You’re home alone. It’s late, and you’re finally after drifting off to sleep after a long day, and you hear a loud noise. Immediately, you think of the news article you read a few hours ago about home invasions and rapists attacking in the night. What do you do?
First of all, relax. That unusual sound could be the start of the worst night of your life. Or, and more likely, it’s something harmless. Even if it’s not, stick with me and let me tell you why reacting calmly is a better idea anyway.
How many of you have cats or other pets? If yours are anything like mine, you know in the light of day that they are capable of making plenty of noise…certainly more than their size, freedom, or lack of thumbs would predict. Whether it’s middle-of-the-night zoomies, an accidental (or deliberate) knocking of a breakable off a table, a quest to escape the evil crate, or just footsteps that are landing more loudly than usual because of how quiet the dark is that night, noises are a natural consequence of sharing your space with other living creatures.
Speaking of living creatures, I’m sure many of you have children, spouses, partners, or roommates. Just because they’re supposed to be quietly in bed or out for a few days doesn’t mean they really are. You could be hearing an unusual midnight bathroom trip, a surprise early return that wasn’t quite as stealthy as intended, or the sounds of their own insomnia. Of course, that might mean you need to go comfort your baby, but that’s a far cry from getting amped up to confront an intruder.
It’s not just the people you live with either. You might live out in the middle of nowhere, where the sound of even a passing car can be cause for concern (or a lost soul), but you might also have neighbors that you share walls or streets with. No matter what their usual nighttime habits are, they can change for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they’ve moved and you’re actually hearing new folks, or the switch finally flipped and they’re having a horrible fight, or someone’s collapsed with a medical emergency, or they’re just having really hot sex. Not only can’t you know, you likely can’t do anything about it even if something bad might be happening, because you have too little information to rush in to try to save the day.
And sometimes, the house is against you. Pictures fall off walls, the dishes precariously balanced in the drying rack tumble down, a corner of the building settles and groans. Why none of that happened before, nobody knows, but whatever caused them now isn’t something you can go and fight.
It’s true that the scary sounds you’re hearing really could be someone breaking in to do you harm. That does assume that they both want in and that they want you. It’s more likely if you have a personal enemy, such as a romantic partner you’re trying to leave or if you’re involved in, shall we say, shady business dealings. Outside of those situations, the dude letting themselves into your place probably wants your stuff more than you. Either way, you’re best off holing up in your bedroom. Call the cops from there. Prepare to defend yourself from there. It’s your best ground, for so many reasons, assuming a bad guy even comes through your bedroom door (and they might not!).
A side note: you might be nervous about calling the police over just a strange noise. You don’t want to be the silly, paranoid person calling because you’re afraid of the dark. I get it. If you have reason to believe that sound isn’t innocent though, it’s precisely their job to figure it out. If you find yourself making a habit of it, maybe start examining your assumptions, the security of your home, and even whether you could use a little therapy (we could all use a little therapy, but you know what I mean). In the meantime, call the cops.
Going hunting, even through your own home, is fraught with dangers both tactical and legal. You may know the terrain better, but not if it’s your kid sneaking in late. If it is, will you react appropriately – which is to say, without shooting them? You might deny you’d ever do it now, but it has happened, and more than once, and even with well-meaning parents. And if it really is a stranger, they might be a drunk at the wrong door or someone who would have left you alone. Then what? Your hands will be covered in both their blood and the consequences of confronting them. Even if it’s someone who wants to harm you, even if you aren’t required by law to retreat before defending yourself, staying put and making them come to you buys you time, a more defensible position, and a stronger legal defense, and all of those are important for long-term survival through the incident and beyond.
I’m not saying ignore the bumps in the night. But be realistic about what they might be, and what they might mean you have to do about them.