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feeling trapped and unsafe

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  • feeling trapped and unsafe

    i'm currently 17 and i want to get emancipated. i know this could be a complicated process, but i'm willing to go through with it as long as it gets me out of my living situation. both of my parents are verbally abusive and have damaged me in ways that are irreversible. i have depression and anxiety, and to cope with the abuse, i've abused drugs and alcohol. this obviously made things at home worse because both my parents have caught me using these substances multiple times. they've denied me help from psychologists and therapists, which has left me no choice but to think about leaving my abusive household. it's been almost a year since i last used substances, and i've been clean ever since i met my girlfriend. she's 20 and lives in new jersey. I currently live in new york state and i was wondering if i could legally live with her? i know we're both in different states so the rules could be slightly different over there. i want to gain custody of my 13 year old sibling as well, but i'm not sure i can at 17. it would mean a lot if i could get some sort of advice to help me understand the process i'm about to go into.

  • #2

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us here at NRS. We appreciate you sharing a bit about your story and what things are like for you at home. It is understandable you would want to leave a toxic and emotionally abusive home. You deserve to be treated with respect and to feel supported and cared for by the people around you. From what you shared, it sounds like you have done your best to find healthy ways to cope and set yourself up to be more independent. Your resilience and strength through all of this is admirable.

    While we are not legal experts we can speak generally on this. The easiest way to leave home as a minor is with your parents' permission. If you leave without permission they can report you as a runaway to the police. Running away is not illegal, but it is a status offense. This means if your parents know where you are staying they can ask police to return you home. Runaway protocols can vary state-by-state and even by police department. Some police are more lenient with someone who leaves who home at 17 and might not force you back. We encourage young people who want to know more specifically what would happen to call their local police department. You can call the non-emergency line to speak with an officer about your situation and see how they might respond to a report and how they could help you.

    You also mentioned that you are considering emancipation. As you said it can be a lengthy and difficult process. The criteria you have to meet and show a judge usually include being able to live independently and being able to financially support yourself. The next step would be to speak with a lawyer before filing a petition to learn more about the specifics of the process and what you will need to do. If you contact us directly by phone or through our live chat services we can provide a legal aid referral so that you can get free or low cost legal advice. It would also be helpful to speak with a lawyer about wanting to gain custody of your younger sibling. From what we know custody transfers without the parent consent would have to go through a court order and child protective services. There would need to be a concern for your sibling's safety at home in order for custody to be taken away from your parents. You would need to either be 18 (a legal adult) or emancipated and able to financially and emotionally support both yourself and your younger sibling in order for custody to be transferred to you.

    We truly want to be a support for you during this challenging situation. If you need referrals for legal aid or other services or you just want to talk more about your situation, please do not hesitate to contact us directly at 1-800-786-2929 or through our live chat services at

    Good luck and stay safe!
    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)

    Tell us what you think about your experience!


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