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This why so many children end up on the streets; unprotected and alone.
Children who run come from all different types of homes. Many of them come from middle to upper income households. Somehow we feel that these children are less likely to be suffering abuse… bad things don’t happen behind pretty doors. The truth is that child abuse knows no boundaries. Abuse doesn’t take up residence in a home because of how big or small it is… Abuse doesn’t know the difference between cash for groceries or food stamps.
By the time I was 11 years old I carried the label “habitual runaway.” This is a label that is often used by law enforcement. Unfortunately it serves to demonize the child and it creates a lack of urgency in finding them… there is an attitude that the child will simply return home. The stats say that 7 out of 10 runaways do return home on their own. This number does not include of the foster children running from care. This stat is used primarily by law enforcement as a way of comforting the public into feeling like it's not a big deal that 3 out of 10 runaways stay gone. Because children who run do it over and over again we have become de-sensitized to the danger they are in and turn a blind eye to uncovering the root cause of their running. When I was 12 years old I stayed out all night on a run for the first time. I ended up being held and raped throughout the night. Had this man decided to kill me, sell me, or keep me, I would have continued to be just another habitual or chronic runaways.
I know of another habitual runner who when questioned told the police and social workers that she was running because she didn't like her parent's rules. Finally someone dug a little deeper with a simple questions. "What rules don't you like?" The girl disclosed that every day when she got home from school she was to go straight to the bathroom and chain herself to the sink. The lived chained to that sink with no food every hour she was not in school.
The number floating around regarding how many children run away is a widely greyed number. Its estimated that between 1.2 and 2.8 MILLION children run away from home every year. The number is so gray because while a child like me is reported as a runaway there are many foster children who run that are never reported missing, they simply just vanish.
Within 2–48 hours on the streets a child WILL be approached by a predator or an exploiter. 1 in 6 runaways will become victims of sex trafficking.
Homeless Youth Advocate and Expert Marnie Grundman is the author of MISSING: A True Story of a Childhood Lost.
A child who belonged to no one, missing at the tender age of 13, she spent years living on the streets where she experienced the worst of humanity first-hand. What began as a story of healing led to one of triumph, of the power of the human spirit, of one woman's surthrival against all odds. Marnie has since become an advocate for the missing, working to change the perception of runaway children so they might finally get the help they desperately need. Her compelling book, engaging talks, and insightful articles have become a shining light to the lost and the struggling. Marnie guides and teaches how not to live their damage, how to heal and overcome, how to rise up and reclaim a life of happiness.