Back in August I had an incredibly violating experience that resulted in stress induced sleep paralysis, PTSD, and a stolen $600 camera. While the first two are things that majority of people can’t help with (except my therapist, of course), the third one is something I’m hoping I can maybe get a resolution for with some help (<-Quick link for those that want to skip the 2000 word story).
Let me tell you the story of how I got into this shit situation and why I’m asking for help…
Summer 2017 Sucked, But I Tried To Make It NOT Suck
In August 2017 after having freshly returned from San Diego Comic-Con and completing the last ever Gishwhes, I took off on a weekend trip. I had recently lost my aunt and that on top of so many important parts of my life concluding all at once had set me into a serious state of depression. I’m not a rich person by any means, but a weekend trip was within my budget and I needed the mental break. So I took off for a weekend adventure and stayed at a hostel on Kauai (just a quick 30 minute flight away) to try to regroup mentally and recover from so much loss.
Besides, I thought to myself, I have a brand new DSLR that I wanted to test out outside of Comic-Con.
My new camera (Canon Rebel T6) was a vital part of my trip. I’m more of a landscape photographer than an event photographer anyway and this was going to be its first major test drive for my new equipment. A few months prior to my trip I had received a bonus check from work and after paying off some debt I decided to buy myself a new DSLR. My previous camera was purchased for me as a birthday gift by pretty much everyone I knew back in 2010, but it was on its last leg.
Photography is incredibly important to me and I wanted to able to keep taking quality pictures. Photography was my actual career for many years and, though I’m in a different line of work professionally now, it remains a vital hobby and one of the selling points for my journalism work for my blog. I figured this bit of extra cash was a good chance to step up my photography and invest in a piece of equipment that’d last for many more years to come.
The trip was amazing and did helped me work through some of my mental and emotional problems that had been triggered over the few weeks prior just as it was intended to do, but when I returned home I walked into a battlefield.
At that time I lived with a mother and daughter pair. The mother was out of town for a couple of weeks and the daughter, who had some serious drug problems, had turned the house into a party house while we were both away for the weekend. There were needles everywhere. The front door was unlocked and strangers were coming in and out all day and night. There was loud partying happening in the living room at night keeping me up when I needed to be awake for work the next day. It was hell.
Worse yet, my bedroom door didn’t have a lock and the best I could do was shut it and hope for the best while I was gone.
I hoped that would be enough.
The thing about many drug addicts is that they typically have no respect for personal space.
My Camera Got Stolen and I Was Violated
A few days into my first week back to work I came home to find my bedroom door wide open. My roommate blamed it on the wind, but I had propped my door shut with a fan that was far heavier than any gust of wind could possibly be in the house on that day. If a hurricane were blowing through the living room then MAYBE it could blow open. Otherwise no, someone had pushed it open. This was the first violation of many to take place that week.
I went in and checked on a few things, including my laptop, but at the time I didn’t notice anything amiss. I hadn’t thought to look for my camera because I had stored it in a drawer and was more concerned with things that had been out in the open. I was worried about my property due to the hellish environment my roommate had created while I was away, but my room was incredibly small and I didn’t have space to hide everything I owned. My laptop was the prime target and it was fine after this first violation, so I went on with life.
Looking back, I should have been more thorough, but I was naive. I didn’t think the situation was as bad as it was.
That night things got worse. As I was sleeping one of her drugged up friends forcefully entered my room again. I screamed and pushed him out the door back into the common space (this is violation #2). I barely got an apology for being walked in on while asleep and the guy tried to play it off like it was my fault. It was ridiculous. I should have called the cops right then and there, but with all the drugs in the house I was afraid I’d go down just for being around that stuff. I was trapped. My fear of just being in the presence of people doing injection drugs overrode my desire to call the cops on someone trespassing into my personal space. Besides, they were scary people and I was afraid they’d hurt me while we waited for the cops to arrive.
That night I had my first incident of sleep paralysis (induced by stress related sleep deprivation) as a result of that violation and I’ve suffered from PTSD since then (nightmares, panic attacks triggered by certain sounds, etc).
Sleep paralysis sucks, by the way. Just putting that out there.
At the time I tried to move on. My roommate’s mom would be home by the end of the week and hopefully she would bring order back to the house. But things just kept getting worse in the meantime.
Later on that week I decided to finally unload the photos from my camera from the trip to Kauai. It had been an amazing trip and I wanted to blog about it. Only… the camera wasn’t in the drawer where I’d left it. The camera wasn’t in my suitcase or my dufflebag (maybe I forgot to unpack it, I thought). It wasn’t on the floor or under my bed (maybe I misplaced it, I thought). The camera wasn’t anywhere.
I began to tear the house apart and eventually found the camera case sitting empty in the kitchen. At this time another one of my roommate’s drugged out friends came home and I confronted him. He said “yeah, I know where it is” and led me to her room. Sadly, it wasn’t there but they did have my zoom lens (this is the reason I’m asking to replace the camera with just the kit lens, because I thankfully still have the zoom lens intact). I asked him why the zoom lens was in her room and he said it was because they “didn’t want it taken” by the other people. Right there they had admitted that it was their friends who took it. They took responsibility right off the bat. I was beyond angry, but if they were willing to admit to it then maybe I had hope of getting it back.
I called the cops and filed a report because I wanted the incident on record, but before the cops arrived my roommate came home (high as a kite) and said she’d pay me back for the stolen property. I foolishly left her name off the report thinking that if I included it, she’d decide not to pay me back. This was a mistake, but I thought they’d replace the camera and that was more important than revenge for being violated and avenging the wrong doers. All my memories from the trip were gone forever, but at least I could go on practicing photography. I regret this decision. I should have been completely honest with the cops.
As a surprise to nobody, over the following months they went back on the promise to pay me back and, in fact, stated that I owe THEM money for “damage” to the room (I have since moved, thank God). This is obviously bullshit. I had her check the room for damage numerous times before I left specifically to avoid this. But what am I to do at this point? I’ve since called the cops and updated the police report to include her name, but the cop flat out said this wouldn’t go anywhere. They said it was my word against theirs and that the detective would likely not pursue the updates to my report.
I have currently spent $200 exploring legal options and at this point my last option is going to court. Keep in mind that this camera cost $600 so it’s already 1/3 of what the camera costs initially. Going to court will cost more money. Soon the cost of legal fees will exceed the cost of the camera. I also lost a GoPro in all of this, but I rarely used it. All that’s lost on that are memories of Kauai. I had set the camera up on the dashboard of my rental car and recorded some of my trip on it. Still, I’m not seeking to replace that. All I want to do is take pictures again and not have to wait until extra money comes my way. It might never come my way. And I can’t fathom never taking pictures again.
I now need to consider if I want to avenge the wrongdoings done against me (pursue legal options) or get a replacement camera (raise funds and just buy another camera). While they are definitely terrible people and I’d love to see them pay for what they’ve done to me both emotionally and financially, at this point I’m tired and want to move on. I’ve opted to raise funds to replace the camera:
Counter Arguments Against Fundraising
People might read this and be pissed off that I can afford a trip to San Diego Comic-Con every year and yet I’m asking for help replacing a camera. Other people are raising money for things like healthcare costs or charity. Yet here I am asking for help with a hobby (formerly a career) that I opted to invest in in the first place. Well, you have a valid point and if you feel that way this perhaps isn’t the GoFundMe for you. I get that. Please help people in dire need before considering me. Someone died a few weeks ago because they were $50 short on insulin. They take priority.
I included a tidbit about this on the campaign itself:
Maybe I don’t deserve a replacement, but I’m a photographer. I went to school for film and used that degree to work in still photography for many years. You can view my work here. Thinking of all the events coming up without being able to document it is painful. Photography has been what I wanted to do since I was a child. It’s in my blood. My grandmother was a photographer, even when she went legally blind (fun story, right there!). My cousin is a photographer, too.
In addition to that, I’m not very rich and I used a bonus check last year to treat myself to this camera, That $600+ could have been used for so many things, but I used it to invest in a hobby and attempt to make myself happy. The argument that perhaps an investment in a hobby isn’t necessary and I should take the loss is a fair one. If that’s how you feel, perhaps this isn’t a campaign you want to do donate to. That’s understandable.
I don’t know if this campaign will be a success at all. I don’t know if people would be willing to help support this. But I’m tired and want to be done fighting. If you can, please help me do that.