Durban – After two terrifying crime ordeals, Durban teen Camille Bessey, 16, has released a song, Grateful, to turn her trauma into a sense of hope and to share with other victims of crime so they know they are not alone.
Speaking to the Independent on Saturday at her Carrington Heights home on Thursday night, Camille, who is in Grade 11 at Eden College, said it all started in January when armed men broke into their home.
Both her parents are musicians and Camille sings, composes, and plays the guitar and piano. On that evening her mother was out and her father was in his studio in a downstairs section of the house, while her grandmother was asleep upstairs.
“I was sitting on my bed playing my guitar. It was about 8.30 in the evening and I heard the dogs barking and then some crashing sounds.
“I peeked out of my door and saw one guy with a gun standing next to the piano, while I could see another man ransacking the house.
“There was no lock on my door, so I closed it and switched off the lights very quietly and hid in my cupboard. I was terrified. I was messaging my mom and my friends, but I also did not want them to hear me,” said Camille.
Hearing the intruders ransacking the house, she took a chance and tried calling her mother.
Her mother, Chalone Savant, said: “My phone rang and I heard Camille saying ‘oh my God mom, there are men in the house’. I just had to get home.”
She tried calling their police station, but there was no answer, so she contacted their neighbourhood watch.
“Camille had stopped communicating because she didn’t want to alert them. I arrived at the same time as our neighbourhood watch, along with the security company. I could see in the garage that my husband’s car was gone, but there were no bodies, so that was a good sign.
“I called Camille and she came out of the cupboard,” said Savant.
Less than a month later, on February 12, Savant had gone to meet a friend in a street close to their home at about 7pm.
“It was still light and everything was so calm and quiet. I had pulled my car up to the kerb and had just gotten out and was standing on the pavement with my friend, when a car suddenly drove up behind mine. I thought they were looking for directions, but then the doors flew open and four heavily armed men got out. It all happened so fast I had this moment of panic, they had such big guns so I climbed into the passenger seat of the car. I just lay in a foetal position on the floor. They chased my friend away and they shouted at me to get out,” said Savant. The gang drove away in her car.
Camille said that after both incidents, she felt anxious all the ttime about when another violent incident would take place.
“After the hijacking, I needed a creative outlet to express why this had happened. I wrote Grateful because I’m just grateful to be alive. The song just poured out of me and it was just such a relief. I think it’s resonating with people. A lot of my friends have been through crime and I think it’s comforting to listen to and know you are not alone.”
Carrington Heights Neighbourhood Watch’s Wally Coombe said crime in their area was comparable to other suburbs. This week a vehicle was hijacked on Monday while the driver was waiting outside. Another hijacking was prevented on Wednesday night in neighbouring Glenmore when a resident was held up by armed men as he arrived home in his driveway. A Blue Security officer happened to drive down the road and tackled one of the suspects, resulting in the gang fleeing down the road.
Clinical psychologist Cassandra Govender said trauma could have “a profound effect on an individual in a physical and emotional way and we don’t have built-in mechanisms to help ourselves to process trauma”.
She said using creative arts “allows for someone to express intense experiences through a medium which feels safe. It is a way to capture the experience that resonated with an individual but also renders the intense emotions to be manageable again.”
She added that a person may not be able to talk about or describe what is happening after a violent crime which can become overwhelming, but the process of creating was a way to access these emotions to allow for healing.
The song is on YouTube.