The scar beside Michael Alexander's right armpit will always remind him of Dec. 26, 2008, the day that four men ransacked his home, hit him in the head with a gun, dug a knife into his armpit and demanded money, marijuana and jewelry.
"Sometimes I think about it a lot . . . like damn, I could have been dead!" said Alexander. "I was bleeding so bad."
The crooks taunted Alexander, 54, a disabled father of seven, for about an hour and got away with $4,000 in jewelry, more than $400 in cash, electronics and home goods.
Alexander said he attended a counseling session for victims of home invasions where about 40 people spoke about how they have been affected and how to move on.
"Everyone reacts to victimization in a different way," said Jerry Bolzak, executive director of Northeast Victim Services.
"Some people are able to get on with their lives in a relatively quick period of time. For others it may be very difficult, if not physically then psychologically."
Some victims have feelings of "impending doom" that they may be targeted again; lose interest in being around people; have difficulty sleeping and nightmares; and are startled by noise, Lowey said.
A 50-year-old man who asked to remain anonymous still struggles with the idea of leaving his 82-year-old mother home alone in Wissinoming, after he came home from work on Aug. 27 to find a woman choking her. His mother lay on the kitchen floor, wrapped in a blanket, while the woman stood behind her with her hands around her neck.
His mother said she let the woman in after she asked to use the bathroom; she added that she had seen the woman before in the neighborhood.
After the victim escorted the woman to the bathroom, she was attacked. " 'I'm going to kill you, you b----,' " the victim recalled her attacker saying as she was pummeled.
"When I go to bed, I can see it all over again," she said. "I thought for sure I was going to die."
She had bruises on her face, arms, neck and torso. Her son had a grisly bite mark on his arm that he received after he tried to hold the woman until police arrived.
The mother and son live in the 15th District, in the Northeast, which has seen more home robberies than any other district in four of the past five years.
Most of the robberies have involved drugs, said Capt. Francis Bachmayer of the 15th District.
A week after the attack, the 50-year-old man would check on his mother at least twice before finally heading to work. They changed all the locks in the house, and the lights now remain on. The son would like to relocate, but that's not an option financially, he said.
But some do leave after such a traumatic experience.
A home at 32nd and Mifflin streets, in South Philly, has been empty since a 71-year-old man moved out two months ago after he and his 39-year-old girlfriend fell victim to a violent home invasion in April, police said. He was struck repeatedly in the head, and both victims were bound with duct tape and robbed of nearly $10,000, police said.
"It made everyone fairly nervous," said a woman who lives on the block and identified herself as Traci, 29.
No arrests have been made in that case.
Through Sept. 10, there had been an estimated 509 residential robberies in the city this year. By the end of August, police had made arrests in only 46 percent of them.
Eric Christmas, 22, one of the four men involved in the residential robbery of Alexander's home, is serving 3 1/2 to seven years in jail for aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and possession of an instrument of crime.
But that didn't soothe the nerves of John Derock, who lives across the street from Alexander. Derock, 43, put a double lock on his back door and bought "a loudmouth dog" after what happened to his neighbor.
According to police, intruders usually know their victims, whether from the neighborhood or through mutual acquaintances. The invasions stem from the notion that victims may have money either from a business, drugs or a perception that they are well-off based on their residence, block or possessions.
Home invaders learn their victims' habits, and the attacks are calculated, said Northeast Detectives Capt. John McGinnis, who described residential robberies as a horrible crime that doesn't always get reported.
"It's such a personal crime," said Lt. Joseph Walsh of Southwest Detectives. "It's a very intimate attack. It's almost like being raped."