Never fully goes away. I know this because the other day there was at least one for sure attempt to break into my apartment building and a second possible attempt several hours later.
I don’t know why the men tried to break into my apartment building, but at least one of the men in the security video I saw had gloves, and the man I saw during the second possible attempt was also wearing gloves, so they were definitely coming here to cause harm.
Thankfully none of the three got in, but my mind can’t help but wonder, “what if they had?”
There are days that I get a lot of work done and I become very proud of myself, and then there are days that I sit here and don’t move, I don’t think, I just stare silently for hours.
This is a trauma response, it comes from being violently violated and knowing it can happen again. As a witness to the second attempt and the third man, I had to talk to the cop who was about as useful as a wildfire in the summer season. Useless.
I’m tired of talking to cops, I genuinely wish they didn’t have to exist.
“Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”
― Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns
Talking to cops when you’ve been a victim is fucking annoying. They’re doing the best they can to keep you calm, but you don’t want to be calm, you want to be angry and yell and get over the top because your home has been violated, again.
I’ve already had my house broken into by one of my abusers this year, and no one believes me, so when I see men skulking around my balcony it takes me back to that last horrible night when the men I loved, and men I hated, raped me for hours, before nearly murdering me and letting me get raped for hours more.
As much as I believe that superheroes exist, no one came to save me that night, and nothing alerted me to the fact that someone was trying to break down the door of my apartment building the other night. Superman didn’t come rushing in and Captain America didn’t stop by for tea, I like all of my neighbors, was blissfully asleep unaware that someone was trying to destroy our lives with violence.
I don’t know if those men were there for me, but what I do know is that my experience with violent crime has ramped up my paranoia. Every sound makes me flinch, every time I hear sirens I wonder if it’s the police, I wonder if another person has been hurt.
Every week since the beginning of 2022, violent crime has infected this city, whether it’s with a robbery, a shooting, or worse. Violent crime isn’t going anywhere, and those of us who deal with mental health issues that come from being victims of violent crime suffer the most and are heard the least.
A cops’ job is to literally make people feel safer, that’s what I was conditioned to believe when I was growing up, but after what I’ve been through, after what I’ve seen in the world, nothing about seeing the police makes me feel safe or comforted.
“No amount of me trying to explain myself was doing any good. I didn’t even know what was going on inside of me, so how could I have explained it to them?”
― Sierra D. Waters, Debbie.
That’s precisely how I felt during the panic attack that got me arrested, and then again during the one that got me hospitalized. Both panic attacks were so severe that paramedics and cops attended together, and I was terrified. I didn’t know how to explain why I was terrified so I didn’t bother, I just let myself scream and lose my shit until they hospitalized me and I felt better. I was feeling better until I saw the video of what happened the other night.
I don’t know if I am ever going to feel safe again, but what I need the police to understand is that it takes me a minute to settle down to reality. The reality is that with more than 500 people living in this building, there’s a huge chance those men were not here for me. In fact, I’m quite certain of it now that I am calm, but at the moment, instead of saying “I understand, okay, I believe you,” shut the fuck up and listen. Stop interrupting me to show me how calming you can be and hear the words coming out of my mouth.
Cops have this ultimate power. They can decide at any moment to pick up their guns and shoot you, and there’s very little you can do about it even if you do survive, but I’m not afraid of cops. I have no reason to be, and I’m not afraid of the men who tried to break into my building. I’ve been through hell.
I’m a survivor and I know that this isn’t the place that I am going to die in, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have to fight my own brain to remind myself of this fact on a regular basis when violence comes this close to home.
My apartment manager, a very lovely lady, is certain they were here for someone else, but that man under my balcony is haunting my nightmares and my day-mares, and I am constantly looking over my shoulder to look out the window. I’m as protected as I can be, but what about people who aren’t?
I had to stop myself and think about what I know about my abusers, their tactics, their intelligence, I had to sit here for an entire day and a half and really think about whether or not they’d send people to my house. The eventual answer I came to is “no, not right now,” but that doesn’t stop the fear.
I am a single woman living alone, and while I used to have a dog I don’t anymore. I will say if you have mental health issues and you can handle the responsibility of a large dog I highly recommend you get one. Having Rosie and Whalley had huge effects on my mental health.
They were there for me when everyone else thought I was crazy, men specifically, didn’t come near me when I walked my dog late at night because they were afraid of him. That made me feel powerful and strong and helped me to get out of the house and grab some much-needed fresh air and exercise.
Since Whalley died I haven’t needed to go outside, so I’ve gained weight, I spend a great deal of time alone, and even though I enjoy it, being alone all the time means that I am afraid a lot more than I used to be. I’m aware of what white men, in particular, can do when they are angry or are being paid to be mean. I know how bad it can get.
That’s why I say being “trauma-informed” is more important than being ready to pull out a weapon or fight when you’re a cop. There are moments when violence is necessary I’m sure, but the more trauma-informed cops we have the better. More and more we’re seeing people die at the hands of cops who don’t know how to handle people with mental health issues, or who don’t care to.
This is more than sensitivity training. It’s really about creating workshops run by survivors of violent crime to speak one on one with police officers, who are actually willing to listen to our stories so that they understand the trauma is genetic. It sinks into our bones, it sinks into every molecule of our being and it doesn’t go away just because you, a person with a gun who is trained to fight against violence, think that I should be safe, because you say so.
Your words are not going to make me a Black woman who is a victim of 20 + years of violent sexual rape, feel better, especially when you’re a white woman smiling at me like I’m crazy. More women are killed by someone they know than by a complete stranger, and with the number of men who raped me throughout my formative years, it’s not ludicrous for me to expect that one day they might come back and try to punish me for speaking out against what they did, even if you think I’m nuts.
I live with fear, I’m used to that, but what I need people outside my brain to know is that I need patience. I need you to understand that if I am afraid, I don’t need you to talk over me trying to calm me, I need you to listen to my fears and actually hear me. And then I need you to smile and nod, seriously.
“But Devon it’s not the job of the police to keep you calm,” but it fucking should be. If your are a person whose job represents safety and security you need to know how to emulate that and if you can’t then maybe you’re in the wrong job.
Victims of violent crime are never going to be easy to deal with but we don’t have to be, it’s not our job to be easy to deal with, it’s our job to find safety and security in the world so that we can heal.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall