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Running away 2 weeks before 18th birthday

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  • Running away 2 weeks before 18th birthday

    I've been really planning to run away from my dad and stepmother for about two years, though I've considered it ever since I was about 9 years old. They're very paranoid, strict, and overly harsh beyond reason with me and my brothers, and I really don't think I can live here anymore. I've thought about suicide multiple times over the years before finally coming up with this plan.​​​

    To explain the situation at my house:

    I have severe social anxiety and depression, initially from being bullied at school, but I think my problems have been made worse by my parents. For example, whenever any of us kids are suspected of doing something wrong, my parents call us into the living room and interrogate us, yelling and threatening punishment if someone doesn't fess up. Multiple times these sort of interrogations have happened without anyone having done anything, but my brothers and I have lied and pretended to confess so the whole thing could be over with. These sort of situations have become so bad for me that I start to panic whenever anyone expresses anger at me. My parents have made fun of me and mocked me whenever this happens, and it really hurts that they'd do that because I've tried really hard to keep my anxiety under control.

    My parents also insult and degrade us constantly, even about little things. Once I couldn't find the correct buttons on the microwave to heat up food (I have low vision and there was very little light in the kitchen) and my dad asked, in a mocking way, if I'd ever be able to live or do anything on my own. Again, this is something I can't control, and I've tried to explain that to them, but they always make it seem like it's my fault I have vision problems, like I'm lying to my eye doctor about my vision or something. I'm not the one who gets the worst treatment though. My stepbrother is the one yelled at the most, and he gets in trouble almost every day. My dad seems to hate him because he's not biologically related, and always singles him out. My dad also actually favors me, because I'm his "only daughter", which is another thing. I've come out as a trans male and pansexual to my parents, and my dad doesn't accept it at all. He still sees me as a girl and gets angry when I talk about being trans, even if I'm making a joke.

    My plan to run away:

    My plan is to live with my mom, who I visit every two weeks. She knows about my home situation and has agreed to let me stay with her after I graduate (which is, right now, in 3 days.) Because we live in South Carolina, I don't think it will be a problem to move in with her, because it'll be two weeks before my 18th birthday and there's a law in SC which says that 17 year olds are considered adults, which means that running away isn't a crime. I'm planning to start college while at her house and also to get a job. I really want to be able to spend time with her as well because my dad kept her away for the majority of my childhood.

    I'm just scared because I don't know how I'm going to tell my dad and stepmom that I'm leaving them, and I know they'll be very angry with me. My dad can be violent and he's threatened to use his gun before against my stepmom, and it's really scary because I don't know if he'll try to come and get me or hurt my mom. Plus, my brother will be with me at my mom's at that time, and my mom has to take him back home because he's not old enough to live with her yet. I want to request a police escort to go with her when she takes him back, but I don't know how.

    Overall, I've wondered why my dad and stepmom don't love me and what any of us did to deserve this sort of treatment, while at the same time feeling bad for thinking that way in the first place. I don't even know if I'm right to run away and leave my brothers there when they can't do anything to get away. I also feel bad because Father's Day is soon and I still care about how upset my dad is going to be when I'm not there. I just need advice, please, because I want to go through with this, I just don't know if it's justified.

  • #2
    Everyone deserves to be in a safe and supportive environment. It sounds like there’s a lot of things that are difficult about living with your dad and stepmom. So it makes sense that you’d want to seek out a place where you don’t have to be burdened with that.

    We’re not legal experts, but, yes, South Carolina is a grey area as far as age of maturity, like you said. On top of that, our understanding is that it’s never illegal to run away. It’s a status offense, where guardians have to file a runaway report, and then the police’s job is to return you to your parents. But they often pursue certain cases less aggressively, including if the youth is close to age 18, as you are.

    The threat of violence is very serious. It’s a crime to threaten someone the way he threatened your stepmom. One thing you might do is talk through your concerns with your mom before leaving. You can make sure she’s aware of your concerns, and get a second opinion about what to do. You two might develop a safety plan, including who you both might reach out to, and go to, if you both felt unsafe, or, for example, a neighbor you could go to if dad shows up and mom isn’t around. Also, if your dad showed up threatening, you’d have every right to call the police, because, again, that’s a crime.

    As to a police escort, you could call the police non-emergency line, and talk to them about your worries, and they could tell you what options might be available.

    If you have concerns about your brothers’ safety, again, it is totally not ok if they are in danger. You could consider child abuse reporting. Threats of violence against them, as well as some of the other things you described, could qualify as child abuse. If you wanted to explore this option without committing to anything, you could call Child Help anonymously at 1-800-422-4453. They can walk you through the process and what the steps are like. They are mandated reporters, so if you give your name, and they hear of any abuse, they have to report. But you can call anonymously.

    As to communicating that you’re leaving to your dad, if you’re comfortable, you don’t necessarily have to let them know. If you did want to have that conversation, think if there’s another adult you could reach out to who could be an advocate for you in that situation, and who your dad might listen to. Making someone like that aware of your situation, and what you want to do, might also help keep your dad’s behavior under control. Think, too, if there’s been conversations with your dad and stepmom that have been constructive. Think if there’s a particular time of the week, a time when they are less stressed, etc, when those kinds of conversations go well, and try to have a conversation like this at a time like that.

    You’re feelings make sense. You want to set boundaries and be treated in a way that supports you, and that’s why you’re looking at leaving your dad’s place, but that doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It’s right for you to want to feel safe and supported, and for you to assert your boundaries. Sometimes families do go through a transition, and it takes the youth setting their boundaries, for the parents to realize how their behavior has been destructive, and to change.

    Family counseling is another option to help everyone live together and communicate better. We do have a database of free and sliding scale resources for family counseling, if you want to help set that up for your brothers. You can call us for those resources.
    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)


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