The Day A Casting Director Saved My Life

Who can it be knocking at my door?

Terrified woman on phone during home invasion Fitzer, MART PRODUCTION | Canva

Stay away, don’t you invade my home.

Excited to see my neighbor Ben’s new outfit, I turned the music down and flung open my apartment door. A young man I didn’t recognize stood at the threshold staring at me. One beat, two beats, puzzled, I said hello. The man shoved me aside, entering my apartment. How rude. I yelled, “Hey!”

He threw his backpack on the kitchen counter, turned, and grabbed me by the back of my neck, then shut the door. Time suddenly stalled to slow motion. My mind cleared of everything except his presence. I could smell his cologne, feel his breath on my skin, sense his fear. I kept thinking: He’s young, he’s scared, why is he doing this?


RELATED: Victim Vs. Survivor: Why The Words You Choose To Use Matter

Our dog Chelsea, usually timid, knew instantly we were in danger. She let out a series of high-pitched barks, taking only a minute to rest before beginning again.

Pointing to the backpack, he said, “There’s a gun and a knife in there, and I don’t want to take them out. Do as I say, or I will.”

My roommate was home, as well as two other friends who had left the New Jersey winter for a quick weekend vacation in sunny California. Four young women, barely out of high school, we had planned a Saturday night out in Hollywood. Things were not going according to plan. The young robber ordered everyone except me into my bedroom. He made it clear that if they tried anything, I’d regret it. The questions lingered in my mind. Is he lying? Are there weapons in his backpack? Will he hurt my friends if I get away from him? Keep everyone safe. That’s what I decided to do.


Chelsea barked and barked and barked. Surely, someone would hear her and come to our door.

The man pushed me forward, tightening his grip on my neck. “Get your jewelry, money, anything valuable.” His staccato breaths and sweaty palms gave away his nervousness. Had he done this before, or was this his first time? 

Chelsea barked and barked and barked. She kept her distance from him, backing up until she reached the balcony door.

My mother had been in a similar circumstance when she was eighteen. I was a one-year-old watching Sesame Street when a man came to our door asking if he could use the phone. He’d told my mother that his car had broken down. She let him in. Fortunately, we were both okay. Years later, whenever my mother talked about that day, she’d tell me to remember that if I was ever in that same situation, I should always do what the assailant wanted and never fight back. Fighting back, she told me, could make matters worse. Her words were at the forefront of my mind. If there was a gun in the backpack, someone could get shot. I decided to try to keep him as calm as possible.




RELATED: Healing From Abuse Has No Time Frame — It's A Journey

Chelsea barked and barked and barked.

“I will throw that dog off the balcony!”

“Let me put her in the bathroom.”

He agreed. Chelsea’s muffled barking continued behind the closed door. Surely, any minute now Ben would come over and know something was wrong.


The man wouldn’t let go of my neck. He guided me around our apartment while giving me orders to search purses and wallets. He wanted to know where we hid our jewelry. We were leasing agents trying to survive in Los Angeles. There were no diamonds or pearls, only trinkets from Claire’s. He glanced at my hand. “Give me that!” I cherished the one ring — my class ring, a tiny gold band with a mother-of-pearl center, comedy, and drama masks, and my initials. He slipped it in his pocket.

When everything but my flute (he had no interest) was taken he led me back to the living room. Finally, he could go. Waiting for him to take his loot and leave, I felt his free hand slide down my back to my hip. He had other plans. Anger flared from within. My fists clenched. Fighting was now on the table.


Way back in 1989, we had an actual landline phone complete with an answering machine.


His hand halted.


I breathed. There’s no way he’ll let me answer.

“Answer it.”


This was my opportunity to get help. WWMD (What would Meryl do) “Hello.”

“Hi, I’m looking for Krista.”

Dramatic pause: “Yes.”

“Are you Krista?”


“Hello, I’m a casting director, and I’m calling to have you come read for us.”

Dramatic pause: “Okay.”

“Can you come in next week?”

Dramatic pause. This was my last chance. I delivered a flat “Yes?” And waited.

Call it women’s intuition or being in the movie-making industry, but she said the words I longed to hear: “Are you okay?”


“Are you in danger?”



There, it was as if it had been written in a screenplay. She knew something was wrong.

“Should I get help?”


Nervous, still squeezing my neck, he yelled, “That’s enough! Hang up!”

The man pushed me to the kitchen counter, grabbed his backpack, and then brought me into the bedroom with the others. He told us all to lay face down on the floor and warned us that if we got up, he’d shoot us.


RELATED: I'm A Rape Survivor And Stripping Helped Me Love My Body Again


Our front door closed.

It was over. We were all okay except for being traumatized, but no one used that word back then. It was a things happen, and you just move on mentality.



Thank goodness for the casting director with her perfect timing and keen sense of the meaning behind dramatic pauses. Wherever you are wonderful casting director, thank you for your call, it may have saved my life.


When the police arrived, the reality of living an adult life with a teen's mind shook my world like an earthquake. The officer scoffed at me, “You mean to tell me there were four of you and just him, and you didn’t take him down?” Not: "I’m glad you’re all safe. You did the right thing; he could have had a gun. I’m sorry this happened to you." No, there was only condemnation after an afternoon of terror. I told the officer he needed to have a chat with my mother. (Not really.)

A week later, a neighbor stopped me in the hall. She asked about the robbery. She explained that the man had knocked on her door first. She hadn’t answered. Then she went on to say that she heard Chelsea barking. Before moving to LA, I’d come from a small town where people baked casseroles and cakes for their neighbors. If someone needed help, people showed up. My neighbor heard Chelsea barking and did nothing? This wasn’t a choice I had known existed. Having been on the other side of it, I’m not a fan.

Jennifer Lopez's Love Don’t Cost A Thing blares from our kitchen CD player while I’m getting dinner ready. The doorbell rings. My kids bolt to the front door and then stop without touching the handle.

My daughter puts her hand in front of her baby brother and instructs him: “Never open the door if you don’t know who it is."


I nod.

“Who is it?”

RELATED: I Am Ready To Share My Story As A Rape Survivor

Krista Rausin is a writer and educator. She is the owner of Banyan Books and has published numerous books for elementary and middle-grade readers.