Emotional impact of crime and how victims can regain control of their lives

- SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) 15 stolen cars. 33 burglaries. And 181 reported thefts. That is an average day of crime in Utah. And the statistics from the State of Utah say the total value of stolen property per day is $264,000.

All that crime creates a lot of victims and causes emotional, financial and psychological consequences. In this ABC 4 Utah Special Report we examine what all that stealing does to us and where we turn for help.

Christine Johnson's home was burglarized in May of 2013. Recently we caught up with her in her home to tell us about the crime. Here is how she described it.
"I come home and find my garage door wide open."
"All my jewelry was over here (in a bedroom dresser). These two top drawers were filled with jewelry. They were ring cases. Probably 60 to 80 in two cases."
"They took 3 wooden boxes of silver."
"They took my TV."
"They had taken them (designer jeans) like this and yanked them off the hangers. They stole all my expensive cowboy boots."
"They took all 3 hooks of my belts."

The thieves who burglarized Christine Johnson's Sandy home stole much more than possessions. "It's my personality. My jeans. My belts. Lime green, pink, blue. It's who I am." But Christine says it goes much deeper than that and it was much more personal. "they stole the rings my mother gave me (when) I was sixteen. The diamond earrings she gave me on her deathbed. The ring... I call the love ring... I just showed you." (See Photos)

With tears in her eyes Christine says the thieves that hit her house also ripped out her heart. "They take your most prized positions you have collected for forty years. It's your identity. It's your soul." She says she also had her sense of security stolen. "I had one of my friends bring me a gun and I grabbed the biggest butcher knife I could find and I moved into the white bedroom." The white bedroom was one of the few rooms the thieves didn't really touch.

Barry Rose, a crisis manager at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, understands the symptoms victims go through. "People can also get very emotional and can have lasting symptoms."

Rose says what may seem like a simple theft isn't so simple for the victim. "People don't understand - to that person - it was traumatic experience - a traumatic loss." "People often have sleep disturbance. They get nightmares. They get hyper vigilant - watching carefully everything around them."

That's exactly what Christine went through. "I have nightmares. I wake up in the middle of the night screaming." "I didn't even leave my house for three months cause I didn't want to come home and find that someone had been here."

Researchers say "The impact of crime on victims results in emotional, psychological, physical, financial, social and spiritual consequences."
Rose says people get "very angry" and they often "feel this sort of loss of control."

And Rose says those who have not been through a similar ordeal just don't understand the trauma. "They say oh, your insurance will pay for it - it's not a problem. They don't understand and they can't give the empathy she needs around that. And how difficult that is emotionally for her."

Crisis experts say long-term trauma reactions can lead to:
Major depression
Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.
Abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
Ongoing problems with relationships.
Anxiety disorders.

Christine says she was suffering from all of those issues at different times for nearly a year. "I stopped going to work and stopped taking care of my businesses." "I started drinking heavily and became very depressed."

Rose says when people can't get back into their normal lives and normal routines - it's serious - and they need help "Over time those symptoms should subside, but if they don't - they need to seek professional help."

Rose says there are stages that victims, including theft victims, go through. Those include shock, denial, anger and stress. He says they go through this before they reach recovery. And they say getting to the "moving on" stage is not exact science. "All those steps take different times for different people - there is no set pattern necessarily."

If you have been victimized and need help, we have that information and links below. And if you know someone who is struggling after a crime - reach out and get them connected to some help There are agencies in several Utah communities that help crime victims.
Utah State Crime Victim Services http://www.crimevictim.utah.gov/



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