"IF YOU SCREAM, WE WILL FUCKING KILL YOU!"
Last night, three men ran into our livingroom with screwdrivers in their hands. One put a pillow over my head and held a knife to my throat.
It is a relaxed Friday night in the sleepy little beach town Scarborough outside Cape Town. I had come to visit my friend Tara, and to spend a few days in a calm environment writing my thesis on Boko Haram. After a long day of writing, I snuggled up in a huge armchair and was watching a Norwegian TV show with my earplugs in, while Tara was reading about violence for our lecture next week. Suddenly, something broke the silence.
Three men dressed in dark colors run into the room with screewdrivers pointing at us, screaming "Look down! Don't look at us!". I hand over my laptop and look down at where it used to be in my lap. One man puts a pillow over my head and a knife to my throat. He takes a kitchen towel and ties it around my head and in my mouth so I cannot speak. As I feel the knife against my neck, my breathing goes into a deep survival mode, as if my body and mind automatically detatch itself from what is going on. It feels like I'm in a dream, or rather a nightmare. I don't think, I just am, giving them what they want and doing what they say to save my own life.
The man who is holding a knife to my throat sees my gold necklace and wants to take it off me. As he struggles to open it, I lean my head to the side, and say "Just take it. Take whatever you want". He grabs my hand and pulls off the ring I have been wearing on my finger since I was 15 years old, the ring that my brother gave me for my confirmation. As it leaves my finger I think "It is just a ring. Just let me live. And please don't rape me."
"Where is the man in the house", says one man and Tara replies "The men are not here, but they are coming back soon". It is not true, but it seems like the already nervous men believe it. I cannot see what they are doing to Tara, since there is a pillow over my head. I hear them pushing her around as they say "Move here, sit here, put your legs there". Even though I am not making a sound and my breath is calm, I am scared they will rape her first and me later.
"Where is the safe?" yells one of the guys who seem very nervous. There is no safe in the house and he gets angry, but Tara directs him to her wallet in another room with 2000 rand. After running around nervously, pulling out drawers and emptying cupboards, they lay us down on the ground with our faces towards the livingroom carpet and put big pillows over our heads. While they are tying my hands and feet together with towels and a television cable, I pray that they will not rape us. Because they have covered our heads the whole time and did not want us to see anything, I start to think that they will not kill us. If they wanted us dead it would not matter if we saw their faces.
As my face is touching the carpet and my mouth is still tied with a kitchen towel, it is getting harder to stay calm. I have been in survival mode for 20 minutes now, and I am realizing more and more what is going on. But I still try to stay calm and pray that they will leave soon. When they have tied us both together, they get up and are ready to leave, one man yells "If you scream when we leave, we will fucking kill you".
We lay there next to eachother in front of the fireplace, breathing and looking down for a few minutes. Tara starts to move and terrified that they will come back, I whisper "wait a little bit longer". And so we lay there, next to each other, tied together with kitchen towels and a television cable. But we are safe. When we loosen the knots, two laptops, three iphones, jewellery, 2000 rand, a flatscreen TV, my credit cards and drive's licence are gone. However, these are just things. The most important is, we are alive.
We spend the whole night talking to police and investigators, who take pictures and try to gather DNA around the house. The men probably looked through the livingroom window and saw two women sitting on their laptops, and jumped through an open bedroom window in the house. It is surreal, sitting in the same livingroom as I was laughing of my Norwegian TV series on my laptop earlier that night. Now, there is a guy with gloves taking photos of the armchair and the knife that was held against my throat.
Almost six hours after the robbery, the police are done. It is three in the morning, but I want to go back to Cape Town. I want to go back to my house with bars on every door and window. After an hour of driving, at five this morning I am finally home. As I close the white gate behind me, I feel safe, and happy to be alive.