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"I'm tired of being afraid in my own house."

I have a confession. I am a huge scaredy cat.

I’m thirty years old, a confident individual, a mother of young children. But every time my husband goes away I revert back to a frightened child, petrified of every noise, scared of every shadow in my own house, counting the days until he comes home.

I think I’ve always been a bit of a wuss but I hate that fact that I rely on a man to make me feel safe. The sad reality of this world is that as a woman, I am vulnerable. And without him, I know it.

Now that I have children the feeling is only amplified. I am acutely aware that if someone was to break in, it’s me who is to be the protector. It’s me who is the front line. I am so painfully aware that faced with a man (or someone on drugs) my physical statue would fail me. Physically I am no match but I like to think (and I have thought, at all hours of the night) that if this situation was to unfold my mumma bear instincts would step in and superhuman strength would flood my veins allowing me to protect my babies.

My husband recently went on a trip overseas which lasted about three weeks. Each night he was gone I would stay up watching television until early in the morning, even though my eyes were closing with fatigue. I’d check my children a hundred times, making sure the windows and doors in their rooms were still locked, just as they had been the last time I checked.

I stay up watching TV just to pass the time. Image: istock

It's embarrassing to admit but I lock the doors an uncountable number of times and have even started putting a chair against them. Why? I'm not really sure. I guess I just thought that if someone tried to open the door I would hear the noise and have time to call for help.

I try and shower when the kids are awake because too many times I've heard a noise while under the running water and darted back out to check that everything is all right.

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I assess my neighbours and wonder who would come if I called for help. Would they hear me? Which one of my friends lives the closest to me. Would I be better to call them, or the police if needed?

I sleep with my phone next to my head, ready in case I do have to call for help. When I turn out the lights, each shadow, every noise prevents me from drifting into a peaceful slumber. I think the children's nightlight in the hallway provides me with just as much reassurance as it does them. I'm a grown woman, why am I afraid of the dark!?

Some nights I've calculated how many more hours of darkness I have to get through before the dawn light breaks through and lets me know that all is ok again. Each morning I wake relieved that nothing happened after I fell asleep.

I hate that I feel like this. I know that women live alone all over the world. I hate that the world has made me feel unsafe even in the walls of my own home. I hate that I need a man next to me to sleep properly. What a sad world it is when the news is more terrifying than the horror movie on the other channel.

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But I'm not the only one.

When I confessed my behaviour to my friends I discovered that I was not a special case. Friends agreed and said that they slept with the TV on low just for some distraction, that somehow the flickering lights made them feel better. Others said that when their partner travelled they got brothers or sisters to stay over, or even went to stay back with their parents.

But I'm not doing it anymore.

This is my house. These are my children. I have no reason to feel afraid. When my husband goes away, I am taking back the 'me' time. I'm getting back in to my hobbies, I'm lying in the bath reading a book and goddammit, I'm going to bed when I want to.

The evil of the world cannot be ignored but it also cannot be empowered and right now that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm giving power to the men who like to make women feel afraid, of those who like to control and intimidate others. Sure, I'm not going to leave the doors open at night for anyone to walk in but I'm also not going to exhaust myself fighting sleep because I'm afraid of what might happen if I do.