A letter From The Heart
You may be
wondering "who is this person that thinks she knows so much about runaways
& the street?" so I am going to tell you a little bit about me and
hopefully that will answer that question.
I work very closely with law enforcement on crimes that are commit against kids via the modem, such as child pornography or cases that involve sexual crimes against kids. I also teach parents & kids how to keep safe online and what to do if they become victimized.
I am also a parent, with kids of my own. And....I am human and make mistakes, some of which have affected my kids, which I will later share some of these mistakes with you.
Maybe most important is that I, as a teen, was a runaway. I obviously survived the streets, but not without harm. I was victimized more then once and in more then one way. The weird thing is, that even though there were times I knew I was being hurt, it wasn't until many years later that I realized how many times I had been used or harmed by people who supposedly "cared" about me. On the streets, "friends" become users, and the "nice" strangers you meet many times become abusers. You pay for everything...one way or the other. The "price" can range from being treated like a slave without rights for a roof over your head and a bite to eat, to being forced into prostitution (or raped if you refuse), selling drugs, or committing some other type of crime to survive. You will find that true, loyal friendship is hard to find.
As a teen, I was rebellious. I thought my parents had no understanding of me and were interfering with my fun. I also had some legitimate family problems, and with these things combined, I decided to run.
I planned it all out (or so I thought). I had a girlfriend who said I could sleep over by her house for a couple of nights and her parents wouldn't check with mine. I also had a older "friend" who told me I could live with her if I baby-sat when she went out. We got along real well so I thought this was really cool. Her baby was only 6 months old and I always enjoyed baby-sitting for babies. She also said she knew someone at a restaurant where I would be able to get hired as a waitress and get paid in cash. I really thought I had it made!
What she didn't tell me (but I learned quickly after running and moving in with her) is that she had a lunatic boyfriend who lived to make everyone around him miserable. He was a control freak and if he said jump...and you didn't...you'd fly, with his handprint embedded somewhere on your face. His friends were no better. They were all either users or abusers, with the exception of one, who unfortunately ended up being used by the others. I was victimized more then once by these self-serving sicko's. And my girlfriend? She was intimidated by the lunatic and was so fearful, yet dependent on him, that she was not able to help me. When I couldn't take it there anymore, I once again ran to the streets, with no where to go. Then the real nightmare began.
It would take a book to write about my experiences on the street, so I am not going to go into details. But believe me when I say that it was nothing like I thought it would be when I decided to run. Even the best of plans have a way of getting messed up when you are on the streets. Friends your age may have good intent when they tell you that you can stay by them, but many times you find that the parents of those friends feel differently and once they realize that you are on the run, they will turn you in or contact your parents, so you end up having to run again and find some other place to sleep and some other way to get food. There is no such words as "permanent" or "security" when you are on the run
Now you might think "It's going to be different for me. My friends aren't like that and I know for sure that I will have a place to stay and food to eat". Think about that for a minute. Most runaways think this. Most kids really believe that the streets will be better then where they are. They don't think they are going to be raped, beaten, mugged, murdered. If they did, I doubt they would runaway. They see "freedom", but please listen to me when I tell you, there is no freedom on the streets.
Maybe you are being abused or extremely neglected. If this is the case, I agree that you need to get out of that household, but not by running to the streets. You will only be abused more on the streets and maybe even end up dead. There is help for you and that is why I have listed, and will continue to list, all of the resources I can find. And if you can't find any help, email me, Lynn Zwicke, shadowwi@JoiMail.com.
I will do everything I can to get you the right kind of help and get you out of any abusive situation you are in. Any information you would give me would be confidential, unless it endangered your life (such as if you were suicidal) or it endangered someone else's life. In these cases, I would contact the proper authorities. There are many caring organizations and other services available to help kids who are being abused/neglected, and I am sure I could find one in your area for you. If you just want to talk about the different options, that's ok to. I will be here to help you.
Maybe you feel your parents are too strict and maybe your right. But that's only because they love you. Parents who don't care about their kids couldn't care less what their kids do or don't do as long as it don't cause them any hassle. We as parents make these kinds of mistakes, but with good intent. I myself have always been strict on my kids. It is my way of trying to protect them. About 2 years ago my teenage son expressed a desire to runaway from home. He was angry at me for not allowing him to stay out as late as some of his friends. His thoughts of running scared the tar out of me and so we talked about it. During the conversation I realized that in some area's I was being to strict (although it took awhile for me to admit it...even to myself) We ended up compromising on some things, yet other things I refused to compromise because I love him and I know that the rules & boundaries I have set are to protect him from harm. Through our talk, he was able to understand (at least better then before) that I set rules/limitations through love, not meanness. He also brought up another mistake on my part, which he had a legitimate reason for doing. He wasn't getting enough of my attention.
Maybe your parents work a lot, or just seem to never have time for you. Maybe you are home alone a lot or never spend any quality time with your parents. Maybe this makes you feel like they really don't care. If this is the reason you feel like running, try talking to your parents first. Bring it to their attention. If my son hadn't brought it to my attention, I probably would never have realized what I was doing. I was always busy, working, cleaning house, shopping, running to appointments, etc., that I never really spent any quality time with him. He thought I cared about my computer & work more then I did him. I was wrong but I really didn't realize it until our conversation. A parent can't change what they don't realize they are doing wrong. Talk to them. If they won't listen, find a responsible adult that you can confide in. Maybe they can talk to them or suggest help for you. There are many resources to help you as well. Don't run...you won't find very much quality time on the streets with anyone.
Are you already on the run? If you are reading this, I would guess that you are not happy on the streets or you wouldn't be at this site. There is help. Check out Runaways. You will be able to get the telephone numbers of places to go to, a free greyhound bus ride home, and find places to turn to if you want off of the streets but don't want to go back home. Or, email me, Lynn Zwicke, shadowwi@JoiMail.comand I will help you. Staying on the streets will only harm you, sometimes for life.
If you are on the run, and have had no contact with your parents, please try to remember that your parents are most likely worried sick about you. You may know you are alive & ok, but they don't. Contact them and let them know you are ok. Have a friend or someone else call for you if you don't want to talk to them yourself, or email me, giving me your name & parents# and I will call and tell them you are ok.
At It's Best!
Cry For Freedom
Kids On The Run