How can one live normally among such crime - Argus Friday 11th March 2016

Posted Friday 18th March 2016   By Ericka Waller

There is so much crime, violence and bad news in the papers this week I don’t quite know where to start. The homeless man who had the cardboard he was sleeping on set alight? The Voodoo sex trafficker, Lizzy Idahosa, who used black magic to force women to work as vice girls in a Brighton brothel? The woman who was raped in the middle of the day by Churchill Square as people walked past? It’s a scary thought, that I jostle shoulders with people like this when I go into town. While I dawdle outside my favourite shop windows, idly cooing over teapots , women are being beaten, homeless people are being tortured, houses are being burgled.

But if I saw something, out the corner of my eye, a bag being ripped from a shoulder, a hand being dragged up an alley, what would be the right thing to do. Would I be brave enough to run and help, and would that be bravery, or stupidity?

When I took my daughters into town last week, I clutched hold of their hands so hard they cried out, but I could not lessen my grip. I felt like they were live bait in a sea of zombies. They could be sniffed out at any second. In my mind, all heads to turned to look at them, at me, eyes full of bad intentions.

I’m always planning escape routes in my mind, just in case.

I do not want to hide away out of fear, but nor do I want to tell my daughters the dangers we face each time we leave the house.

They live in an innocent world. Fairy gardens they made in the corner of the playground are still there the day after, waiting for them. 

Today I had to ask them to sign a ‘safety-on-line’ form sent home from the school.  My eldest daughter looked at me when I read out the terms to her ‘But why would I go and meet somebody online?’

How do I tell a little girl who spends her evenings pressing flowers that the world is steeped in evil? That there are people out there who would break her spirit, her body, her soul?

I am not suggesting that fathers and sons do not, or should not have the same level of fear, but do they dread walking alone at night as much as women do? When it’s dark, I take my dog, or call my brother on the phone ‘Talk to me till I’m safely indoors bruv’. I still poke my keys through my fingers, an ancient self-defence tactic that I’ve never had to use.

Brighton’s dirty pavements hold an awful lot of bad blood.

Walking them, I still feel the same jolt of fear that I used to, when my dad would ask me to go and fetch his slippers from upstairs. Our house split into two parts. Whichever side I was going to, I was convinced a man with a gun was stood at the other, waiting for me. The image was so strong I’ve never stopped running downstairs, and my slippers live in the hall.

Where did this fear come from? I’d never seen a man with a gun. Our house got broken into once. We’d come home from school and I walked in and asked where the TV was. My mum looked inside and screamed out me to ‘GET OUT’. I’ll never forget the panic in her voice. Now I know why, she was worried he was still in the house. Worried at what he might do.

It’s a hard thing, being a parent. Your heart is no longer inside your body.  I used to be ignorant enough to skip over the dark stories in the paper, but not any longer. News reports on my phone ping constantly, reminding me, keep alert, you are not safe!  Where are your daughters right this second?

I wish I could give them what I had as a child, ‘a ball and a wall, a hill and a sledge in heavy weather’. Two big brothers who stood either side of me, making me feel invincible. I remember reading ‘Misery’ by Stephen King and being too scared to have the book in my room. I took it to my brother who set it alight on the flat roof. Problem solved.

But these dangers, these crimes, they are not in books I’m reading. I cannot set fire to them and hope they go away, like someone did to the homeless man . I cannot take the world to my brother and ask him to fix it for me like he used to. I’m a parent, an adult, a guardian of lives. Never off-duty, sleeping with one-eye open, always looking for the quickest escape route.

And finally

It was international women's day on Tuesday. One woman in Romania used it as an opportunity to rip off her husband's genitals for not taking over the household chores.

Backed by the United Nations, the focus was supposed to be on 'Pledge for Parity', gender equality goals for the next 15 years, and how women's empowerment is at the centre of global sustainability plans. Sustaining a tidy house is of course one of them, but perhaps 'empowerment' was taken too far in this instance.

As usual there was opposition to the day. One man took to Twitter to demand when men would get an International Men's Day. He received the swift response 'It was on November the 19th, you big man baby'.