By Dale Andrews
Almost every week there is a story of a runaway teen in the daily newspapers. But what we do not know is the risk these teenagers, who are predominantly girls, face while on the run.
Despite the risks, it would appear that most of them are willing to endure the harshness of the streets in order to maintain their ‘freedom’.
In this day and age when much focus is being placed on issues such as Human Trafficking and Child Labour, it is worrying that so many teenage girls are eager to risk their health and in some cases their lives just for the sake of being on their own.
And while you might want to think that they are running away for the better, in most cases they end up on the streets, mingling with the wrong crowd which invariably lands them into the hands of the law.
It might be interesting to note that many of the runaway teenage girls are in no way abused at home, although many of them make that claim whenever they are apprehended. In fact, they suffer more abuse at the hands of the persons who lured them away from their homes in the first place.
I came to this conclusion after listening to the stories of three teenage girls who up to recently were engaging the attention of the law.
One is a 13 year old East Bank Demerara resident, who was ordered back into the custody of her father on no less than two occasions by a city Magistrate after running away several times.
She is now an inmate at the juvenile centre after being apprehended recently for wandering, and according to another inmate at the same institution, she might have recently done an illegal abortion, since she has been bleeding profusely over the last few days.
Her story sounds like a recurring tale of running away and then being recaptured only to run away again.
She would always claim that she was at a relative or close friend, but these explanations always turn out to be false since she was always recaptured outside the Stabroek Market near Demico House at some odd hours of the day.
“She was living with her mother who died late last year. She did not even attend her mother’s funeral,” a social worker who has been dealing with her case told this newspaper.
According to the social workers, on the day of her mother’s funeral, she was dressed and prepared to attend but she vanished just before she was taken to the church service.
“Her father eventually found her by the market and took her to the cemetery just as they were sealing her mother’s tomb. Imagine her mother is dead and she didn’t even want to go to her funeral,” the Social Worker explained.
It’s not that she is improperly supervised at home, but from all indications she just wants to be on the road.
In stark contrast to the tight supervision she is experiencing at home, there is the case of another female who recently graduated from the juvenile stage, after years of delinquent behavior.
She has seen the courts on many occasions, having been charged for assault and simple larceny.
This teen is obviously obsessed with criminals, since she reportedly boasts of having a man in jail.
“She even takes food for her man in jail,” the Social Worker said.
Hers is a case of improper supervision as revealed by her social worker and she might be a victim of criminal minds using her for their own benefit.
As a matter of fact, her grandmother would usually post her bail whenever she finds herself before the courts.
She was enlisted in the Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) programme but never participated.
Then there is the case of a 16 year old girl who is also an inmate of the drop in centre who was recently recaptured after getting away from the institution.
“These girls have big women attitude. Some of the parents are willing to take them home but after three weeks they are back on the streets. When you listen to some of them, they just want to be on the road. They want to go to every show at the stadium and when their parents talk to them, they run away to a life on the streets,” the Social Worker stated.
But not all run away teenage girls are willing parties to the nefarious activities of those who lure them from their home.
Some of them are used as sex slaves and would only return when their usefulness has been exhausted.
I recall another teenager whose mother had visited this newspaper with a story that gripped me for weeks.
The mother related that the teenager, who according to the mother was mentally unstable, would usually leave her home and return days later after she was used and sexually abused by men.
On one occasion the teen related a tale of being locked in a house in the city and repeatedly raped by men who would pay to have sex with her.
She recently contacted me to tell me that she had given birth to a child a few weeks ago. When I asked her who the father of the baby was, she calmly told me that she did not want to have anything to do with him.
And the cycle goes on.
Although she has given police the names of persons who were involved in her being held under duress, no one has been prosecuted.
“We need to start prosecuting those persons who knowingly harbour runaway teenage girls,” the social worker said.
But while there is provision in the law for the prosecution of persons who harbour these children, not many cases are taken before the courts.
“A lot of the police don’t want to deal with these social problems,” a senior police officer said.
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