Returning Home to a Teen Runaway

It’s been a crazy summer! I’ve been traveling for speaking gigs, almost non-stop. Last night, I returned home from a short trip down south, to find one of my daughter’s friends here at our house. This girl is almost eighteen, just shy of a few months, and we’ve known her for a few years now. It has been only recently that she and Tiffany have become close friends. This beautiful girl goes to school and works full-time, against her will. Her parents forced her to stay in a job she hated for months, and the other day, she got fired. This caused a huge upset in her family. One of the employees where she works wrote an email to her mother claiming that this girl did things that she said she says didn’t do. Who knows where the truth in any of it. When a child or teen is forced into situations that they don’t wish to be in, they become people that they wouldn’t naturally be. They lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and do all of the unsavory things that we claim to despise. However, these attributes are created in another as a result of being controlled, punished and forced to do things against their will, in a desire for freedom. To me, this is one of the saddest results of a child living in the authoritarian parenting paradigm. They change – and drastically, from who they are truly meant to be. The warping of the human condition is a painful side-effect of control and fear.

So, as a result of these unfortunate occurrences, the girl was threatened with physical violence, by her father. She was petrified and decided to run away. Tiffany witnessed the abusive nature of this father, when she slept over their house one day last week. I was skeptical of her sleeping there, as I had a sense of the dysfunction in their home, but trusted that Tiffany would be able to hold her own and would leave if things got uncomfortable. Tiffany has stood up to other children’s parents before, where my other kids tend to back down and pull away, keeping their souls intact. Tiffany tends to challenge the bully, even if it is a very large, aggressive man – which I am still working through, myself, as it scares me that she does this sometimes. I recently saw a powerful movie that had me gritting my teeth, called, “The Glass Castle”. In the movie the drunken, wild and free-loving father tells his five year old to stare down the demons and they will back down. Tiffany lives by this, just naturally. It works for her. It is my fear that throws a wrench in her ability to do this, sometimes. I need to learn to back away and allow her to stare down the demons that flow in and out of our lives and let her handle it.

When I showed up at home last night, it was 4:00 A.M. and I had just driven ninety minutes, tired and worn from an exceptional few days that joyfully drained me. I dealt with long flight delays and a seemingly near-death experience on my last flight home, leaving me crying while the passenger next to me and I clung to one another while an airplane thruster had a slight malfunction that eventually, “resolved itself”. I had nothing left to give. When I woke up in the morning, I went into Tiffany’s room and sat with the girls and we talked. I remember being this girls age, slightly younger, maybe, and running away, myself. It was a similar situation, but this was thirty years ago and things have changed with laws, small-town police and policies. When it happened to me, the police did not let my father near me when he was crazily looking for me, in a storm of anger.  They found a safe place for me to go, taking my word that he would physically harm me, if I went with him.  This situation did not quite go the same way.

I called the local police and told them about the girl being here and asked what we could do to keep her safe. I was told that there wasn’t anything that they could do and that the girl would have to go back with her father. This sent the girl in a total panic. She said she was leaving, as she couldn’t go home and she was crying and shaking, uncontrollably. It was just terrible to witness this. Tiff said she wanted to go with her. I supported their decision and they went running out of the house and down the road, where they looped up, into the woods. I had a vague idea where they were, but wasn’t positive. I knew Tiffany would call and let me know what was going on. In the meantime, a car pulled up my driveway. It was her father and he jumped out of the car and came storming up to our door. He asked to come in and go to Tiffany’s bedroom, as he didn’t believe me when I said that his daughter wasn’t here. I refused to let him in. This mans anger and instability scared me. I remembered the stories that I had heard about his abuse and I was beginning to shift into fight or flight mode. I could feel my heart begin to race and I started shaking, as the blood rushed to my arms and legs.

I was in a bad predicament, to say the least. Here, I have a girl that I know is being abused, facing the worst punishment of her life, for running away. My instinct was to protect her and keep her safe. I wanted to, but I was also faced with the fear of what would happen to me if I did so. Thankfully, the angry father left, when I told him that she wasn’t here. Tiffany texted me, shortly after this happened and told me that she and the girl were hiding out in the woods behind our house. I let them know what had happened since they ran away, down the road. I sat in space of uncertainty, fear and annoyance that this whole situation was unfolding, when the phone rang. It was the police. The officer’s voice was stern and he told me that the father had called them and that he felt that I was harboring the girl. They threatened to come arrest me, right then and there.

I texted Tiffany and told her what was happening and that the police were coming to arrest me for hiding her friend out. I knew that we were at a new level of responsibility with the whole mess. I could hear the sweet girl bawling in the background. Tiff was caught in such a bad place. She wanted to protect her friend, but she knew them not coming back here would mean her mother’s arrest. In the meantime, the father pulled back up the driveway. I told him that I contacted the girls and they were on their way back. I stayed in the house, feeling like I had just snitched on this dear, precious girl, when she was hoping that I would protect her. I felt terrible.

Then, something interesting happened. Tiffany called the police, herself! She told them that she was hiding in the woods and that she was with a girl who was being hurt by her father and gave her friend the phone, encouraging her to talk to them, and give them information that may help her. When I saw the police pull up our driveway, I thought they were either here to arrest me, or to oversee things, but, they pulled up because of Tiffany’s call, which I found out later. The policeman walked into the woods and came out with them a few minutes later. Now, although the officer made the girl go back home with her father, something had shifted. The father looked fearful, now. The mother was also in the car when they found out that it was Tiffany that called the police and that the officer had talked to their daughter. Now, her parents seemed to be the ones scared and had a air of submissiveness and maybe even a little shame. It was hard to see her leave with them. The situation was awful and I felt such pain for how it all went down.

A few hours later, Tiffany came running down the stairs with a smile on her face. She told me that the mother had just kicked the father out of the house! What a turn of events! It was interesting that although we thought that the situation was hopeless for her friend, it somehow all worked out in a way that we weren’t expecting. I am not sure if it was the mother who witnessed our reaction to the mistreatment, or if it was Tiffany calling the police, or it is was just a time for her to be brave, and stand up to this man, but he was gone, and her daughter was finally safe.

This story has a happy ending, that I hope will stay happy for this girl. Her father forbid her to ever come over to our house again, before he left. I am not sure where that all stands, as of right now. Hearing this girl beg to live with us, so that she could be happy and free, made me ponder the reality that this is how most children in our culture live, everyday. Punitive disciple is common, and there is no way to hide the truth that it is abuse. When a seventeen year old girl isn’t taken for her word, with the tears and scars to prove it, something is terribly wrong. Sadly, children are seen as property in our current cultural paradigm. Times aren’t what they used to be, back when I ran away. Forcing a child to go back into an abusive home is almost as bad as CPS taking children away who are in a healthy, happy home. It just isn’t talked about as much. Witnessing the system and helplessness of the situation made me realize that this is an issue that people need to be aware of. I am grateful that it ended up like it did and that Tiffany’s friend is safe, for tonight. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring for this girl, but all I can hope is that she knows that we did all that we could for her and that someday soon, she will be free.



Dayna Martin is an author who has been educating others for over a decade, through her writing, television appearances and speaking on the topic of facilitating educational freedom for children. Dayna is the most renown voice on the topic of Radical Unschooling, worldwide. She educates and empower people to become self-directed education facilitators. She inspires parents and educators to let go of learning limits and instead, give freedom for internally motivated learning, peace and freedom to flourish.

Comments

  1. Hi Dayna,

    Children aren’t property, as you know better than maybe anyone. But to stand up to an abusive, threatening Dad is heroism, both by you and Tiffany. Cheers and hugs to you both. And also cheers to the other girl’s Mom for kicking the bully out!

    Every day the world is a better place because of your passion to make it so.

    With love,

    Dave

    • Thank you, David. You always bring such love and appreciation to your comments and posts. I want to thank you, for that.
      No, children aren’t property and the more we remind people, the sooner the world will shift into this awareness and let them have the freedom and rights that they deserve.
      Much Love, Dayna

  2. Betteanne Camagna says:

    So glad she turns 18 soon.. then she WILL BE FREE!!!! \0/ YAY!!!!! She can VOTE, Marry, do many things as an adult!
    ~ May she protected by her mom for the next few months and the leave school behind and move on with her life…..I am pretty sure the compulsory school age where you are is 17, It is 17 in PA and only 16 here in Florida where we live now. So at 16 If the teens are NOT happy in school they are free to go onto their next adventure.

  3. Betteanne Camagna says:

    ps…… glad you made it home safe last night… My husband had a harrowing Flight experience too last night into the wee morning hours ….. Feel bad for both of you but so very grateful you are both home safe and sound. \0/

  4. Dayna,

    Thank you for sharing this… I was a runaway as well, a very long time ago. The first time I returned, hopeless because I didn’t want to bring the police to the parents in my safe place. The second time, I hit the streets, which lasted years. I camped out- anywhere and everywhere- fearful mostly of being caught and sent back home. I have found myself unable to not rescue any who need it since, risking much, putting my job on the line once with an employee and her tiny daughter.
    I have a hunch these things will come up again now that I’m a parent, with my children’s friends, and I’m not looking forward to it. I am still terrified of violent people, and I don’t trust he police.
    I tried in vain to keep scrolling through my feed after I read this, but I can’t. Thank you for telling a story that isn’t all tragedy. Is it possible that we can manifest peace like this from our lives to others’? I hope I can recall this story when I need it. Things are so different as a parent- having no regard for consequences or retribution is a privilege I left behind in my solo years.
    I don’t really know what I’m trying to say… Maybe it’s that, regardless of the outcome, it matters a lot that your home is a place that girl can come to. She’ll never forget it. It will provide an anchor for her throughout her life, some hope, knowing she’s not completely alone and abandoned- no matter what happens tomorrow.

    • Thank you, Kara. No matter what we do in life, if we are acting out of place of love, things will never turn out wrong.
      I appreciate your words of support and optimism. Much Love, Dayna

  5. Susan Ireland says:

    How absolutley horrendous! In the UK, the police wouldn’t come after a 17 year old – you’re old enough to join the army, marry, have children etc etc – but presumably your laws are different. I’m sorry this was such a scary experience for you all x

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