From the National Runaway Safeline: Marco’s Story of Child Abuse
The National Runaway Safeline serves as the Family and Youth Services Bureau's federally mandated national communication system for runaway and homeless youth. The Chicago organization offers a crisis hotline and online services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to youth at risk of running away, those who have run away or are homeless, and their families. Runaway Reality, a regular feature on the National Runaway Safeline's blog, highlights the stories of young people and families who contact the hotline. This month's installment is about Marco,* a 12-year-old caller who experienced violence at home.
From his bedroom, a reticent 12-year-old boy named Marco dialed 1-800-RUNAWAY on a cell phone one night after a confrontation with his father turned violent and resulted in child abuse.
“He was kind of questioning whether he should even be calling in the first place … It turned out that he identified as gay,” says Alex, the National Runaway Safeline frontline team member (aka ‘liner’) who fielded the call. “All he wanted to do was hang out with his friend, who I assumed to be his boyfriend or whatever at that time. I asked him, ‘Why can’t you do that? It’s okay. It doesn’t matter. You want to be who you are.'”
Marco revealed that his father had discovered the nature of his son’s relationship with his best friend, banned them from spending time together, and “punched him in the face.”
Callers of all ages utilize the National Runaway Safeline, and minors like Marco present unique legal and practical challenges to volunteer liners when incidents of physical child abuse are reported. After determining that Marco was safe from immediate danger (he was, though he needed to hang up and call back to avoid detection from his family), Alex prefaced the rest of the conversation by noting that any identifying information would obligate him to report the incident to the police.
*Names and details have been changed to respect anonymity.
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