The First Time – Aftermath

After that first time, I slipped into what I can now recognize as a depression. I kept visualizing the invaders walking around my house, touching my things, sizing up what was worth taking. I wondered if they would’ve hesitated to use that knife on me. I wondered if anyone walked by, suspecting nothing – or suspecting something but carrying on.

I told a few people. They all meant well, I’m sure. I wouldn’t have the perfect reaction either, but it was rough. Some gave blank stares. A few expressed sympathy. Most offered unsolicited suggestions about how to improve home security:

Get a dog!

Get a security system!

Install new locks!

I have a magic doorbell that allows me to see and talk to people through my cell phone!

You should move to Raleigh where it is much safer!

These “helpful hints” began to infuriate me. They implied that if I had been a better citizen this wouldn’t have happened, which in turn implies that this was my fault. I was feeling isolated and ashamed, yet I was supposedly living in a great neighborhood where people lived for decades with no problems.

I withdrew more and more, gradually speaking to no one about it. I didn’t want their advice and I hated the way I felt when talking about it. I subconsciously felt that speaking of this trauma made me look weak. Plus, had I inadvertently done something to deserve it – should I have gotten a cheaper car? (It’s a lease, in case anyone cares.) Maybe picked a smaller TV? What if a repairman or passer-by decided I deserved to be brought down a notch? What if I had been more outgoing, nicer to my neighbors so they would watch out for me a little more?

Often I tried to pretend it never happened. Yet every day when I got home, I would habitually glance in the living room before I stepped in. If the new TV was still there, I figured I was safe. I repaired the damage as best I could, bought a few items of replacement jewelry, and took various steps to make it harder to get in (and out) of the house. I browsed a pawn shop and pondered the ridiculousness of “shopping” for stuff I already owned. I even tried to find some gratitude that they did not break anything in the house. I hid the few valuables that weren’t taken and told myself this was a freak thing that wouldn’t – couldn’t – happen again. There was no way of knowing I would be proven wrong just a few months later.

Here are some things I recommend saying if you ever have a friend or loved one experience this (or any crime, really). Please do not give them unsolicited advice about how to avoid future crimes. Please do share if you have been through a similar experience and how you got through it. Thank you to the kind and supportive people who said these things.

I’m sorry.

I have been thorough this too.

I know this is not something you can get over quickly.

I know from experience that the worst part is not losing stuff, but the violation of your space and feeling of safety.

And one “tip” that was actually helpful: Theft losses can be tax deductible (Uncle Sam later determined I didn’t qualify for this, but it’s a real thing)