I grew up near a huge coastal city, with a big population of homeless teens. When I was in high school, their life seemed a bit glamorous, but as I got older I realized how truly difficult the life of a runaway teen is. Drugs, sex work, rape…very little ends well for a teen on the streets. I remember reading somewhere that the majority of runaway teens are never reported missing–a fact that has always made me sad.
Last week I saw a patient that I know pretty well. About 6 months ago she started having problems with her 16 year old daughter. It was no surprise–my patient has many issues (including a difficult personality) and is not likely to be a candidate for mother of the year. I doubt that living with her is easy. 2 months ago she told me that her daughter had dropped out of school. Last week she told me that her daughter had run away from home. I asked if she knew where her daughter was and she said “I don’t know…but I heard she was going down South with her boyfriend.” Oh? I asked, Do you know her boyfriend? “No,” said the patient, “but I heard that he’s trouble. My son saw him and my daughter fighting in the street once, and he was grabbing her arm and pushing her. I told her, ‘A man who grabs you like that is going to end up hitting you one day’ but she didn’t listen.” And are you worried about her? Did you report her missing? “No…she wants to think she’s grown, she can be on her own then. I don’t care. I still have one at home.”
Wow. Just wow. Your 16-year old daughter leaves the state with her abusive boyfriend and you do nothing? No wonder she feels unwanted. If nothing else, please report your daughter missing so that they can identify her body when they find her as a Jane Doe, ok?