Numb… the only word to describe how I felt as I sat reading the report confirming that the partially burnt body found along Port Royal main road was that of Tandy Lewis, the public relations officer at the Post and Telecoms Department who has been reported missing since October 13. The autopsy revealed that she was 4 months pregnant.
In September, for a short while, the world stopped turning on its axis as I tried to assimilate the horrendous news of five females from the same household, three of whom were ages 2, 14 and 16 raped by hoodlums.
There is no pussyfooting around the fact that Jamaica has a very dark and terrifying side. For us women, the dangers are too many and too real!
My first encounter
It was 5:30 p.m., a mid-summer afternoon as I strolled leisurely towards Papine. I was on the sidewalk directly across from UTECH when I was engulfed in a huge bear hug from behind. Of course, carefree me thought, Oh! This must be someone from UWI or UTECH. Grinning from ear to ear, I looked up, eagerly anticipating the friendly face of the person hugging me. Then it slowly registered: I do not know this man; this is no friendly greeting! I am BEING ROBBED! A strange man was ordering me to let go off my money and phone. Of course, any prudent, well thinking human being would do just as he ordered, especially after realising that the hard object pressed against my stomach was a gun.
Call it panic or stupidity (they’re both apt) I just couldn’t let go. I also couldn’t speak. As we wrestled, the peak hour traffic went by - did I mention this was 5:30 p.m.? - and people looked on at what they must have perceived to be a lover’s spat. It finally dawned on one of the spectators that perhaps I was being robbed and he began shouting as he ran towards us. By this time, the miscreant had pried my hands open, taken what he wanted and executed a beautiful high jump, clearing the UTECH/Hope Gardens fencing, well on his way to freedom (Why are we not winning gold medals in high jump at the Olympics?)
The second episode
The second time I was robbed (do not be alarmed) only my phone was taken. The guy rode up to me on a bicycle and with a knife and demanded my phone. This time I did not hesitate (lesson learnt). I handed it to him without a scuffle and stifled the urge to at least ask if I could retrieve my SIM Card.
The third attempt
The third time was attempted robbery. I am not making this up, I swear. I was walking home in Mona and saw two well-dressed but strange fellows loafing at the entrance of my avenue. By this time, I considered myself a professional victim. My sixth sense kicked in and I decided not to walk too close to them and to stare them down without flinching (the full extent of my bravado).
As quickly as the plan took formation they both dashed at me but they were no match for my Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce bullet start as I ran hollering like a raving lunatic, shouting “Thief! Thief!” at the top of my lungs! By the time my lone vigilant neighbour had come to see what all the hollering was about the men were long gone.
The fourth time… I’m not lying. There is in fact a fourth story but I figured by now I have made my point so I won’t get into it.
Interestingly, none of these incidents have occurred since I began dating my hubby. Hmmm … I wonder why?
With the benefit of ‘experience’ and the tutelage of my hubby I have grown more vigilant, so here are a few tips, many of which can be found online but are useful reminders nonetheless:
- Be aware of your surroundings whilst sitting in a parked vehicle and before getting out.
- Gather all you need before getting out of your vehicle.
- Vary routes and times to and from your regular destination.
- Keep vehicle doors securely locked and be aware of open windows. Carjacking often takes place when vehicles are stopped at intersections. Criminals approach at a 45-degree angle (in the blind spot), and either pull you out of the driver’s seat or jump in the passenger’s seat.
- Keep eyes and ears open and your hands free. Talking on a cell phone or listening to headphones makes you easy prey for a predator.
IF YOU FEEL YOU ARE BEING FOLLOWED:
- If on foot, go to busy place and try to draw attention to yourself
- Do not go home!
- Get description of car and plate numbers if possible.
- Put other vehicles between you and the one following you
- Take unplanned turns and go to the nearest Police Station to seek assistance.
IF YOU ARE ATTACKED:
- Run, Run, Run! If the predator has a gun but you are not under his control, take off! Experts say he will only hit you, a running target, 4 out of every 100 shots. And even then, it most likely will not be a vital organ.
- Do not let your attacker take you to an abandoned area. If he does, the likelihood that you will be seriously injured increases tenfold. Try anything and everything like jumping out at a stoplight, do something to cause an accident, or signal to other drivers.
- If you are thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights, stick your arm out the hole, and start waving wildly. The driver won't see you but everyone else will.
- Make eye contact. It may be your first instinct to lower your gaze but looking straight into the face of potential enemies is the better option. Eye contact may scare off attackers because they fear you will be able to identify them.
- Clogs, high heels, and tight skirts are hard to run and fight in, while scarves and long necklaces are easy to grab. Think through how you would fight in your dress-up clothes. Would you kick off your high heels or hike your skirt up around your hips to run or kick?
- If you are locked out of your house and you can think of a way to get in, so could someone else.
- Do not leave notes on doors in your absence.
- Stop all deliveries to your home in your absence.
- Get to know your neighbours, maintain friendly relationships.
- Participate in Neighbourhood Watch Groups.
- Exchange phone numbers for emergency purposes.
- Inform neighbours of your absence from home for the week-end, etc.
Most importantly, use your sixth sense. Your intuition is powerful insight into situations and people. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage. Avoid a person or a situation which does not “feel” safe - you’re probably right!