My friend Alicia B. is a longtime, clued-up city dweller. When her house was broken into and ransacked last year, she never anticipated the emotional tail-spin that followed the crime. Television, the internet and other media are full of good ideas to stay safe and protect your home. But no one actually tells you what to do after the unthinkable happens. In the midst of burglary fallout, Alicia found tactics that helped her regain a measure of “control” over her circumstances.
Break-ins are a disturbing ordeal. This invasion of your personal space can destroy your sense of safety for a long time. Victims report that in burglary fallout, the feeling of loss of control over your life is as bad as the sense of violation.
The emotional and traumatic consequences of a burglary can be long lasting. But let’s look at what you can do to lessen the impact of the robbery and get your life back.
Enhance Your Safety
Immediately improve your existing home security by focusing on visual and physical deterrents. Make the house secure by putting easy install window locks on the windows and do the same for doors.
Curtains on your windows keep your possessions and activities private. Several lights (on timers) that switch on and off randomly, mimic the actions of occupants at home. Use the burglary fallout to become more security savvy.
If you’re a renter, ask the landlord to install a motion-sensitive light outside your entryway. And if you live in an apartment, organize a meeting with other renters/owners in the building. By getting to know your neighbors and sharing common concerns, everyone can benefit. Just being able to put names and faces together enhances security for all the occupants. And if you live in a house, think about starting a neighborhood watch.
Alicia was advised by a friend – who is a police officer – to call her police department and schedule a home security assessment with the Public Safety officer. This helps on two levels; you get solid security ideas for your actual security and a heightened sense of taking back control.
Law enforcement experts advise being very careful around the 30-day mark. Professional thieves know stolen items are usually replaced within a month, and often there’s a repeat break-in or at least an attempt. Don’t leave boxes from your replacement purchases out for garbage removal – it’s worth driving them to a dumpster. Ask your local police department to make extra patrols during the few days marking the 30-day period after the break-in.
Reclaim your space
As soon as the police have finished their investigation, clean up the burglary fallout. Get rid of anything damaged or destroyed in the robbery and remove all reminders of the violation. Change out the affected rooms by redecorating, getting new curtains and rearranging the furniture.
Cleaning and beefing up security is a logical start but you may need to do something to make you feel you’ve reclaimed your home.
You may want to have a house ‘blessing’ party where you have a dinner party and ask everyone to write a new ‘wish’ for your home. Or have a house re-claiming/re-warming party – a personal version of “Take Back the Night” events where communities gather after dark to emphasize night-time safety after a crime.
These are just some of the steps that have helped others work their way through burglary fallout but if your home or apartment develops a “black cloud”, then moving may be your only recourse.
Reclaim your life
The enormous sense of violation is worsened when victims feel like they’ve lost “control” over their life and/or situation. It’s OK to be angry; you are ready to fight back. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other burglary victims in your community and online for support.
Once your home feels more like your space again, you’ll have to tell yourself, you really are safe and take it one day at a time. Others who have experienced burglary fallout say leaving lights on (temporarily), burning scented candles, and having TV or music on as background noise all helped initially.
If you become fearful or have excessive anxiety symptoms, visit a counselor. Break-ins (especially home invasions) can lead to a disorder called PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – a serious condition that responds well to counseling. Don’t be embarrassed or scared to seek help.
As survivors of burglary fallout will tell you, it takes time. But you will recover your “normal.” Have you been a victim of a burglary? What worked for you? We’d love to hear all about it… please tell us in the comments.