Jane (not her real name), shares her experience during an armed robbery in Port Moresby a few weeks ago. The mother of two was planning on taking her two kids to work that Saturday but didn’t.
I never used to think about what motivates me, until I had children.
I am a single mother, I have two beautiful , highly intelligent and energetic boys from two failed relationships. I acknowledge their fathers for their existence, but I alone shoulder all the responsibility to provide for them, and my family and close friends support me in every way they can.
I wouldn’t have some form of sanity without them
I work as a manager in a start-up company that is located in a fast developing area of the city. By that, I mean vacant land being developed. It is a high risk area if one doesn’t take appropriate security measures.
I’ve brought my eldest son to work with me a couple of times when his aunty had to take the baby to the clinic, so he’s familiar with my office and my colleagues.
On a sunny Saturday morning, October 7, 2017, I decided to take my sons and their aunty to work with me and then at lunch we would go to the airport to meet my cousin arriving from Lae. However my gut instinct said otherwise, and I went to work alone. I’m so glad I went alone.
When things are going well, people tend to get comfortable and overlook the details that matter. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was only one security guard on duty, and only three other female staff in the office with my boss and his wantok. All other staff were either on their newly rostered day off or out doing office runs.
At 11:30 am I began a meeting with 3 clients. Fifteen minutes later, the office door slowly opened, and a bearded man peered in, made eye contact with me, and then shut the door. Since he looked like the everyday customer who comes to the office, I assumed he was looking for my colleague. Five seconds later he opened the door, and pushed a sawn off double barrelled shot gun through the door, whilst holding the lime green and black backpack he had hidden it in.
It was like watching an action movie in slow motion. As if from a distance I heard him calmly and quietly say “yupla olgeta putim han lo head na slip go daun lo floor” (everyone put your hands on your heads and lie down on the floor) I then realized he had the gun pointed at me.
My clients, two elderly gentleman and an elderly lady, there to discuss land development options for their traditional land, joined me as we all calmly put our hands on our heads, got off the chairs, and lay down on the floor.
Through the open door, I saw the other robbers with pistols pushing the 3 other female staff into my boss’s office, ordering them all to lay down on the floor. I could see the youngest girl crying and trying not to make a sound.
Unknown to me, these men had come in like customers, asked questions on the products and then quietly informed the female staff that it was a hold up, before proceeding to take out the decoder for the security cameras. No noise to indicate anything was wrong.
I had a gun to my head, I was lying on the floor in another office, and all I could think about was my sons. Oh God, I almost brought them with their aunty to the office!
What if the guy decided to rape and murder me in front of these people, in front of my children, just because he could? Images of random people, places, scenes from my childhood, flashed through my mind, accompanying the images of my sons, each at their moment of birth, all bloody, and crying in rage at new sensations flooding their five senses.
What if I die today? Will they remain with my family and forever be known as “pikinini nogat papa na mama indai pinis?” Will they each be sent to their respective father’s families? Will their fathers women love and treat them like only I could? Will they be told about me, about how fierce my love for them is? How I would be willing to kill anyone who threatened to harm them?” Such a lifetime of thoughts and feelings in a few seconds.
The man was calmly but repeatedly asking me ‘money where? Ol tokim mi olsem money stap lo displa room, lo displa bag!’ as he checked my bag and my purse. Finding nothing, he then turned my bag over, removed the inner bag and strew all the contents on the desk and floor.
He put the gun on me again and asked where the money was, I told him ‘brata, nogat money lo disla office, files tasol. Money sa stap lo accounts office.’ He then went out, talked to the other man at the accounts office. Then he returned, picked my purse from the floor, took my ID cards, phones, grabbed the 3 laptops in the office and walked out. I thought he had gone.
He walked back in, came around to where I was lying down and then said ‘sister, mi mas checkim pocket blo yu too and then put his hands on me, pressing on my thighs, on the places where pockets would be, even though it was obvious that the trousers I wore had no pockets. After confirming there were no pockets in my trousers, he then got up and left.
Every woman who has ever had a man touch her against her will knows exactly what I’m talking about. I couldn’t breathe in those few seconds. Fear, rage, disgust, humiliation, revulsion. I wanted to vomit. There were innocent people lying there seeing this man put his hands on me, checking the clothes I had on, even though he knew there were no pockets. Oh my God, what if I had brought my children, what if they had seen that? I wanted to claw at somebody’s face, I wanted to scream out my revulsion at the sensations running though my body. My fight or flight reaction was starting to kick in, the adrenalin running though my veins kept me from fainting with fear.
A flood of thoughts ran through my mind, and I kept focusing on my children. “Just think of them, no matter what happens, you have to get through this because you have to raise your children alone. You have to raise these boys to become good men, honourable men, who know how to work hard for what they want in life.
I almost brought my children to work today. that thought replayed in my mind the whole afternoon at the police station and at the shops.
For the first time in a very long time, I got so drunk I couldn’t remember what happened in the bar that night. I know I got into an argument with the father of one of my boys. I didn’t want to go home for fear of bringing this bad thing into my children’s and family’s lives.
I now cannot walk in a public place for too long without getting panic attacks, I’m experiencing paranoia, that the next bearded man I see will pull out a knife or gun and point it at me.
At work, I don’t want to see customers or clients opening the door of the office I sit in.
Since the company I work for doesn’t offer any medical insurance, I cannot go for counseling or therapy.
It seems no one cares about the aftereffects of these crimes , I have been told to suppress any complaints I have and to just keep on working. I find no interest in joining conversation with colleagues, those who were not present can never understand. I am physically present, yet my mind has shifted to a different plane.
Now the only reason I wake up each day and walk on is because I have two boys to raise up to be good men.