'I am here today to talk to you about why young people run away'
This is the text of a speech a young person we work with is delivering today at an event related to International Missing Children's Day. To protect her privacy, she is writing under a pseudonym. To learn how you can support young runaways like Jennifer, join our Make Runaways Safe campaign.
Hello, my name is Jennifer. I am here today to talk to you about why young people run away.
There are many reasons why young people run away. Some run away because they aren’t getting the love they need, or they aren’t getting looked after properly.
Some may be getting abused or bullied. Their mum’s can’t cope with them and let them do what they want. Others are going through a hard time or are getting sexually abused.
Dangers and risks of running away
These are some of the risks and dangers of when young people go missing.
Anything can happen to them. They can get badly hurt. They can get raped or kidnapped. They can be used for trafficking or be sexually exploited. They could even get killed. Cars stop, people beep and try and drag you in.
Some people mess around staying out late, the police get called and then children’s services get involved. Young people can attract attention from paedophiles, people driving past, thinking they can get something from you, they have no respect for you. Nobody knows where you are, if you do get kidnapped how is anyone going to know where you are?
My experience of running away
My experience is running away isn’t worth it. I didn’t think about the things that could have happened to me. I’m glad I realised now what the risks are before it was too late.
I used to stay awake all night and my friend used to ask me to come out with her in the night. Sometimes I got reported to the police by my mum, other times she didn’t report me. Sometimes we’d get stuck in town and have to call the police.
One time I was missing with my friend. We went to the kebab shop late at night and a man followed us home. He was shouting things and getting mad. I shouted back and we went in to a local shop and called the police. He was still hanging around for a bit and then the shopkeeper came out and the man went off on his bike. We ran home after that and called the police to tell them not to come. Anything could have happened to us.
Another time me and my friend had been to the takeaway at about 4am. It was just shutting when we finished our food. One of the men who worked there followed us under the tunnel on the way home. I told him to go away and we went a different way and he followed us again. He said he’d give us a free pizza if we did him a sexual favour. We said no and told him to go away. I ran off and lost my friend, I went back for her and she ran towards me and said he said sexual things to her and she was scared. We ran home and told the police, who came to see us the next morning.
When I went into foster care I was separated from my brother and sisters. I was moved to a new area, different to where I was from. I used to run away to be with my friends and family.
When I was in my first foster placement I watched videos about running away and it made me think ’what if that had happened to me?’
Working with The Children's Society
I started working with one of The Children’s Society's programmes in August 2012.
My worker is polite to me so I listen to what she has to say. Because obviously you’ll listen if they are polite, I’m not going to listen if they shout.
I didn’t really listen at first, I decided to do my own thing. They made me realise running away can be dangerous and anything can happen.
They talk to me about the risks of running away. At first I didn’t care until I realised how unsafe it was to go out late at night.
Police and social workers
The police get me mad by the way some of them speak to me. Some of them are nice, some of them aren’t. Some of them swear at me. They made me go back to my foster carers when I didn’t want to go. My social worker hardly comes to see me, I don’t really like her because she lets me down all the time.
I would like to be treated with respect by them, and for them to listen to me.
My life now
I’ve managed not to run away for three months.
I now go to school after not being in school for three years. I’ve settled down well and get along with everyone. We are talking about discrimination and prejudice and people that get put in prison. I am working on a PowerPoint presentation and I’m settling in really well and like it.
My anger has calmed down and I try not to be as angry and I can deal with it in better ways.
I like going horse riding and I love singing and have made my own CD. I have been to a photo shoot with my brother and sisters. I enjoy shopping and buying new things.
When I grow up I would like to be a police officer or work with children or be a singer.
I don’t really know what the government can do to help young runaways because they can’t control what your mum does if she cannot cope. They could pay more money for more runaway projects to open so young people can have a better l life.
Thank you for listening.