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  • Leaglity Questions

    So, my girlfriend is stuck in an abusive household. She has been physically abused by her father a number of times in the recent past for nonexistent reasons, and her mother subjects her to emotional abuse daily, starting with knowledge of the physical abuse and apparent apathy.

    She is ready to run away, but she is afraid of what might happen. She is 17, I am 19. My mother is willing to open her home to her, if I could get her to me (she lives out of state). I have no problems housing her, nor do I have issues driving to get her out of the environment she is stuck in.

    I am, however, concerned as to the legal repercussions. Will I be persecuted for kidnapping? Can she give consent? Would she be tracked down and placed back in to an abusive household? The physical abuse was documented once, but she went back and told the doctor it was a lie, so I am not sure if it remains documented or perhaps is only a suspicion. However, there are two other contacts who have assisted her in the past enough to know of the issue.

    As for her developement if she ran away, my mother is a very capable parent, having gotten me through school and into college in the honors program, and currently raising another scholastic child. We are financially capable of meeting needs, and we have all plans of attaining her GED so that she could still go to college.

    My biggest issue lies in the legal repercussions. I love my girlfriend dearly, and desperately want her safe, but I cannot afford to go to jail.
    Thus my indecision.

    Thank you so very much for any feedback. . .I do not know what to do.

  • #2
    Re: Leaglity Questions

    Thanks for reaching out to us. It sounds like you’re trying to do anything you can do to help your girlfriend stay safe. It’s unfortunate that her parents mistreat her the way they do. Home should be a place where she feels safe, comfortable and is never hurt. You mentioned that the abuse was documented at one point, but she recanted. Do you know if Child Protective Services has ever been involved? Meaning, has anyone ever reported the abuse to CPS and has a caseworker ever been out to investigate her current living situation? This is absolutely one option for her. Even if it has been reported in the past, that doesn’t meant that she can’t report it again. CPS is the organization that is responsible for making sure every living environment is safe from abuse and neglect. Part of what they do is try to make things at home better (counseling, parenting classes, home visits, etc), but they can also remove youth from the home in cases of severe abuse/neglect. If these instances, they usually first try to place the youth with a family member and if that’s not an option, they find a foster home. It’s also possible that since your girlfriend is 17, they may determine that she can just move out (meaning they see that home isn’t the best place for her, but they don’t necessarily want to put her in their system). This is just a slight possibility though. If you think your girlfriend would like to try this route, she’s welcome to call our hotline for help making the abuse/neglect report. We could conference a call with her and the local CPS. You could also try Justice for Children, 1-800-733-0059. They are a legal advocacy organization that works with children and youth when the system (aka CPS) fails.

    Now to your questions. Since your girlfriend is only 17, it’s very possible that in her state she is still considered a minor. This means that until she turns the age of majority (18 in most states), her parents are the ones that get to say where she can or can’t live. In a few states, at 17 a youth is no longer considered a runaway and can move out. In order to find out the specific info for your girlfriend’s area, you’d want to contact her local police department. In some areas it gets even more complicated, in that some police departments wouldn’t tell you that at 17 a youth can move out but they may refuse to take a runaway report if the youth does leave. This would likely be impossible to predict before it actually happened though.

    Assuming your girlfriend is still considered a minor in her state, there are usually only three legal ways to not live at home. 1) Get parent’s permission to live elsewhere 2) Be removed from the home by CPS 3) Get emancipated. This is the legal process in which minors petition the local courts to become an adult before they turn 18. Not every state offers emancipation, but in the states that do it’s generally a long court process and might require she get a lawyer.

    From what you wrote, it sounds like she just wants to leave her house and come live with you. You mentioned you would be willing to facilitate her traveling to your house. If she is still considered a minor, then there definitely could be legal repercussions. There are a couple different legal charges that may affect you and/or your mother. The first is “harboring a runaway”. This is generally when an adult knowingly lets a runaway youth stay at their house and doesn’t contact either the local police or the youth’s parents. A lot of times “harboring” charges come after someone lies to the local police about a youth’s whereabouts or hides the youth out. There’s also “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”. This could include offering assistance to a youth in their pursuit to runaway. Just so you are aware, driving a minor across state lines could also be considered a pretty serious offense. To the best of our knowledge, it is a federal offense. The actual consequences for any of these charges would depend on both her state and your state’s laws.

    Knowing that there could be legal consequences, what do you think you’ll do? If you’d like, we can certainly help you look more into any of the above options. If you provide us with the city and state your girlfriend currently lives, we can give you more information about emancipation or the Child Protective Services number in case she wants to report the abuse. We may also know what the age of majority is in her area, but as stated earlier her local police is the best resource for that. You’re welcome to call us as well if you want to talk more in depth about any of this. We’re a completely confidential hotline and there’s always someone here. Your girlfriend is, of course, also welcome to call. Best of luck with all this. Your girlfriend is incredibly lucky to have someone like you in her life, advocating for her best interest and willing to help her no matter what it takes.
    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!
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YourOpinionMattersToUs

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Leaglity Questions

      Thank you very much for the timely response. . .

      As for child protective services, that is a long story, and I only know some of the details, so I will give you what I may. The last time her father got drunk and abused her, it was pretty serious. She was worried that he may even have broken her collar bone. So she ran away for a couple of days to an adult friend's house. That friend wanted her to get medical attention, and in her time of need, my girlfriend actually told her what had happened as opposed to making a story. The adult promised not to say anything, but when they got to the doctor, she told what had happened. My girlfriend immediately insisted that she had been lying to get attention, and I am not sure what her cover story was. I believe it did get reported, however her mother got involved and made some changes, and managed to have a social worker within the family take care of it so that no repercussion came down on any member of the family aside from my girlfriend.
      Her mother has done everything in her power to make my girlfriend feel like she was almost responsible for tearing apart the family because she wasn't strong enough to deal. The emotional abuse is what is truly making me want her out of there. . .it is a daily event to have my girlfriend call me crying due to her mother. From telling her how stupid she is for dating someone out of state, to calling her a tramp or an unresponsible dumb kid, or just to being malicious for absolutely no reason.
      My girlfriend is prime choice for valedictorian right now, the Vice president of her student council, taking the highest level courses in her high school, has a job whenever possible, and does a number of completely un needed activities to better her community. I know for fact that her mother's claims are baseless. I digress.
      One of the biggest problems lies in the fact that my girlfriend does not want CPS or the police to get involved because she does not want her father being taken away. Despite all he has done, she still says "he is still my father" and does not want to be responsible for breaking apart the family. Only recently, an event occurred where her parents were fighting over one of her activities, and her mother tried to tell her that if she was not told the truth, then her parents were divorcing and it would all be her fault. . .and my girlfriend believed her. She has been a victim for many years now, and it is hard working with a victim's mentality.
      I have thought many times about calling CPS anonymously, but for one she has not been physically abused in around two or three months, so there would be no proof of that unless the doctor did document it ( I have acquired the Doctor's name), and I am not sure how emotional abuse is found, but her mother is very manipulative and effectively appears to be a decent parent to anyone not involved in her daughter's life. Secondly, I know that she would be sure I was the person who called, and you know. . .I just don't want to lose her because I am trying to help.
      She lives in Hastings, Nebraska for the record.

      Some other concerns: she has a 14 year old sister, and she worries that if she either runs a way or brings up the abuse that it will ruin her life, too. She cannot think of herself first, and while I admire that in her, it certainly makes this particular issue more difficult. Also, even if CPS got involved, I don't think she would be happy going to any of her family members (they all at least outwardly support her parents, or wouldn't believe she'd been beaten and scorn her) nor do I think she would be comfortable living with an unknown family for a year until she was old enough to be on her own. Yet I don't think I would be allowed by the system to take her in to my own home. I believe you kind of covered that one, but I guess I'm being more specific.
      I apologize for random spurts of information, but I am still a little overwhelmed by this whole issue. I live in Cincinnati, so I hate this feeling of being a little over 14 hours away and helpless when she is stuck in a dangerous household. The emotional abuse every day is really worrying to me, because she already has a victim's mindset ( everything is her fault, she is worthless ) and I know the only way to help her get back on her feet is to get her somewhere safe.

      Thank you again

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Leaglity Questions

        Hello,

        Thanks for continuing to share details and concerns. She is very lucky to have someone like you advocating and looking out for her. As much as you are worried, she has got to be going through some intense stuff and it's good that you can identify that.

        What do you think is the next step for her? Of course being there is not healthy for her in many ways but in order to proceed correctly, what is she willing to do? Have you tried calling Justice for Children? They advocate for children when the social services system has failed a child and from what you're telling us, she's being ignored.

        One other thing that we can offer in order to proceed with a little more collective thought, maybe you or your girlfriend can call in and speak with a crisis liner to talk about more options and brainstorm together. We are available 24hrs a day and anyone here can speak with either one of you. Please call at 1800 RUNAWAY

        Best of luck with everything and please keep us posted with your situation,

        -NRS
        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!
        https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YourOpinionMattersToUs

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Leaglity Questions

          I am bringing together an (in my own opinion) effective and thorough plan which we could enact if she does indeed decide to run away. However, it is contigent upon a couple of issues, and I am not sure if you are able to provide me with this information or not.

          First off, what specifically defines Kidnapping? For instance, if she were to drive herself out of her home state, and I picked her up elsewhere, would that be kidnapping? Or only if I am the one to drive her across her own state lines?

          Secondly, what are the most common repercussions for harboring a runaway? What kind of fines or jail time are generally associated with it?

          Finally, just how involved is the emancipation process?

          Thank you very much for ANY help you can provide

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Leaglity Questions

            It’s great that you’re really thinking through all the different scenarios and possibly outcomes.

            Unfortunately the questions you asked are incredibly specific legal questions. As stated before, we're not lawyers nor do we have a legal background. This means we aren't able to provide you with any specific information concerning the definition of kidnapping or harboring a runaway charges. You can try to call the Legal Aid of Nebraska Access Line# 1-877-250-2016. They may be able to offer you more guidance when it comes to your legal questions.

            As far as emancipation goes, according to our files, Nebraska does not offer emancipation. This means that it’s not going to be an option for your girlfriend, since it’s based on the county the youth lives in.

            Just remember you can call us anytime if you need anything else. Best of Luck.
            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!
            https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YourOpinionMattersToUs

            Comment

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