Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Burglary Victim’s Survival Guide

It’s taken some weeks for me to feel in a position to write this post though I have realised for some time that I must. The day after we were broken into (for the second time in twelve hours) I was sat at work, desperately typing into Google ‘coping with burglary’ and trying not to cry all over my keyboard. The whole experience hit me like a ton of bricks. But I realised that how I reacted in those difficult days after it happened would define how I coped with it long term. It was the beginning of overcoming it or the beginning of it overcoming me. 

During my Google search I came across so many devastating stories of people who had moved out of their homes, slept under the window they were broken in through to try and stop it happening again, lives that were ruined by the experience. Perhaps it sounds dramatic but I can completely understand that reaction. Reading those stories, however, convinced me that I must do everything in my power to get back to living my life how I had before. So this is my story about doing just that and I hope it will be useful to any one wading in the Google waters or (God forbid) it should it ever happen to you.

Firstly, being broken in to is devastating. If you feel devastated then you are completely normal. Your safe place, the place you shut the door to get away from the rest of the world, has been taken from you. If you are anything like me you will feel that there is no where you can rest. That is painful and emotional (and very tiring). Getting over it is a process but like any difficult time, it will end. You will feel normal again in your home. It’s now four weeks since we were broken in to and I am sleeping as well as I did before the break in, life does go back to normal. In this interim as you wait out this frankly horrible time there are a few things that might help, things that helped me:

1.       Lean on, and stay with, friends
This one took some convincing for me as I wanted to guard my house like a pit bull but it was the best thing I did in the days after the break in at the suggestion of a friend. My logic is this, you are most likely exhausted and in need of a good night’s sleep to cope with everything that you have to sort out and to get on with the business of feeling better. Your house and possessions are not as important as your sanity. Get the rest you need.

If you know your neighbours then now is the time to call in those favours and ask to stay over. You’ll be close enough to pop home and check on things if you’d like. I remember putting my head down on my pillow and thinking ‘I’m safe’ for the first time in days. I slept like a log.  

2.       Clean
Once the police have been and collected all the evidence they need you will be left with the mess to sort out. Give the house a really thorough clean. For me this was really helpful psychologically, it allowed me to begin the process of moving on. I was removing the presence of the intruders and reclaiming the space for myself.

3. Security
 This perhaps goes without saying but do all you can to make your house feel safe and secure again. This might be an alarm (you can get great wireless ones now if you are a renter or window alarms for £15), a security light, some new locks, some net curtains, a safe for your valuables. Whatever you can do will be helpful to your peace of mind.

4.  Signs to remind you of your resolution to get through it
Stubbornness and a refusal to give over your life and wellbeing over to a (insert angry word!) situation gets you a long way, I find. You can’t control what happens to you in life but you can control how you respond. Don’t let it beat you.

To remind yourself of you intent to take your life and home back I found some visible reminders useful. Get yourself a bunch of flowers. I put a big vase of yellow roses in front of one of the broken windows and every time I looked at it it reminded me that this was MY house and of my resolution to myself to get through it. I also wrote a message to myself on the chalk board in our kitchen which was just before you reached the second broken window at the back of the house. This read ‘And we know that God works all things for the good of those that love him’ which is from the book of Romans in the New Testament. This helped me to remember, before I saw the boarded window again, that however rubbish I felt now, I would overcome. Whatever your message to yourself, get it written up there. It really helps.

 5.   Decorate
A couple of weeks later I had a thorough re decoration of our bedroom, I moved around furniture and made the space much lovelier than it was to begin with. This really helped me to feel positive when I walked into the room rather than think always about the break in.

6.  Treat yourself
Meals out, bars of chocolate, a new dress - now is not the time to scrimp and save. Whatever you can do to make this time more positive and more enjoyable for yourself then do it. Give yourself lots of TLC and let other look after you. You’d do the same for them.

 7.   Take your time
Try not to berate yourself if you’re still struggling a few weeks in. It will get better but it’s normal for that to take time. You’re bound the feel nervous and struggle to get back the positive feelings about your house. It WILL come. Tell people if you feel down, let them support you.  There are organisations out there, like Victim Support, set up to help you through. Use them if you want to. There is no shame in that.

Likewise you might experience sudden bouts of anger in the strangest of situations. Speaking to other people who have been broken into, this is not uncommon. A few weeks after the break in I was inexplicably furious for days. I thought it couldn’t be related to what had happened as it was ages ago by then (in my mind!) until someone else who had been broken into gently said ‘I was very angry for a long time after I was broken in to.’ It suddenly clicked into place. With time I started to feel better and I could at least explain my actions to the poor souls that got in my way!!

I wish you well as you pick up the pieces of what has happened. If you hold on to nothing else, then hold onto this IT WILL GET BETTER.

34 comments:

  1. Nicola, this is such a useful and brave post to have written so soon after what happened. I really hope lots of people will find it and be helped by it.

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  2. It's amazing what people come across via a google search! I thought rather than just ending up on my post ranting about hedge trimming this might be somewhat more useful!

    x

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  3. I'am a victim myself this just happen on Thanksgiving morning.
    was actually sleeping when this happened...
    Have not been able to sleep since...

    At night I think they are watching me, I Don't want to leave the house because I think , that if I leave they will come in again.

    My husband is out of town for business & wont be back in another 2 weeks. but we are planning to get all the security there is possible!!!

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    1. So sorry to hear this happenned to you, and on Thanksgiving :( The feeling of being in the house when it happens makes you feel truly vunerable. it's just horrible. But really, really it does get better with time, I promise. Be sure to look after yourself while your going through this hard time.


      Nicola

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  4. Hello. Thanks for the page its good advice.

    I got burgled in October 2012 and I still cant get over it, it happend at 10pm it was just me and my 6 month old son at home in bed at the time, few men came in an ransacked the house luckily they didn't have time to get to my room when the police arrived, all they took was baby clothes an a games console. But I have sinced lived in fear when the nights come, my husband works away throughout the week and when he is away I cant sleep, the slightest noise an I'm panicking. I cant even bear to put my son in his own room I keep him in bed with me so I have him close. I have strict security routine bht still I'm not comfortable to sleep, I only fall asleep when I'm so tired but the slightest bang an I'm wide awake.

    Don't know if u have any ideas on how I can get over this.
    Thank you

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    1. Hi there,

      I'm so so sorry to hear about your awful experience. That must have been so scary for you. I know when we were broken into for the second time (also while we were sleeping) I found it really distressing. With your little one as well I can see how tough it must be to get over it.

      Have you thought about speaking with someone at Victim Support? They can put you in touch with people you can speak to locally to you. The burglary page is http://www.victimsupport.org.uk/Help-for-victims/Different-types-of-crime/Burglary

      The only thing I would say is please don't give up trying to get your life and wellbeing back. It really can and does get better. Speaking to someone one on one might be a good next step. I hope Victim Support are helpful for you.

      Take care,

      Nicola

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    2. Thank you so much I will give them a try, ill do anything to feel safe again.

      Thank you :)

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  5. Experiencing a break in is indeed a devastating and life-changing incident. It can make us feel uncomfortable to sleep and stay in our own house, which is probably the only safe place we know. Instead of thinking about the incident over and over again, what you must do is to move on with your life and think that this happened for you to learn that having a security system is a must. Those precious things that were taken from you will go back to you, triple or more. There are more good things that will come to you. ->Odessa Hanton

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    1. That is great advice Odessa, thank you.

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  6. Thanks. My place was broken into while I was out of townbut the word thing is they didn't take anything which freaks me out. This is day two of me being back and I'm nervous being in this house alone...in MY house. This sucks. But great article none the less.

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    1. Glad it was in someway helpful. The nerves do I get better. I think about it less and less as time goes on. Hope it has been the same for you.

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  7. My business was broken into this week.... All my money was taken. I feel so violated and mad, angry and so so sad. I just want to get rid of everything and crawl into my bed and lay there forever.

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    1. So, so sorry to hear that. It is an awful feeling that takes time to get over. I hope you've been feeling an improvement over the last few weeks and the business is back on track.

      Nicola

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  8. 2 days ago I returned from running errands. I always park on the side of our home but I had a guy coming to pump our septic tank so I pulled in by our front door, as I got out of the car I heard a noise, when I looked up a black man was running off into the woods with a sack over his shoulder. At that moment I didn't realize he had been in my home. I was freaked out, grabbed my stuff outta the car and ran inside and locked the door. My dog didn't come running as always which worried me, as I walked past our bedroom I saw we had been robbed, at that moment I have never been so scared, I called the police who arrived quickly, I was a mess, at first I could only see a few things missing, tv, playstation and my jewelry box. They brought a k9 unit out and with in 30 minutes of me calling the man was apprehended, I Id'd him and he was taken to jail. I found out after that he had taken my little girls laptop, he had been through my drawers in our bedroom and touched our bed taking the pillow case to haul stuff away . He had cleared out stuff from my night stand, had a copy of my Drivers license. I spent all day yesterday washing everything in my home, scrubbing carpets and wiping anything and everything down I thought he could have come in contact with. The night it happened i made my husband remove all our bed stuff and wash it, I refused to get in my bed knowing this man had touched it. I had a lock smith come out and change all our locks and install a security plate on our side door so it couldn't be pried open again.
    Everything was recovered, which made us happy but I can't get past knowing this man came into my home saw family photos, touched things in my bedroom, I do feel violated and it's upsetting. I didn't sleep that night it happened, I had to take a sleeping pill to sleep last night, every noise scares me, I know he's in jail but that fear that some one might try and come in again, the what ifs go through my head, what if my daughter wasn't in school and we were home , what if I hadn't gotten lost on my errands, I could have walked in on the robbery, what if he had a gun? the whole thing is hard to deal with

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    1. That must have been terrifying. The feeling of violation is massive and horrible, your private sanctuary has been trespassed in and I know that made me feel massively insecure and like there was no where I was safe.

      So glad they managed to catch him so quickly, but yes, the what ifs still hang about. I am in a new house now but still worry about being broken in to again and listen twice for strange noises.

      It has gotten so much better with time however and I think about it so much less. I know that will be the same for you. Meanwhile, take care of yourself in this difficult time.

      All the best,

      Nicola

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  9. About a month ago while watching tv on a sunday nite , 2 men barged into our home. My husband was asleep on the sofa next to me .One of the men jabbed my husband in the eye with a metal pole causing him to get up and at that point the burglar started to punch him in the face.I hovered over my husband asking the burglar to calm down at that point the second man shot a firearm.Terrorized they yelled at us to go downstairs, in the hallway my 16 year old son walked out of his room and was approched by one of them , ther another shot went off and my husband yelled out he's my son , I again hovered over my son and told the man that he's only a child . We then went down the stairs and upon opening the door I saw my 21 year old son, with a mothers eyes looking into his I nervously told him to keep calm. The burglars asked me to open the outside door and I did so without looking into the faces of other 2 men who came in. They then asked us to sit down. When my husband was asked were our safe was under shock he calmly said we don't have a safe but I will give you all we have.The burglar turned to me and said no the lady will get it. As I walked up the stairs with a gun pointed to my back I realized no matter what happend I could not allow my husband and sons to react as they remained seated in the dark with a gun pointed at them.Every step I tried to relax my body and with one step at a time I almost felt my mind wandering off ,thinking to myself it will be over soon just do as he says.I went into my bathroom and on my vanity was my diamond solitaire,he saw me looking and yelled at me to stop fooling him, I found my ring and said no no I wanted to get this for you and placed it into his hand.My fear was that they would get mad if it was found after.I then walked into my closet and grabbed my bag of jewlery, he asked me to sit on the bed then he showed me his gun and told me that he would kill me if I moved.He procided to put my stuff in a pillow sac. Fortunately he was satified with what he had and we went back to my family. They used duct tape to tie us and then fled with our car. They have been captured and their dna was found in our car.I thanked God the moment they left and again and again for leaving us unharmed phisically. Mentally I feel afraid,angry and often cry when I'm alone. Your article made me feel courage again that with time it will pass,Thank You .

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    1. You are so, so brave. That must have been so terrifying and you are amazing to have got through it. It really will get better with time. Meanwhile have you got people around you can rely on and have a good cry with? I really hope so, this is the time to lean on all those people.

      Look after yourself

      Nicola

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  10. i was burgled last night - come home to find i was locked out and they removed my window. i feel gutted. my possesions took. place trashed the lot. i live alone with my 18 month old baby - a 22 year old girl. i feel so scared. they took my phone with all my beautiful photos of my darling little girl that i will never get back. how horrible are these people. i dont even want to go back and i no im going to be petrified. i feel so betrayed. :-(

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    1. That is awful, I'm so sorry. The personal items that can never be replaced are so hard to let go of. In my house my whole jewellery box was taken. None of it was worth anything really but it meant so much to me as a good friend who is now very unwell gave it to me.

      Hang on in there, as each day goes by it will get a little easier. You little one with bring those rays of sunshine back into your day.

      Look after yourself,

      Nicola

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  11. I came home from work to find my flat burgled last night, and this morning I sit here having taken the day off work to guard it, like a pit bull as you say. Yours is the first advice I have read and it has already made me feel better. Thank you so much.

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  12. Our home too was violated one week ago today. You described my feelings to a tee. Thank you for your post. M

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  13. I came home a week ago to find my door wide open and my house burglarized. It is a terrible thing to go through and i find myself wondering if i will ever be okay again.

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  14. I was woken up in the early hours of saturday morning with a noise which sounded unusual, as i am a light sleeper i got up and looked over the stairs where i saw a light flashing i screamed to my husband he got out of the bed, by then i was already down the stairs screaming like a banshee using words i have never used before, i think the burglar was more scared of me than i was of him i was furious how dare some one break into my home and take things from me and mine, he managed to get out of the back door and over my two neighbours fences both which are 6foot. The police were excellent here within 5 minutes the dog unit and helicopter were also scrambed but they got away out of all the things they took my husbands wedding ring was one of them after 42 years of never taking it off just cant believe it, still so angry two days later i would have hurt him still want to often wondered how i would react in these circumstances now i no but it could be something to do with the fact i cant sleep

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  15. My elderly father's house was burgled after he moved to assisted living. Everything of value was stolen and the thief was never caught. When we filed an insurance claim, the company notified us that since the house was unoccupied they were canceling his policy. His only option was to take out a high-risk policy which was very expensive.

    Even now, years later, I still recall how violated I felt. I dreaded telling Dad but he took it far better than I did. He agreed to have a security system installed -- a little late as there was nothing left that was worth taking. Rather than purchase a high-risk policy, he decided to sell the house.

    There was no sign of forced entry. I clearly remembered checking to be sure the doors were locked on my bi-weekly visit to check on the house. Either the lock was picked or a key was used. The police asked who had access to the spare key, which was at my house. They immediately targeted my 19 year old daughter and her boyfriend as the thieves. All my mother-bear instincts rushed in as I hotly insisted that my daughter was not a thief and neither was her boyfriend. "She is my father's only grandchild. He would have given her anything in this house that she wanted, so why would she steal from him?" I discovered how humiliating a police interview can be. No matter what I said in my daughter's defense, they seemed to twist it.

    The young people were interviewed and I suppose they were cleared, for we never heard back from the police.

    A caution to anyone who has elderly parents in nursing homes or assisted living. If the house where they lived is unoccupied, remove all valuables. Get a security system installed or consider renting the house. Keep the grass mowed. When you visit the house to check on things, be absolutely sure that all doors and windows are locked.

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  16. Thank you so much for this.. my garden was broken into, they tried to enter the house (I was inside) but luckily didn't succeed, although they didn't manage to take anything it was terrifying looking out of the window and seeing 4 strangers with torches going through my shed and shining torches straight at me. The feeling of no longer being safe in your own home is horrible :(

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  17. i was broken into and all that was taken was my safe, which had three years saving in cash. i am so angry at myself and i want to blame someone but i cant prove anything. the cops could care less. no fingerprints were found. no one has a key but me and maintenance staff. maybe i left the door unlocked but i doubt it. i was high on cold medicine and in a mad rush out the door. i sleep all the time. ive lost 20 lbs. i go to my therapist once a week. i meditate , do breathing exercises. its hard for me to focus. i feel like ending my life. i feel so alone and now how can i trust anyone.?

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    1. Hi Taylor, I'm so sorry for what happened to you. It's no wonder you are finding things so hard. All I can say is hang on in there, it will get better and there are so many wonderful things in your future. You will get past this. My twitter handle @nicolahwriter if you want to chat more. look after yourself xx

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  18. Thank you for a great article.

    My flat was burgled a few days ago. Fortunately I wasn't there nor my cat.

    Ransacked. Stuff stolen. Not insured.

    Still not been back. Going tomorrow for a first visit with my friend's Dad. Petrified.

    Signed off work for two weeks as so traumatised.

    Waiting to hear from Victim Support.

    My lucky thing is so many people have offered me love and support.

    I can take friends with me when I start tidying and cleaning.

    I don't know how I would live there on my own again but one day at a time.

    Whole life upside down.

    xx

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  19. I am not sure if people read this anymore but I need to vent and get my story out there. Three days ago, I went out with some friends. I met these guys who seemed very nice. They bought me some shots and i believe they put a drug in it because I could not even walk after that. Somehow I lost my friends. The guys took me home. I don't remember much after that but I woke up with having some items stolen from me. I keep cleaning up my place and noticing more things missing. It scares me and I feel awful that I put myself in that situation. They stole a vest, nike shoes, a bluetooth speaker, $12 dollars, and a bottle of wine. But they mostly stole my safety from me. It scares me that they will come back. I am just trying to move on. I try telling my friends and they just don't understand. I am praying for guidance and peace. I want to go home and feel safe again. I want it to feel like my home again. Thanks for reading my story.

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    1. I'm so sorry for what happened to you, that must have been so very scary. Can completely understand that it is taking some time to move on. I do still read these posts, they pop up in my inbox and I'm glad it was a place you could share your story. I now blog over at http://vicarsteaparty.blogspot.co.uk so do feel free to contact me through there.

      prayer for you as you go through this difficult time,

      Nicola

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  20. I was burgled over last weekend, they took all my electronics and jewelry, and I just can't wrap my head around it... I just feel angry and scared all the time... I flit between "I can't cope" and "I'll fight the whole world", sometimes several times a day. I just don't know what to do...

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    1. Hi Ian, I felt very much like that too from despair to huge anger and back again so many times in the day. Hang on in there, you really will feel better with time

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  21. Hi Nicola, I'm glad I came across your post.

    I was burgled three weeks ago and I already suffer with anxiety & depression so you can imagine how this has set my recovery back quite a bit.

    We were all sleeping upstairs when the burgler(s) came in through the kitchen window, not much was taken just small electronic times, but it's the thought that there were people in my house while we were sleeping and my two daughters too.

    I get anxious when coming home from work when I get near my house I just want to move but we are renting and have to fulfill our contract for 5 more months.

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  22. Hi Nicola,
    I'm glad to find someone with advice on this type of situation.
    My 86yr old father's house was ransacked and robbed while he was away for a week. The intruders didn't seem to get too much that was important or valuable but thay absolutely trashed the rooms upending furniture pullinf things from cupboards and generally throwing as much stuff around as they could. My father is upset but seems to be coping I on the other hand am having a very strange reaction. This is the plzce where my children spent a lot of special and happy times with their grandparents and there are still sentimental keepsakes of their childhood around. My mother passed away in 2007 and she made this place a safe haven for my boys to be as I had to cope with being widowed in 2005 . This event has somehow hooked into the emotional scar of both my mother's and husband's death and I am finding myself extremely emotional.
    I am also dealing with my recovery from cancer in 2010. My father is a strong, independent senior but I am concerned about this impacting badly on him ,he'll remain stoic ex military
    is his background but I am worried how to help him when my visceral reaction to this has taken me by surprise it is surprisingly unsettling and raw as to how I feel it like it was my house invaded .
    Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.
    Sandy.

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