Tag Archives: home invasion

When is a house a Home?

For me, home means safety and security.  That is what our armed robbery almost destroyed.

It is also a place of love, comfourt, forgiveness and caring.  We should feel safe inside our homes, protected from the outside world.  But we should also feel secure in one other, and protected by one another.

The people in a home should be transparent with each other, yet have enough love to overlook a host of transgressions.  I am reminded of Liz Murray, in her book Breaking Night:  A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard of which I wrote in a previous blog.  Her parents were both drug addicts and she was out on the streets early on.  I kept wondering why Liz became the success story that she is in spite of her background and circumstances.  The only answer that presented itself to me was love.  Her parents were honest about what they were, and they loved her.  She never doubted that and it was this love that allowed her to rise above what seemed to be her destiny.

Inside a house there might be much or little, neither which make for a loving home.  Parents who admit their mistakes do.  Children who respect their parents though they might not agree, do.  People who accept one another’s faults, do.

Two, or four, or however many people living together have to be able to give one another space.   My Uncle and Aunt had seven sons, one after the other, nine in one house which was by no means spacious.  They had to learn to cohabit their home in a way that made them one unit, yet where each still had enough space to be an individual.

It is not always easy to share your space with others, especially if your personal bubble is big, and you crave a lot of ‘me time’.  But therein lays the secret.  That which hurts, grows.  That which scrapes and scours, builds.  That is what the people in your home do.  They build character in you, they teach you, and they grow you.

Left to yourself, you would never become what you are ultimately, capable of being.

What Justice? Where?

It is my opinion that the justice system does not, and will never work.

Take the Stayner brothers for example.  7 year-old Steven Stayner was abducted by Kenneth Parnell, kept in captivity and sexually abused for seven years before he escaped.  The return to his family was fraught with adjustment difficulties.  The family did not receive trauma counselling.  Sadly, Steven died at the age of 24 in a bike accident.

The older brother, Cary Stayner, later landed up on death-row as a convicted serial killer.  He was sexually abused during his childhood but never told.

Kenneth Parnell was a paedophile with previous convictions and sentences.  For the Stayner kidnapping he received a seven-year sentence of which he served only five.  After his release and already quite advanced in age, he tried to buy another little boy.  For this he was sentenced 25 years to life under California’s three strikes law.  This law and not his crimes, finally removed him from society.

A stranger tale cannot be conceived but it serves to highlight some problem areas:

  • The Accused.  How is man with Kenneth Parnell’s background given seven years for the crime he committed against Steven Stayner?  He received equally light sentences for his other offenses.  It is because they only charged him with the kidnappings, never for the sexual offenses.  We must keep in mind though that some things have changed since the 70’s.
  • Defence Liars (exceptions excluded).  Who defends a man like Parnell, and why?  Okay, so the court appoints an attorney to defend the accused because every man has that right, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  But to defend him as though you want him back on the street?  As though he is innocent?  Come on!  And if a Liar is highly paid for defending someone like Parnell, his crime is the greatest.
  • Counselling.  Would Cary Stayner have turned into a murderer had he received trauma counselling?  For something as little as an armed robbery my family had to.  It is virtually impossible to deal with trauma, to file away what had happened and to have a healthy mental outlook afterwards without it.  Apparently it was offered to the Stayner family at some point, but rejected.  Again, in the 70’s the importance of counselling was not yet understood.  Of course I do not know if Cary would have killed had he properly dealt with Steven’s disappearance but I do know that if the family had been helped to work through the loss and eventual return of Steven, they would have been better equipped to deal with their emotional losses and wounds.  Cary stated that he felt neglected during the years his parents were grieving for Steven, and this is normal in most households where parents lose a child.  In fact, the disappearance of a child is almost worse than a death because the bereavement never reaches its logical conclusion.  Cary also said that upon Steven’s return they had to share a bedroom and that he resented that.  He was jealous of all the attention and gifts that Steven received.   The child needed help.
  • Evidence.  The business of not entering into evidence ALL known facts about the defendant misleads the jury.  It is impossible for them to fully understand the accused, what drives him and what his habits are if half of the facts are inadmissible.
  • The Jury System.  It is difficult enough to have a husband and wife agree on important issues, how much harder for twelve people?  And ‘a jury of your peers’ is a laugh.  A peer is someone of a similar age, race, education and background.  Someone who can identify with you.  [Definition of Peer: one that is of equal standing with another: equal; especially: one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status].  It therefore stands to reason that in a shoplifting trial, real peerage would mean that the jury is made up of shoplifters.  Who knows?  Perhaps they would actually give a proper and fair verdict.  In a first-world society I believe that a judgement by a judge (????) is far more accurate.  A person with knowledge of the law and hopefully, a good insight into human behaviour.  In third-world countries unfortunately, it opens itself up to abuse like threats and bribery.

So what is the solution to the lack of justice?  I think that after examination it becomes clear that there is none.  We live in an imperfect world, populated by imperfect people who implement imperfect systems based on imperfect ideas.

Because of that we will always have those who are imprisoned innocently as well as the guilty walking free.  The only hope is if everybody, from the lowliest cop right up to the judge, and further onto the lawmaker, strives for the truth.

John 8:32  “…… and the truth shall set you free”.


On Food

I like food but not cooking.  I am good at it and can conjure up something with whatever is around, but it has never grown on me.

Once or twice a year I bake.  For the whole day.  Shortbread, chocolate-chip cookies, other random  biscuits, pies, baklava.  My speciality is a baked chocolate cheese cake.  But once it’s over, it’s over for a while.

Had I lived on my own, I don’t think I would have cooked.  Just snacked.  Or made toast, or mixed tuna and mayo or tinned oysters with biscuit thingy’s.  Even better, I would have just taken supplements.

I usually only have supper, while standing, and quickly.  I don’t sit down to eat unless it is called for.  I’ve never been one for breakfast (unless it is already made), I don’t care for lunch so that leaves dinner.  Everybody says it is bad for you but I don’t know about that.  I think your body just gets on with it.

I have never really had weight issues.  Only when I was on antidepressants.  When I first sought professional help to quit drinking, the doctor put me on a cocktail of antidepressants, sleeping tablets and tranquilizers and by the way, you do not give tranquilizers to an addict LOOOOL!  I remember collecting a script from my pharmacist one day and he exclaimed:  “Mrs. P, what is going on with you?”  Well, I was embarrassed and not about to explain so I mumbled that since our armed robbery I was taking strain.  Whatever.

When I went into rehab the psychiatrist put me on antidepressants, a non-habit forming sleeping tablet and Valium, for withdrawal.  Within 3 days he canned the Valium and in another 2 the sleeping tablets.  I have a letter that my Gran wrote to my Mom when I was about 6, complaining that I never slept.  And I didn’t, until my first night in rehab.  I don’t struggle with insomnia anymore.

Anyway.  I picked up weight.  That horrid feeling when you lie in bed at night and you feel that you have to turn your tummy over separately when you turn over.  Manually.

I also wished I could take my arms and legs off before I went to sleep.  Until someone asked me how I would put them back on in the morning.

By then I had been on the pills for about a year.  I asked the psychiatrist if we could stop.  My depression was a result of my drinking anyway, not the other way around.  I lost most of the weight but was left with a remnant.

And the worst is that you always have those well-meaning souls that have to point out to you that you have picked up weight.  “But not to worry, it really suits you.  You needed a bit of meat on your bones.”  Liars.

Then I remembered that some years ago I lost weight when I upped my intake of water.  But aaarrrggggg!  Water does not appeal to me.  Coffee and whiskey do.  I started drinking warm water (easier) with a little lemon juice (easier still).  I don’t know how long it took, perhaps four or six weeks but eventually I felt like my old self, not conscious of my stomach all the time.  I drink a lot of water, I have a 500ml glass and refill it every time I need to wee.

When I first met my gynaecologist she asked me about my eating habits and said that if my body is used to one meal a day, and always had been, then that is fine for me.  She does however nag about my smoking.  That doesn’t bug me either.  It is as it is and when the time is right, it will sort itself out, like everything else has.

You do have to feel sorry for my boys though.  I pack good lunch boxes with fruit, health bars, rice cakes, fruit sticks, biltong and a roll with cold meats and salads.  And I make supper.  But when they come home in the afternoon and on weekends they have to fend for themselves.  They both cook which is a good thing because most of the girlfriends can’t.

I lay out their plates, knives, forks, butter, toasters, pans and all the paraphernalia the night before so that they can make breakfast in the morning.  I put little notes of redemption with it, or in their lunch boxes, telling them that I love them and that they must have a nice day.

But boys are always hungry!  And according to them there is NEVER any food in this house.  I hope that when they move out one day, it will become clear that there was a lot of food in this house, their mother just didn’t cook it.  And I pray that the lack of cooking in my mothering skills is made up for by something else.

I do like food, I just can’t be bothered.

Living through a Home Invasion

It was 6:50 pm on a Thursday evening.  I was in my bedroom when my thirteen year old son ran in and shouted:  “They’re breaking in Mommy”.  I had just put my arms around him when I felt the pistol against my head.   Within seconds all four of us where face-down on the bed, having our hands tied behind our backs.  Our 2 1/2 hour ordeal had started.

Five armed robbers had jumped over our wall and entered through the front door.  My Rhodesian Ridgeback, Danni, responded immediately but they got in and they slammed the door in her face.  She ran around the house to the bedroom, barking hysterically before realising that she has to be quiet.  She lay there the whole night, listening, without making another sound.

In the initial confusion there was lot of noise, barking, curtains being drawn and doors slamming.  They closed everything.  I had only a few seconds to say something to my kids, this was not an event I had prepared them for.  With my face turned towards them I whispered:  “Don’t open your mouth or
your eyes, not once!  And remember, whether we live or die tonight, we are in Christ Jesus.”  That was the last time we would say anything to one another for two and a half hours.  Our submissive silence saved our lives.  My kids never uttered a sound.

My kids were thrown down on the floor at the foot-end of the bed and my husband and I to the side.  We couldn’t see one another.  At all times either one or two of the gunmen sat on my kids, hitting them with their pistol butts.  And they kept saying to us:  “Sleep!”  Meaning, play dead.

When they saw that we were going to be still they calmed down a bit.  I realized that they were also extremely nervous.  They immediately started going through our house, taking what they wanted.  They used our cell phones to speak to their superiors and gave information on what types of cars, TV’s etc we had.  They were told what to load.

Every now and again they would untie my husband or I to show them where we kept certain items.  If we tried to say anything, we were smacked.  If they asked a question and we replied, we were smacked.  They asked us to open the safe and they took everything in it.  But this was where the trouble started.  We had no cash in the house, even our wallets were empty that night.  I think we had a total of R800 on us.  It turned out that they declared everything to their “head office” but not the cash, that they divided among themselves.

They started torturing my husband, to such an extent that my children thought he had died.  They dragged him to and from the safe, demanding more money.  His pleas that we had no more just made them hurt him more.  I offered to give them my bank card with the pin but they refused.   I said I would go with them to an ATM but they were not interested.

While this was going on, they were packing up our clothes.  They even dressed in it.  I was then taken to the kitchen where I was told that I would be raped.
I don’t know why but it did not strike fear in my heart.  I never said a thing but I looked him in the eye and said in my mind:  “You can do that, but my husband and children will NEVER know about it!”  He then just gave me a strange look and moved on, never mentioning it again.  I did not even consider AIDS.

Back in the bedroom I could see what they were doing to my husband.  I tried to remove myself from it because I could not help him.  Then at last I thought of something.  I  had a very valuable diamond ring left to me by my grandmother.  I had it set with her diamond, her mother’s and my mother’s.  It was in a different safe which they had not found.  So I told him that I had something he might want for which I got a smack to the head.  But he told me to take him there.

When I took it out, I explained to him the sentimental value of the ring and that it was all I had left to give him.  He listened and must have believed me because he put it on his own finger before telling the others to wrap it up.

They loaded both our vehicles with the loot, including a motorbike and at 9:15, they finally left.  Or so we thought.  But they were still checking on us in between raiding the fridge.  After what felt like hours of listening, they were gone.

By now our hands had lost all circulation and for the first time I felt like panicking.  What if I could not untie our hands, would we lose them?  But we did.  I had fingers without circulation for about a week but my children who were not untied once, battled for weeks.

I phoned my sister-in-law across the road and in no time the cops came.  I had about thirteen of them in my house until two in the morning.  We were told to go for trauma counselling, which we did.  Some of us longer than others.

An incident like this makes you realise that you really are unable to protect the people you love and that is hard, especially for a man.  The worst was that
they took from us our sense of security.  It is as if we each have a little garden of tranquillity inside of our hearts, where only we go.  That night five strangers stormed through our gardens, tearing down the little fences and changing the landscape forever.

I have experience fear before, but nothing like this.  I would call it naked terror.

We are fine now, we are not paranoid nor do we live in fear.  But when the evening draws to a close and hits 6:50, I close my front door.