I was sleeping, but some rustling noises woke me up and I unconsciously reacted to them by jumping out of bed and running into the living room, where the noises were coming from. Them BAM! There he was — a hugely tall guy one foot away from me, in the middle of tearing through my living room. I was being robbed.
It felt like a nightmare and I froze in horror. He took off through the front door with his arms full of my shit. I eventually unfroze and looked out the front door, and he was already in my car. My keys and purse were in my entryway so it was an easy escape. I had various thoughts race through my mind about trying to stop him from stealing my car, but then I slammed my apartment door shut and went to fetch my phone to call 911. Then I realized he’d stolen my cell phone, too. I started panicking not knowing how to call for help, then noticed the knife he dropped, laying on the floor by my bedroom door. Had he been in my bedroom while I was sleeping? I can only wonder.
I found out that he had broken in by getting the back window open, which is located next to the door so they could get their arm through and open the lock. A terrible setup. He took my purse with all my IDs, money, and cards, so I had no way to get a rental car until I finally got a new license and cards in the mail a week later. I could not work for a month because I was so dysfunctional and sleep starved. I could barely function. I had bad PTSD symptoms for a couple of months, and still have intrusive, but not as debilitating symptoms. I am forever changed, this I know. My brain and sense of security are altered. Prior to this, many years ago, I had a different car stolen from a lot, and it was difficult financially. Yes, it made me feel violated, but I didn’t feel directly physically threatened WITHIN my own mostly secure home.
Having someone break into your house while you are in it is an entirely new level of horror.
Having someone break into your house while you are in it is an entirely new level of horror. I do not feel safe — I feel extremely vulnerable. I feel personally targeted and like I must be perceived as an easy conquest, since I was home when it happened. I noticed a mark on the window he reached through, so I was cased and specifically selected in advance. I feel very lucky, too, that I did not get attacked. But I am still not okay.
Worse still, sometimes they come back. The main cop in my case warned me about that. Sure enough, two months later, I came home from work and the back glass storm door had been messed with and they had dropped and left the prying tool between the storm door and regular door before giving up. So my added security measures worked. They could not get in. I added both external and internal security and extra security to my car. I moved away anyway.
I talked with two Iraq war vets who have long-term PTSD from serving, and were eager to share support and advice for dealing with trauma. They both pointed out that no one should tell you how to feel, and that safely talking about it helps you deal with it in a healthy way. The locksmith who came to my house to change the locks (since my whole key chain was taken) was horrified. The detective knew how scary it was and even she said it would change me. On the other hand, a family member told me to say a few prayers and to move on with life, and then started talking about sports. That was a huge slap in the face and made me feel like throwing up. Some people will not be supportive.
It is a total change to feel this vulnerable.
It is a total change to feel this vulnerable, I have always been a totally fearless, adventurous person. I’ve traveled all over the USA by driving alone. I’ve night hiked in the wilderness alone (risky, yes, but with proper tools). But not now. I have had many other personal bodily and property violations in my life (my city has a crime problem), but none of them has had the all-encompassing, emotional, intellectual, and physical problems, long-term constant on-edge state as this. Maybe the fact that I was living alone made it more difficult? I can’t say for sure.
Moving on to feeling safe
If this has happened to you as well, you are not alone and there are things you can do. You can install bright motion detecting lights and motion detecting alarms as well as a security system. Head to a home improvement store and talk to some of the employees in the security section for lots of new ideas. They can even help with the window next to the door problem. They are usually eager to share their ideas. Don’t be afraid to talk about it when you need to, especially in therapy. The people you love may sometimes let you down, but there are people who will understand and give you support if you seek them out.
More advice if you get robbed:
Comments on I was robbed while I was at home and it changed me forever
I keep my phone and my keys in the bedroom with me. In fact, I actually keep my keys attached to my clothes – mostly to keep from getting locked out of my car, but also to keep my car from “wandering” off too easily. Twice I came home to find men in my house when I was younger and living on the bad side of town, but the last time I was robbed, I was out of town and they cleaned me out. Little was that valuable, but it was still pretty violating. I got an alarm system after that.
The second time I came home to find men in the house, I had a really bad nightmare. That was over 30 years ago, and it was so very frightening. The nightmare was actually worse than the robbery.
Never do anything you don’t want to explain to the paramedics.
I once had someone break into my home while in it. I slept through it. But, they tied up my husband after banging him on the head with a gun. I woke up to him stumbling into the bedroom to get help and tell me what happened. He’s famous amongst a niche group of people and so he made the local news talking about it. I was shocked that I slept through it. They were even in the room and went through my jewelry.
Years ago I was robbed while I was home too. I woke up the the cops banging on my bedroom door. Evidently they happened to be driving by and caught him trying to wheel my bike and tv out the front door. The guy admitted he was robbing the house and told them that some girl was sleeping inside. The cops also told me that the guy told them that I stumbled right passed him in the dark hallway and then right past him again back to my bedroom. I must have woken up to pee (my bedroom is at one end of a long hall and the bathroom is at the far end). I have no memory of it. So scary.
If you live in a big city I recommend checking to see if their are any security rebate programs. Where I live in Washington, DC you can get a rebate for installed external security cameras. We just had 2 cameras installed and will be getting the 400$ back in a few weeks.
This is horrifying. I live in a rural community, and we almost never lock our doors, especially when we’re at home. We’ve got dogs who’d wake us up for sure if anyone came in, but nothing is really preventing anyone from getting in when we’re not home. No one is immune, so thank you for the reminder that we really should be more vigilant.
I was robbed a week after my mom had passed away. We were staying with my dad, and someone decided to take advantage of the situation. They took so many things, but the worst was the fact that they took nearly all of my jewelry including special pieces my mom gave me. I will never get those things back, nor will she ever be able to give me anything again. It still breaks my heart that someone felt they had more of a right to my things than I did. The police did the absolute bare minimum and refused to follow up on some great leads we had found ourselves (including video of the suspect’s car/license plates). We put in a security system but I still don’t feel safe so we’ve been saving up to move. I’ve never felt more violated.
Our house was “cased” a few months after we moved in. People would stop, as if on schedule, to take photos of our house from the road so that they could see in the various windows that open to the street. We live on a busy street and aside from one broken down car in >2 years, no one else has stopped out front – and certainly never again in the middle of the night at the only angle that would allow them to see directly into the kitchen. My husband was still living at the old house, so I was alone and terrified. I bought a SimpliSafe security system, which has brought me great comfort, but I barely slept for the next week. My theory was that I would make them think I was crazy (I would wave my arms and scream when they took photos) and had erratic hours – seemed like a solid deterrent. Honestly, though, I was just too afraid to sleep. In the end, we were lucky, and thanks to a few false alarms, we know the local PD responds well to our security system. Best of luck to you! This is hard!
My grandparents always keep their doors locked even when they are home. They used to have some friends that would come barging into their house just for a surprise spur-of-the-moment visit, which made them uncomfortable.
You might also want to look into Alarm.com (or a similar phone app) that can ensure the security of your home and alert you to possible intruders.
“….safely talking about it helps you deal with it in a healthy way…”
That sentence really leapt out at me.
Twenty years ago, I was robbed while working in a store. Seconds before the actual robbery, I started looking intently at the guy, noting what he was wearing and what he looked like. I couldn’t say why I knew to do that. (They didn’t catch him.) But, I also saw, just barely, that he had a weapon. That was probably a valuable visual clue, because I did nothing, and he ran out with some merchandise. I’m not sure that resisting would’ve been a good idea.
For quite some time after, I told my story frequently. It’s how I processed it. It was awful, yes, but if 1 good thing came from it, it was to trust my intuition. Now I don’t dismiss things; if I don’t want to go somewhere, I won’t. If I notice someone’s appearance a little too closely, I don’t instantly discount it as irrelevant information. A good book for everyone to read, that backs this up, is Gavin Debecker’s “The Gift of Fear”.
At any rate, A.N., I’m so sorry to hear of your experience. I hope as you continue to tell your story, some healing comes out of it, and that people will hold the space for you to do so.