to me and my family. It’s so similar that I actually got shivers and I have tears running down my cheeks. We were so lucky to have survived it as you did. “They” had threatened to rape me in front of my husband and child and even went as far as pulling down my pants and touching me while my husband lay helpless listening to my screams. I never went for counseling,even though many of my friends and family told me I should. But having to relive those moments when you didn’t know what was going to happen and feeling that fear again was just too much for me. We have since upgraded our security in our home, but even until today,when the alarm goes off my heart stops and I think “they” are back. The healing process takes time and hopefully one day,I’ll be able to talk about it as you have. Thank you for sharing your story. And I hope that you and your family stay safe.

    • I’m sorry for triggering you so badly. There was a moment, when they pulled me from the bed, that I thought they were going to rape me, but it didn’t happen, and I thank God every day they didn’t. I am not ‘better’ … I am, to put it mildly, a basket case, but it’s as you say, healing takes time and it will come. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I wish you nothing but the best, and I hope one day we’ll both find healing and peace.

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