BURGLARIES have left homeowners feeling like they are living in a crime scene even after years of battling the resulting trauma.
That’s according to director of Support After Crime Services Sally Hanlon, who stressed that the scarring effects from such crimes are not going away.
She explained that many of her service users are still suffering long after the crime has been committed.
Some had experienced a loss of earnings while others saw their health deteriorate.
Nonetheless, she stressed that symptoms of trauma are not always so straightforward.
“The home is now the scene of the crime and they are living in it,” she said, referring to those affected by burglaries.
Ms Hanlon noted some of the lesser-known effects a break in can have.
“You get some people who can’t stop cleaning,” she said. “They will just clean and clean, as if they trying to clean away the crime.
“It’s not that they assume these criminals are dirty. It’s more about the fact that their belongings have been interfered with. They will go through every press, drawer and personal belonging that has been touched.”
She said that, astonishingly, elderly victims are often the most resilient.
“It is sad when — due to an injury sustained during a crime — an older person has to leave their home,” she said.
“However, older people are very determined. A lot of the time they will rally back to where they were. The difficult times many older people lived through have hardened them and you can see that in their recovery.
“We had one woman who came to us who had been robbed three times. The third time she was targeted in her own home.
“She walked into the house to find the perpetrator sitting right in front of her. She just looked at him and said ‘what are you doing there?’ She managed to get him out and he was brought to court. Luckily he hadn’t harmed her physically.”
For others, burglaries can have a devastating effect. Sally recalled one service user’s experience.
“We know of one woman who experienced a burglary while she was still in the house that ended up ruining her life,” she said. “In the space of eight minutes this woman’s life was totally changed. She began to feel very isolated.
“The crime had left her with a real lack of trust as she knew there had been local input into it. If a crime happened on the street or anywhere else you can go home, turn the key in the door and feel cacooned.
“However, it’s difficult to know what to do when that peace of mind is taken away from you.”
Ms Hanlon pointed out that a number of former criminals have presented themselves to the service after becoming victims of crime themselves.
“Once they avail of the service they are treated the same as anybody else,” she said. “Some will be honest and tell you that they were once “the tough man” too. It’s amazing how the tables can turn but we will always meet people where they are at now.
“The important thing is that justice is served.”
She recalled meeting with criminals who failed to recognise the catastrophic impact of their own crimes.
“I don’t know how you could teach offenders about the damage and destruction they have caused to those left behind. Many are of the belief that their crime has not affected anybody and there is nothing you will ever be able to do to change that.”
She discouraged victims of burglary against allowing criminals to rob them of their hope as well.
“Don’t let the person who has committed the crime take anymore from you. If you do you are giving criminals the power.”