Breaking Out Of Break-In Anxiety
June 11, 2009 6:52 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is having a crisis following a burglary at her apartment in Austin, TX. What can I do for her, and more importantly, what can she do for herself?

This is actually a two-part question, but the halves are very different matters ('her her her' vs. 'me me me'), so I'll hold back the temptation to cram every last problem in one question.

Last month my girlfriend came home from work one night to find her apartment had been broken into. She is a very sensitive person. Though she lost only a few items, she feels (rightly) violated and anxious. This feeling of violated space troubles her as severely a month later as the night of the break-in. She moved to a new apartment and put on a facade of internal strength. Last night, she broke down in tears, confessing her anxiety never really left her. She can't sleep at night, and she carries either a large knife or hammer to bed and to walk the dog.

In typical Ask MeFi fashion, I told her she seriously needs therapy, but we both knew that's not an easy option. She was already financially tight before the robbery, and she can't afford a therapist, not even the regular co-pay. Group therapy would be a great way for her to heal, but after researching the Central Texas area, all group sessions seem dedicated to victims of violent crime.

What low-budget options are available to victims of non-violent crime in Austin?

Thanks so much.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Check to see if a local university offers sliding scale care at an outpatient clinic (you're looking for a college/university big enough to support a grad program in clinical psychology).
posted by availablelight at 6:54 PM on June 11, 2009

Capital Area Mental Health Center offers sliding scale therapy - both individual and group. Give them a call - they are great!
posted by bahama mama at 7:06 PM on June 11, 2009

How about some self-defense classes? Developing some confidence in her ability to protect herself could go a long, long way. Googling "self defense classes Austin TX" brings up a lot of options. Maybe one of those places has a short course in her price range, or even a program to help ease the cost for recent victims?
posted by amelioration at 7:15 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Local law enforcement usually offers a safety and self-defense class. I've never taken one but plan to eventually. It sounds like your girlfriend is playing a scene over in her head where she is attacked and it would be very useful if she could visualize herself fighting back in an effective way. There are also lots of things you can do to make her place more secure, even if it is a rental. She should also get to know her neighbors well if possible. There have been several AskMe's recently about safety.

I'm not entirely convinced that therapy is the default way to go with this. Therapy can sometimes keep a person in a victim mindset. She needs to feel like she has control of the situation.

I also think it's perfectly reasonable to anxious only a month after the break-in. I was mugged at gunpoint last December and still get nervous when I am out by myself at night. But I'm also less likely to be a victim again because I am much more aware of my surroundings now.
posted by betsybetsy at 7:16 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I really feel for her, and it sounds like now would be an excellent time to get her some therapy, because from your description, her symptoms seem to be keeping her from being able to feel safe and happy in her daily life. You can use this site: to find low-cost/sliding scale options for MH services in your area.

I would also recommend some personal safety training (self-defense) for her; women can gain a lot of self-confidence and strength from just feeling like they have SOME way to keep themselves safe if something should happen to them.
posted by so_gracefully at 7:22 PM on June 11, 2009

How about a home monitoring/ home security system? There are options available that would, for example, send a text msg to her cell phone if a motion detector is trigered. So at least she would have some assurance that no one is waiting inside. Some $$$ are involved, but over a few months prob cheaper than therapy.

Assuming that she already has 24/7 broadband, you could put together a simple system for ~$300 initially and $10/month; e.g., here.
posted by Kevin S at 8:00 PM on June 11, 2009

I was home alone during an attempted forced entry late at night. No one got in, the police came too late to find anyone, I filed a police report, and there was nothing much more to do. Despite the fact that they didn't get in — all the locks and security worked — I couldn't sleep while it was dark outside for the next TWO YEARS, even after I'd moved to a new, safer neighborhood a year later. It caused major problems with the rest of my life, obviously.

My friends were wonderful and offered me crash space while I processed things away from home. My boyfriend was patient and listened to me vent all of my anxieties and worries. My roommate started staying at his girlfriend's house less often so I wouldn't be alone as much. Taking a feminist-positive self defense class was hugely helpful in terms of walking around alone at night. And yet, two years after the fact, the only thing that helped me fall asleep at night like a normal person was talking to a therapist about it.

I'm sorry I can't be more helpful about the specifics of how to find a therapist, but it looks like the people above have done a pretty good job already. I just wanted to encourage you to pursue that option as doggedly as you can, because her situation sounds so familiar to me, and I am so sorry that I let that one night disrupt two whole years of my life before I finally decided to pursue it myself.
posted by adiabat at 8:15 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

I concur with the suggestion for a self defense class--if the police department doesn't offer one, many local martial arts centers do, and many of them are free (look for "rape self defense" or "womens' self defense" in particular). I also recommend looking for sliding scale therapy--this can be hard stuff to get over alone.

Being burgled ruins your sense of safety like nothing else. My stuff was stolen out of a guarded garage five and a half years ago, and I'm still not quite over it. Last December, someone attempted to break into my boyfriend's apartment--a neighbor saw, and prevented it. We weren't home, the guy didn't get in, and I couldn't sleep for five months. Your girlfriend is reacting totally normally and appropriately. She has fear of bodily harm as well as fear of loss of her stuff.

The losses she's experienced can be claimed on her taxes. Does she have renter's insurance? If not, she should get some now.

For you, I recommend not coming on as all, "Oh, don't worry, I'll protect you, etc" (not saying you are, but I know that's been an urge with guys I've dated). For one thing, it might not be true--you might not be around, and you don't know how you'll react if you ARE around--you might freeze or you might not be ABLE to help. For another, it's as defeating as being victimized in the first place. Your girlfriend needs to know that she can depend on HERSELF, not that she needs to depend on someone else. Without downplaying what happened to her, I think you can help her most by focusing on a few things--that what she lost was just stuff, and that she's ok. Encourage her to take the self defense class and offer to be a sparring partner (and don't always let her win). Allow her to be scared for much longer than you expect. I'd also tell her to quit carrying the knife or hammer, because without training, she's probably pretty easy to disarm, and then the tool could be used against her. A barking, growling dog and her screams (or an air horn) would be a better defense.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:20 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sun Dragon offers sliding-scale self defense seminars and martial arts classes - I train there, and I can highly recommend both. The next self defense seminar isn't until July, but the martial arts classes are ongoing and do involve practical self-defense.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:12 AM on June 12, 2009

She feels scared still because her place was violated. She does not feel safe. Therapy and group therapy are nice and all but everyone treats it like this cure all method of helping a person out. Truth of the matter is therapy is just someone to talk to. More often then not you have to identify your issues and then solve them. One thing I see is she does not feel safe anymore.

Screw the stuff that's material. She feels that it happened once and will happen again. You need to find things that will change her mind. Ask her what aspects is she afraid of? Coming home to the door smashed open again? A window broken into? These can be solved by living in a well lit apartment on the second or third floor. As for the door ask the landlord if you can install a better deadbolt or a security system. IF she is afraid of being attacked look in your area for self-defense training. Go to the local police academy and ask if you can get certified in chemical spray and baton defense. Shoot your in Texas buy a gun and train for a concealed carry permit. This all starts with talking to her.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:42 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older should i take this job if i might have to change...   |   How do I remove my old web content from the web? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.