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Life According to Joanna: International Women’s Day Reflection

I got burgled, on International Women’s Day. Quite ironic really. I woke in the middle of the night to what I thought was a light I had accidently left on in the hallway coming into the room. However, as I turned in my bed there was a man, crouched down next to me, torch in mouth and my laptop in hand. It took me a second to come around and realise I was being robbed. I shouted, ‘what the f*ck’ and repeated to do so as I leapt from my bed and chased him down the hall. The front door slammed behind him and I opened it to give chase, but I quickly realised I was completely naked and probably not in the best position to give pursuit.

In my panic I shouted ‘YOU MOTHER F*CKER’ as he fled out of sight. Now, this isn’t a phase in my usual day to day vocabulary, I don’t think I’ve ever utter those words before. Something was clearly channelling my inner Samuel L Jackson-in-a-Tarantino-movie persona. I ran back to my room to call the police only to discover my phone was gone. People, if you don’t have a landline I urge you to get one. Yes, they are a nuisance but just turn the ringer off, so you don’t get any incoming calls. It was only in a moment like this that I realise just how debilitating not having a phone can be, my only source of contact. 

Shaking, I Googled ‘how to call 999 from an iPad’, with big fat tears hampering my urgency. I then remembered that my mum always leaves her phone on next to her bed (to be on call for my grandmother) so I rang her via Facebook Messenger. She then called my ex-husband who happens to live ten minutes down the road and he promptly came over to help. God bless ex-husbands (a phrase I am sure isn’t uttered often). He called the police and rolled me cigarettes (I don’t smoke, but at that moment in time I was willing to try anything to calm my nerves) whilst I began to take in what just occurred a mere twenty minutes before.

Samuel L Jackson 2
Joanna Gregory

Now, in hindsight I should have shouted for help and/or quickly put on my clothes and alerted the neighbours. Perhaps then the police could have caught him in action, but when you are in the midst of trauma, you can’t really see the wood for the trees and lateral thinking goes clean out of the window. I’ve since replayed all the ways I could have done things differently, but that seemingly only leads to regret and that, in turn, will only lead to more sleepless nights and anxiety. 

Something that did surprise me (and many people I have since relayed the story too) was the risk I took in standing up to this man. He could have had a weapon, he could have even used my laptop he was holding to knock me out, but again, playing these things over or thinking of what could have been will only further my angst over the situation. 

The police were with me within four minutes, they took my statement and spoke to neighbours whose lights were still on. I drank sugary teas and made jokes with the officers by way of trying to alleviate the intensity of the situation. 

The following day was a blur of chatting to neighbours, speaking to management companies and landlords whilst the adrenaline still pumped through my veins. Forensics came to take fingerprints and my incredible partner arrived in the afternoon having quickly packed a bag and travelled cross country to be with me.

As the day drew to a close, I sloshed around in a hot bath, my partner poured me a large bourbon and lit cigarettes for me (I promise I don’t smoke) whilst I watched reruns of Sex and the City and tried to process the last 24 hours. 

I’ve not long lived on my own. It’s been a liberating experience of freedom and solitude, so to have a situation that brings that into question is quite shattering. I will seek some PTSD therapy to help with the repercussions of the event. I still see the perpetrator just a breath away from my face as I lay in bed at night. I will allow the ebbs and flows of emotions to take their course. I pride myself on showing my vulnerability however, I’m also guilty of occasionally saying ‘I’m fine’ (in my best Ross Geller voice) when really, I’m not. There will be no brave face with this.

Joanna Gregory 4
Police community support officer against a sky background.

As I laid in that bath a phone call from the police came through to my boyfriend’s phone. A softly spoken Scottish woman on the other end following up, asking me if I was ok and talking through some more details. It was like someone had put a blanket around me. I felt safe, protected and understood. 

You see, every single person I’ve dealt with during this event has been a woman; the original two officers, the forensic team and the policewoman who followed up. I’ve since discovered that apparently over half the police force in my local area are women and I have never felt so proud. Having someone invade your home while you sleep leaves you feeling exceptionally vulnerable. I felt comfortable and seen by these women. As each of them said goodbye to me a message of ‘stay strong and happy international women’s day’ was uttered. It was very emotional and empowering.

So, hear this, dear burglar; you may have taken my phone, but you will not take my independence, or my confidence, away. Not now. Not ever. 

Take that, mother f*cker.

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