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A few minutes can make the difference

20 years ago, I shared an apartment with a flatmate in Paris. One evening, I came back by myself from a party we both attended a couple of streets away. It was dark, the streets were deserted. I was a little apprehensive and I had this weird feeling to be followed. Looking behind me I saw a man who suddenly turned around and look for something in his pocket. I carried on and he started to walk again. I crossed to go to the other side of the street, and he did too. I accelerated, and he followed.

Photo of Marine Barbaroux
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Eventually, I arrived to the entrance of my building, pressed the code of the gate giving access to the 4 buildings in my residence, the door was heavy, and didn’t close before he made his way in.
It could all be a coincidence. He might live in the place. There are 6 floors with 4 flats in each of the 4 buildings. I tried to stay calm and went to the the last building. I started to head up to the 5th floor where I live, and this guy followed me too. I ran upstairs, opened my door, but couldn’t quite close it before he put his foot down and forced his way in. He pushed me in the kitchen, grabbed a knife and told me an incoherent story about someone owing him money. I didn’t know the person he was talking about and I say so. The guy became menacing.
I was scared, and I asked him to calm down, and if we could sit down and talk. For some reason he accepted.  We stayed maybe 45 min sat on my kitchen floor talking, until my flatmate eventually arrived. This scared the man, who jumped on his feet and ran out, pushing my flatmate against the wall.
I called the police on the following day and told my story. However, because the man didn’t actually broke in, stolen anything, or injured me, there was nothing that can be done or reported. After the phone call, I felt guilty to have wasted the time of the officer, and never talked about it again.
From this experience, there are 2 points I’d like to call out:

- Beeing able to ‘buy’ time until someone you know arrives makes a great deal of difference. 

- No real harm was made in my case, and it wasn't my fault... yet I felt bad and guilty about it for months. So what can it be in more extreme situations?  I hear it is often the case that victims feel guiltly. I believe if we could encourage people to talk and share,  it could possibly break the silence and make each individual stronger.
 

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