From the National Runaway Safeline: Janet’s Story of 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-based 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 installment is about Janet*, a young woman who used the organization’s live chat service to find a way out of a physically and emotionally abusive home environment.
The National Runaway Safeline (NRS) exists to help youth find solutions to different situations that are compelling them to run away from home, such as dealing with abuse, but sometimes circumstances change after a plan is formulated and the communication ends. That was the case with Janet*, who had used NRS’ live chat service to find a way out of a physically and emotionally abusive home environment. In that first interaction, Janet had decided that she would stay with her boyfriend’s family, but she quickly became uncomfortable with this course of action when the chat ended.
Janet feared her father would come to her boyfriend’s house and cause issues for his family if they offered her sanctuary, so she returned to NRS’ live chat for help in making a new strategy to get away from her harmful home. NRS’ frontline team member, Carmen, responded to the chat, and directed Janet to a National Safe Place youth shelter that would provide her with somewhere to stay without jeopardizing the well-being of people she cared about. National Safe Place is a common resource used by NRS’ liners to help youth that are committed to leaving home, and Carmen served as the bridge between Janet and the best alternative to her current situation.
“We don’t do anything without the chatter’s permission and we don’t try to influence their decision; we try to be as nondirective as possible,” said Carmen. “If youth are set on running away as the only way that they know they’ll be able to be safe, then we don’t try to intervene and make them feel like that’s a bad decision. With this chatter, I offered that if she wanted, we could call a youth shelter to see if they could pick her up at a public location. She definitely wanted us to do that, so we did.”
*Names and details have been changed to respect anonymity.
More About the National Runaway Safeline
Get the updated version of the National Runaway Safeline's Let's Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum.