Fight or flight — How would you react under threat in your own home?
When faced with stranger danger, sometimes the smartest step is to run
How secure are you when you’re out on the streets where you live?
You don’t go out after dark alone, or make sure you’re with a friend post-pub? You feel like fear is something that stays in books and movies, and as long as you have your mate or mum on the other end of your mobile as you walk home, you’re safe?
That may be good practice.
But what about when you’re inside your own home — are you safe from danger, or are you just a sitting target?
I always felt secure in my home, and was, like anyone else, sleeping soundly behind locked doors, the knowledge that a line of terraced homes with lights on and curtains twitching is enough of an impediment to a would-be thief.
But I was at home alone last month waiting for my partner to come home when someone kicked in the front door.
And it’s changed my view of those unknown dangers which are waiting right outside our doors and windows.
I was upstairs reading on my bed at 10.45pm when it happened. My partner isn’t often out late, so I was waiting for him, leaving the lights on downstairs.
I was snuggled up with the dog when I heard a bang which still wakes me from nightmares weeks later.
One ear-splitting crash was the sound of his foot kicking in the door, busting its Yale lock easily.
And the next was the door smashing against the wall inside as he sprinted into the lounge.
On hearing the noise, I didn’t have a second to think.
So I ran downstairs to confront him.
In the minutes, hours and days since, I cannot say why I went for him, and tried to grab him.
Taking the stairs two at a time, I screamed “no” at him again and again, sure that it must be a mistake, that he was in the wrong house. But there was no mistake.
It was as I reached for him, taking in his black hoodie, white skin and my laptop under his arm in my panic, that I suddenly paused.
What if he had a knife, or worse? And what if I could get him and stop him from running off with my property — did I really think I could fight him down while the police came?
The police told me later that I shouldn’t have attempted to stop him as he could have been armed and was certainly dangerous.
Luckily I stopped myself before I went out the front door — a flash in my mind’s eye telling me he may have accomplices, and once I was outside the front door it could mean devastating things for my personal safety.
As I pulled up, I slammed the door behind him, and he disappeared into the night. Less than 30 seconds he was in the house, and he managed to seize two laptops, a leather bag, glasses, tablets — all in all around £2,200 worth of our belongings.
I don’t blame him. I told the helpful policeman who arrived 15 minutes after my teary 999 call that I couldn’t imagine how desperate he was to break into a house where anyone could have been waiting just to get gear he could sell for £50.
But I do blame myself over a number of errors I made.
One, believing my home was a safe space; it isn't, and relaxing like a ruminating bovine into that naivety is a mistake I will never make again.
Two, considering my own strength too favourably; believing that I was equal to an unknown male in desperation breaking into my home.
And three, running headlong towards a risk that I could not have grasped from my upstairs vantage point, barefoot and in pyjamas.
I made a massive fuss and the police were amazing, and helpful, but we’ve long since said goodbye to our laptops.
In fact, the only positive impact of that horrible night I can find is to be more aware of my want in a situation like this.
If someone wants to get into your home, to burgle you or to take your belongings, there isn’t a lot you can do but wait, worry and be the victim. And I refuse to do that anymore.
When it comes to fight or flight, I found out in a dangerous spot which I would do — and now I’m learning the self-defence training I need so next time I won’t be afraid to stand my ground in my own home.