Break-ins are one of the most devastating things that can happen to an unsuspecting homeowner. Burglary is far from just a financial burden. It’s an emotional trauma that is often perceived as an attack on personal privacy.

Burglary victims often experience feelings of guilt, anger, helplessness, and fear. It can impact your ability to sleep at night and can even lead to serious psychological illnesses like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.

Unfortunately, break-ins are also commonplace. The FBI classifies burglary as the most common threat to homes across America. Over 2.5 million home intrusions are committed each and every year, 85 percent of which are perpetrated by desperate and dangerous criminals.

It’s a tough way to look at your situation, but take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Many burglary victims have managed to overcome the emotional trauma and move forward. Today, we’re going to look at the critical first steps that everyone should follow in the event of a burglary and how they can help aid your recovery.

Leave Immediately

If you come home after a night on the town and notice the signs of a break-in, the most important thing that you can do is leave your home. Why? Well, it’s possible that the burglar is still present in your home — and they could be armed.

Don’t take the chance. Leave at the first sign of an intruder.

Call the Police

Once you’ve retreated to a safe location, call the police.

Many believe that, in order to call the police to report a robbery, they must confirm that things have indeed been stolen. Not true. You do not need to confirm that items are missing from your home. Signs of an intrusion are cause enough to call 911.

Don’t Touch Anything

You tidy up your home when things get messy, so why wouldn’t you do the exact same thing following a break-in? It’s natural to want to get things back to normal as soon as possible, but it’s important to fight that urge. At least initially.

It’s important to recognize, though, that your home is now a crime scene and needlessly tampering with it can seriously harm the investigation. So, fight that urge to clean up and wait until the Police to give you to all clear.

Take Pictures and Document Everything

So, the police have given you the all clear? Great, now it’s time to get to work.

This is the time for picture taking and documenting. You’ll want to make a list of any valuables that might have been stolen during the break-in. You’ll also want to take pictures of anything that’s been damaged — and not just plates and glassware either. Door frames, windows, tables, clothing, everything that’s been broken must be itemized.

Call Insurance Company

Once you feel like you have a grasp on what went missing and what’s been damaged, it’s time to file an insurance claim. Your insurance representative will need the police report number, a list of required emergency repairs such as broken locks and windows, along with your itemized list of missing and broken valuables.

You may find yourself repeating the same story that you shared with the police. That’s okay. Be ready to answer any and all questions from your insurance provider.

Alert Your Neighbors

Now that all the pressing things are mostly out of the way, it may be a good idea to alert your neighbors of the intrusion.

A simple phone call or a knock at the door can go a long way in helping prevent those nearby from suffering the same fate. You may even learn some much-needed witness information from those that were around your property during the time that the crime was committed.

Secure Your Home

Not to scare you into breaking the bank, but the stats show that homes without security systems are 300 percent more likely to be broken into than their heavily secured neighbors. Whether you like it or not, security systems are a deterrent, plain and simple.

Add to that the peace of mind that comes part and parcel with a freshly installed home security system and it’s a no brainer. Especially for those struggling with the emotional baggage of a recent burglary.

But if a security system isn’t in your budget, there are plenty of tips and tricks to burglar-proof your home.

Talk to Someone

Valuables can be replaced. It’s the emotional anguish that, if untreated, can linger for years. Thankfully, there is a long list of tried-and-true techniques that may help you overcome the emotional impact.

Talk to a friend, talk to a co-worker, or seek out a local therapist for a session or two. Many local municipalities offer crime victim support services. Writing exercises work wonders, too.

Whatever you end up doing, know that millions are affected by burglary every year. You are not alone and it should be relatively simple to find support. Stand strong. You got this!