Threats and Attempts to Run Away

It appears that runaway cases in Québec are becoming more and more common. Often, youth who run away are seeking more liberty and autonomy. For the most part, they reappear after a couple of days, but others vanish into thin air.

What Is Running Away?

Running away occurs when a person manifests through words or actions their desire to “escape”, usually from their family home. This person will take their belongings, some money, and will leave without a word as to where they are headed.

There are two types of runaways:

  • Spontaneous runaway: for a young person, a spontaneous runaway occurs after a problem, an accident, or an intense emotional experience within their household. At that point, they will leave on a whim and will think that running away is the only solution to their “problem.”
  • Planned runaway: it is less sudden that the spontaneous runaway. It often occurs when a young person wants more independence or wants to become more self-reliant. It’s an act to satisfy an unmet need.

Young people can also repeatedly run away. In this sort of situation, the youth might start threatening their parents to run away at the smallest annoyance. These repeated runaways are called chronic runaways. For the youth, it’s a form of power struggle and manipulation of their parents.

Why Do Teens Run Away?

The reasons for which a youth might run away are diverse and various. Here are some reasons:

  • Personal factors: within runaway youths, there can be often found people who have mental health issues, drug addiction issues, or sometimes, issues with their sexual identity.
  • Family factors: youths might be prone to running away if they encounter problems within their household, such as physical, psychological and sometimes sexual abuse. They can also feel neglected by their family.
  • Parents’ personal factors: a youth might want to run away if their parents’ situation (unstable employment, poor education) prevents them from thriving at home.
  • Environmental factors: running away can be tied to certain environments such as social networks or a friend circle in which a youth doesn’t feel a part of.

Here are some warning signs that a youth might be thinking of running away:

  • The accumulation of money and personal belongings hidden in their room
  • The youth will bring up running away to their parents to foresee their reaction
  • Problems at school
  • Problems within their family
  • Substance abuse
  • A sudden change in friends
  • Isolation
  • Change in life habits
  • An angry demeanour
  • Depression

Consequences for a Youth Runaway

When a youth runs away, it can sometimes be dangerous. It seems that the most common risks during a run away episode are lack of food, lack of a roof, falling into substance abuse, or meeting the wrong people who could be part of gangs. These people might push the youth to steal, become a delinquent, or get involved in sex work.

It is both girls as well as boys who can fall into the traps of sex work. But it seems that girls are more prone to this trap. Young girls who run away are potentially vulnerable and naïve. Because of money problems or because of exploitation, they will often turn to prostitution.

“The first 7 months of 2017 sets a record regarding runaways in Québec”

“According to Missing Children’s Network, 30% of runaway teens are victims of sexual exploitation.”

Source: selon les chiffres de Réseau Enfants-Retour (in French)

The TV show The Runaway (Fugueuse) that started airing the 8th of January 2020 in Québec dives right into the subject of running away and the traps of prostitution.

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