When you think of the impact of a home invasion or burglary, you probably think of the loss of valuables and the cost financially.
However, it’s the mental trauma and the feeling of being victimised that really hurts, at least that’s what the research tells us.
The mental impact of a home invasion can be long-term
In an article in the L.A. Times, Sigfredo A. Cabrera, research director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, reports that upon the discovery that their home has been broken into, people tend to feel “anger, disgust, fear, and a sense of being violated.”
In some cases, Cabrera notes, emotions can be as extreme as panic and shock, even leading to uncontrollable bouts of crying.
In a paper titled “Post traumatic stress reactions following burglary” published in the journal Traumatology, the authors write that, of the people they studied, “As a group, victims of burglary reported post-traumatic stress symptoms at a medium level of severity, while 41% met the cutoff for the high level of severity.”
Fearful in your own home
Another downside to being burgled is the anxiety that people feel in their own homes, the place where we ought to feel most safe.
On one hand, leaving the home makes them worry about another break-in. But staying at home, particularly late at night, can fill them with a fear of a second invasion.
The problem can be all the worse if the burglars aren’t caught. According to Cabrera, as the victim continually wonders who committed the crime, everybody can start to become a suspect in their minds – even friends and neighbours. This festering distrust could potentially complicate personal relationships, causing even more stresses for the victim.
Victim Support, an independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales, reports that of the 1,000 burglary victims surveyed as a part of their Take No More campaign, 1 out of 4 adults felt that their ability to ensure their families’ safety was affected by the break-in. A large number of those studied started to feel more fearful that they would become victim to other types of criminal activity, such as a robbery or violent crime.
Most people don’t cope well
Unfortunately people don’t cope that well after being burgled. Wrestling with the psychological effects of a home invasion is tough, and people deal with the anxiety in different ways.
The community-based non-profit Victim Support Service Incorporated explains that common reactions include anger, a focus on augmenting home security measures, and cleaning or reordering the house due to “feelings of contamination and violation”.
Others go as far as burning their possessions, reports Cabrera, or even selling their house and moving to a new home to regain peace of mind.
“There is no quick solution in dealing with the feelings that result after a house break,” cautions Victim Support Service, advising home invasion victims to talk about their experience with people they trust, such as family members, friends, or co-workers.
Unfortunately the effects of crime can be long lasting and difficult to overcome. It’s not just money and material possessions at stake. And while you can’t 100% prevent a home invasion, you can put measures in place to greatly reduce your risk.