This week, my family was victim to a home invasion. It’s not anything you can be emotionally prepared for. We are changed forever. When strangers attack you unexpectedly in your home, because you are in your safe space – the trauma is incomprehensible. This was our sanctuary. If you aren’t safe in your home, then where are you safe? Afterwards there is only exile, the home that once held you is forever gone.
This is how it happened. We were at dinner – laughing around the table – when they came in. Sunday night is our favourite time to chat and share a laugh. The kids were squabbling over the last few roast potatoes when they busted in. A group of black men. They entered our house through the open door. They didn’t knock. They didn’t ask to be invited in. They just came in – like our place was theirs. We froze. The winner of the last potato dropped it. It was like we weren’t even there. Like we were no longer flesh and blood, just ghosts that they moved through.
They started looking around our house, taking things that they found of interest, smashing things they didn’t. Things that were precious to us like our photos, like my favourite tea-pot, a child’s painting. They didn’t speak English. We didn’t know what they spoke. It was a tongue unlike any we’d ever heard. They were talking, and pointing, and saying things to each other, and, talking about us, but we couldn’t work it out. We didn’t need to know what they were saying though to know that we were in danger. My kids were crying. The youngest started screaming. This irritated one of the men who raised his hand to hit her. She became silent. We all became silent. We were in shock.
How could a quiet Sunday dinner go so horribly wrong? Should we have seen it coming? Should we have locked our door? Should we have fought back harder? We couldn’t work out why strangers would do this. Surely they had children and homes of their own? Why would someone invade a home at dinnertime to terrorise an ordinary family? We’re not wealthy. In fact we rarely lock our home – we’ve always had this sense that we were protected, and to be honest, it was hard to see what someone might want to take. So what had they come to take? What did they want – and when would they leave?
After an hour of watching them loot our fridge, empty our wine racks and pantry we realised – they weren’t going to leave! They had found their way to the lounge and started flicking through selections on Netflix. The man I assumed was the leader, had found my underwear and was parading around in it to the amusement of the rest of the group.
It was clear they were planning on staying. Our things were no longer our things. They had come to take our home. We were huddled in the corner of our kitchen, still hoping, by some sort of miracle, that they would lose interest and leave. But they didn’t. More men turned up. These ones were carrying bags and personal belongings. We watched in disbelief as they moved into our bedrooms.
We tried to fight, but they had guns. We had no weapons – because we were at home. Our house was full of black men. We hadn’t seen any black women – we wondered if they’d be arriving later!? It made me nervous to be in the company of all those men with no women. The women did arrive later.
Soon there was no room for us in the house. We were pushed outside into the backyard. Our beautiful home was lost on Sunday. We live in the shed now. We watched from the shed as more people arrived. Something was happening. They were putting up balloons… they were celebrating! They were having a party to celebrate their beautiful new home! We watched – incredulous. How does someone just come in and take your home? How could the long years of our story be so swiftly erased? Why had no one come to our aid? What would become of us?
There was a knock at our door. It was one of the men from the house. He seemed to think it was wrong for us to bring up our children in a shed. So he took them too.
Happy Australia Day.