You have already run away?

Running away appeared to be the only possible alternative in your situation, so you decided to leave the place where you normally live.  Remember that it is never too early nor too late to re- think and / or change your decision.  Whatever the reasons that led you to take off, you have the power to say “stop” at any time and then to look for other solutions.

In general, in our society, running away is considered as risky because it can put your safety and your future in jeopardy.  At the minimum, it creates a “crisis” situation.  When you decide to run away, the first reaction of parents, caregivers, police and social workers is usually to try to “protect” you from danger.  It is essential to take into consideration that the decisions you take after running away affect the way others will react to what you have done. Even if it is impossible to predict everything, there are still certain things to watch out for.

Let the people who are responsible for you know how you are doing, reassure them, keep in contact . . .

Whether it’s been several hours or many days since you left, it’s never too late or too early to let people know how you are doing.  No doubt you can imagine the worry that the people who live with you or who are responsible for you have, since you left.  It is possible that you hoped they would be worried about you.  Even if this is true, it is important to let them know how you are. When you tell people how you are, you are also expressing your unhappiness about the situation, and that you do not intend to disappear or to cut off all contact.

It is not necessary to say where you are, what you are doing or even to go back.  A few words should be enough to reassure the people who are worrying about you.  The simple act of telling them that you are alive can ease some of the tension that has built up since you left.

Beyond being reassuring, keeping in contact is also a first step towards improving the situation.  Remember that it will be difficult to listen to what you have to say if no one has any news from you.

If you show an interest in maintaining a communication on a regular basis, you are also demonstrating an interest in finding solutions and being taken seriously.  It is through discussion that a situation can change or evolve.  It is also a way for your complaints to be heard and discussed.

If you don’t want to be in direct contact with those responsible for you, ask another person to act as a go-between.  Whether it is a family member, a social worker, a teacher or a community worker, there is surely someone who can pass on your message.

Thinking about telling people how you are and where you are does not necessarily mean being in direct contact with your caregivers.  You can use other, more indirect, ways of communication like e-mail, a letter, MSN, etc.

Look for security . . . not for trouble

Even if being on the run is not easy, avoid as much as possible being alone.  In order to avoid being too isolated, spend your time in places that are busy.  You can still be anonymous (“invisible”) while at the same time being in full view of people.  In this way, you can guarantee yourself a minimum of safety.

It is possible that, while you are on your own, strangers (either minors or adults) will offer you help.  Be cautious. Although they may try to help you and they may make you feel safe, certain people may also want to take advantage of the fact that you are in a vulnerable situation (having little or no money, under the influence of a drug, lost, without shelter for the night, etc.).  Once again, try to avoid being alone.  If you chose to go with your new “friend”, get as much information about the place you are going as possible, and try to tell someone you trust where you are going.

Trust is earned it is not given blindly . . .

If you don’t know where to go or how to get organized, you should know that there are resources which can help minors who have run away.  These are not places where you can hide but where you can be safe.  They are also places where you can get food, take a shower, sleep and, eventually, find the peace of mind necessary to think about your situation.  Don’t hesitate to contact them in order to learn how they work.

It’s possible that running away will let you explore certain parts of your life (sexuality, finding your limits, finding your identity, etc.).  If this is the case, try to get information about the activities you are about to try before trying them. These activities could put you into situations with certain risks.  No pleasure will be lost by being informed.

If you don’t know where to get the information you need, there are help lines and organizations that can confidentially answer your questions about drug/alcohol use, sexuality, street gangs and other subjects.  It’s better to know more than less, and knowing more could help you avoid painful experiences.

Avoid situations that could be dangerous for you.  Even if it’s not what you were looking, running away can put you in places and situations that can have serious consequences.  Here are some examples:

  • Excessive drug/alcohol use
  • The possibility of being asked or recruited by people or groups who organize illegal activities (street gangs, soliciting for prostitution, selling drugs, etc.)
  • Participation in illegal acts (stealing, sneaking into the Métro, “taxing”, etc.).

Take charge of your situation, don’t let it take charge of you!

You may choose to run away as a way of dealing with a situation, to express unhappiness or to try something new and learn more about yourself and the world.  By making that choice, you may have wanted to send a message to the person or persons who are responsible for you.  Now that you are there, what’s it like?  How do you want the situation to change?  How do you think it can be resolved?

If you took the decision to run away, you can also take the lead in finding a solution to your struggles. Running away means something to you.  You are the boss in this decision and you always have the possibility of defending your point of view.

Here’s a series of questions that you should ask yourself regularly, while you are on the run.  Even if you are not able to answer them immediately, keep them in mind while you are considering why you ran away and what you want to happen next:

  • Are there goals that I want to achieve by running away?  How can I achieve them?
  • Does what I am living through now match my expectations of what I thought would happen when I ran away?
  • Am I ready to work on improving or fixing my situation which encouraged  me to run away ?

Was running away was the best way you could think of to deal with specific issues important to you (housing, school, work, training, therapy, sexuality, being placed in youth protection, etc.)? Now you can take this opportunity to learn about and reconsider what your needs are and what you were hoping to achieve by leaving.

If you ran away because you disagreed decisions made about these important issues (housing, school, work, training, therapy, sexuality, being placed in youth protection, etc.), this is the moment to speak your mind.  Prepare yourself to argue for and defend your needs and wants.  This is perhaps a starting point towards the solving a difficult situation.

Don’t hesitate to share your goals with the person(s) who are legally responsible for you.  The more you are honest about your situation, the more you show how serious you are, the better the chance that the situation will go in the direction you want it to go.

If you think that you need more time, that it is not yet the right moment for you to speak up or take action, then try to focus on what it is that you need right now.  Try to call or leave messages regularly, in order to reassure the people who care about you that you are okay.

Don’t forget that there are organizations that you can count on and who understand the possible consequences of running away.  Don’t hesitate to contact them, they can help you.