Ordinarily I’d just push y’all to the main blog, but the likelihood of clickthroughs from Tumblr is low, and I think this is really important information for a lot of folks out there in Tumblrland. This post is LONG.
Where are you going? Who can help you? What do you need?
Not only do you need to pack a bug-out bag with some or all of your life necessities, but you need to be emotionally prepared for the fallout.
This is not an easy decision, and it should not be made lightly. Being completely independent and unsupported by your parents is fucking hard, which is why >70% of runaways go back home within a day. People doubt you and belittle you, it’s hard to get systematic support from schools or social workers, and you’ll be in therapy basically forever. It sucks. But it can be worth it.
Leveraging your freedom with the emotional and social consequences of being parent-free makes running away and life after being kicked out really difficult. When you commit to getting out, you have to make a lot of uncomfortable and difficult decisions that center on: which is worse.
Which is worse: living in a homeless shelter or feeling like a hostage of your family?
Which is worse: getting a crappy job or being financially dependent on family members who use money as a form of control?
Which is worse: uncomfortable conversations with police and social services or enduring abuse?
Make a Plan
What should you plan? How do you even get started?
The most important things you’ll need to know how to find are: housing, money, and support.
If you had to get out of the house in two minutes:
Where can you go?
How can you get there?
What would you do the next day? The next month?
How can you get food?
How can you get money?
What else do you need?
How can you keep from getting dragged back “home”?
Who can and will help you stay away?
Come up with a concrete plan that covers those things. If you can, come up with alternate plans in the event things don’t go the way you thought they would. Your friends’ parents may be generous to let you stay for a week, and they might even feed you when you’re there, but you need to think beyond that.
You can’t live off of other people’s generosity forever. Couch-surfing and crashing with someone rent-free must be a temporary part of your plan.
Talk to people. See which friends can help you out, and who can point you in the direction of case workers. Call shelters and social services to ask for help. Apply for grants and financial assistance. You never know who is willing to help until you ask them.
If nothing else, know where to find a homeless shelter and food bank.
Pack Your Bug-Out Bag
What’s a Bug-Out Bag?
It’s a bag that’s ready and waiting for you when you need to get out–whether it’s a temporary relocation or a permanent escape. It’s a term used by the preppers but it’s also used among runaways and throwaways as a bag that has the bare essentials for striking out on your own.
Chances are, you can’t fit everything you need in a single bag–and even more likely, you won’t have access to the things you need to put in a bag. But figuring out exactly what you need is the key to planning a bug-out bag and your immediate future.
When I left home, I had an extra pair of pants and my wallet with a few dollars inside. I didn’t have a phone or a debit card or anything. Now I have a hoarded 300-square-foot apartment–living proof that if you keep pushing through, you will eventually have the material objects you need.
But if you can make a bug-out bag, find a safe space (or several safe spaces) and gather the essentials. If you’re in an abusive situation where your possessions and privacy are strictly controlled or monitored, you’ll have to be extra sneaky.
Good places to hide stuff:
between the mattress and box spring
bottom of a clothes hamper or trash can
an air vent
sticks of deodorant
old pill bottles
battery compartments of electronics
What do you need in your Bug-Out Bag?
Anything that you might need or want if you had to get out of the house in less than five minutes. Here is a one-page printable checklist for pre-packing your bug-out bag:
edit: As a youth who was kicked out in a time before cell phones were ubiquitous, I neglected to include a phone on this list. However, if your parents pay for your phone, it can be cut off at any time or be used for blackmail against you. If you can spare the $10, get a burner phone at Walmart for emergencies.
Who Can Help?
What kind of things do you need on your Bug-Out Bag info list? Think about what you’ll need once you’re on your own. Money, food, housing, medical care, emotional support…
Keep a list of all of the people and places that can give you that so you know where to go in the middle of the night. These can be:
family members of friends
your own sympathetic family members
social services/child protective services
domestic violence centers
college financial aid offices
the library, which can put you in touch with all of the above
Seriously, I cannot emphasize the last one enough. Your local public or school library has so many regional-specific resources available for you if you just ask. If nothing else, the library is a good place to stay during the day when you have nowhere else to go.
Note: These links are mostly US-specific because that’s where I live. A quick Google search for these service keywords and your country or area will go a long way in finding supportive providers.
Crisis Hotlines and Chat Support
Most crisis help lines can help you out when you plan to run away from home by searching for shelters and case workers for you, or just by talking through the reasons you want to run away from home. They’re a great resource to have on hand when you’re feeling lost.
Thursday’s Child: directory of hotlines, text lines, and chat support for youth in crisis [inexplicably has autoplay music]
Abuse Reporting and Recovery
Whether you’re trying to become emancipated, press charges against your parents, or you just need help with the emotional fallout when you run away from home, these organizations can help you find the resources that work for your specific situation.
American Bar Association: find legal help whether you’re pressing charges against a parent or you want to know what your rights are when filing for emancipation.
Shelters gain and lose funding all the time, so it always helps to search for what’s still open in your immediate area. These websites and organizations can help with that search, but again: libraries are often safe spaces and the staff there know what’s in your neighborhood better than a stranger on the internet.
Many of the homeless shelters and youth programs listed above have transitional housing programs, but here are two good resources for getting help transitioning to independent living when transitional housing programs aren’t available.
Year Up: transitional living programs that get you employed and housed within a year
Health and Wellness
Many homeless youth struggle with receiving adequate health care on the streets. These two sites help connect you with general and mental health services in your area, but they are by no means exhaustive lists. Search for free or tiered-payment clinics in your area for local providers.
Most helplines and providers focus on immediate problems such as homelessness or abuse, but youth who run away from home have any number of other issues to deal with, from dating to drugs to staying in school. These organizations help supplement the day-to-day drama you have to deal with. Many larger cities also have youth centers, so be sure to search for what’s in your area.
Boys and Girls Club: outreach and after-school programs, as well as counselors and case workers who can connect you with local providers
ReachOut: information and advice for common issues facing youth today
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Whisper networks, as I hear the term used, are basically the thing that a community or social group (i.e. SF fandom) uses to warn each other about missing stairs. (Christ, what a lot of jargon already…) Which is fine and good and a very valid community coping mechanism when, for whatever, reason, you can’t FIX the stair. There are plenty of people in SF fandom, for example, that cannot be “fixed”–they are what they are and they aren’t going away and whatever they are doing is either not illegal or not actionable and so a whisper network springs up to say “Hey, keep an eye out for Person X, and don’t be alone with them/engage them on-line/enter a business arrangement with them/whatever the particular issue is.”
For example, I am told that it was apparently well known that Isaac Asimov was a serial groper back in the day, nobody in power considered this “serious” (or they thought it was funny) and so the whisper network went around that you didn’t turn your back on him and you stayed out of arm’s reach or stuff would happen.
Which is really shitty, on one level, because nobody was fixing it, but people absolutely needed to be warned, so…whisper network to the attempted rescue.
The problem with this, of course, is that if you aren’t lucky/social/lucky/friends with somebody in the know/lucky, you don’t get the memo, and the next thing you know, you’re in the wrong elevator and there’s a hand on your ass, and if you’re even more unlucky, you say to someone “Dude! Person X grabbed my ass!” and they say “Oh, yeah, that’s just X, he does that. Didn’t anyone warn you?” and then not only did you just get your ass grabbed, you get made to feel like you’re stupid/unobservant/not even worthy of someone trying to warn you because no one cares what happens to you because you must suck.
Everybody with me so far? (Feel free to chime in in the comments if I am Getting Shit Wrong. This is being written fast and furious and my verbage is not as careful as it probably should be–if I say something stupid, point it out to me and I will correct if possible!)
I am a prime example of people who are failed by whisper networks. I have a wide circle of generally good friends in fandom who would totally jump in to save me if my car got a flat, but who honestly might not think to tell me that Person X is a missing stair, because they would assume that A) hey, I’m smart, I already know, and B) it’s such an awkward conversation to have, and C) everybody knows, don’t they?
And I am bad with names and bad with faces and while the vast majority of my fans are very good, once they figure this out, about saying “You know me from X,” so I can go “RIGHT! YES!” nobody in the history of the world is going to come up at a con and say “You know me from the time I grabbed your ass in an elevator.”
My entire connection to the whisper network is from pretty much two people who know me well enough to know that I don’t know and I have, I am afraid, already forgotten several of the names they told me, because I have a hard time processing stuff that’s not written down and so there is a non-zero chance that some day I will be squinting at a nametag and burst out with “Oh! You’re the ass-grabber! Right, I remember now!” and it will be awkward, although there is probably an argument to be made that in such case, I am a bumbling Nemesis of Social Consequences.
(Dealers and artists, let me add, are broadly the exception to this–the vast majority will be delighted to run down every person who comes by the table who is awesome or terrible–“Did you get the guy? With the thing? Oh god!” and “Yeah, don’t take his commission, he nit-picks for weeks,” but also “He is fantastic and I will introduce you tomorrow,” and “She is the sweetest person in creation, if I had fifty commissioners like her, I would be the happiest artist on the planet.” But you still have to show up where there are dealers and artists, which is not always feasible, and increasingly is much less connected to SF writer fandom, which is the pool I am slowly sliding into.)
At WindyCon–where I personally had no problems or complaints at all, let me say straight up–I was on a panel about social media. (This is what spawned the whole post, incidentally.) And the conversation turned to the whisper network, and Recent Events and the things that everybody knows.
At least two people literally said “Everybody knew…” about MZB and I still don’t know if they were being sarcastic and my body reading was just off, but I tensed up and wanted to scream because I didn’t know. And maybe everybody did know in nineteen-sixty-freaking-three, but a goodly percentage of those people have died or dropped out of fandom or moved off the grid because life sucks sometimes, and if you keep not mentioning it because why bother, everybody knows, eventually you are standing in a room where nobody knows except you and you don’t say anything because dude, everybody knows.
Well, maybe they knew all that and were saying it ironically, because I would like to think that, and I am just humorless about this topic and not everybody you meet has body language while sitting in a chair that I can read with flawless accuracy. Because I grew up on Sword & Sorceress and it really kind of mattered to me a LOT but there’s Being A Fan Of Problematic Things and then there’s this. ‘Problematic things’ to me is enjoying Baby, It’s Cold Outside, and doesn’t come anywhere near this shit.
That’s not the bit that spawned the post. That bit I have not yet processed and may go to my grave not processing and even if I process it, I still might not talk about it in public, because there are living victims out there and that’s way more important than my bullshit.
The bit that spawned the post was five minutes later.
The bit was when somebody was explaining the whisper network, and saying “We all got told not to get in an elevator with–well–certain authors–or we’d get groped–”
“Author X,*” muttered someone in the front row, not quite under her breath.
“Author X?” I said out loud, more startled than I probably should have been. “Seriously?”
“No, it was Author Y,” said someone else.
“I thought Y was just a drunk.”
“No, X was the drunk, Y was just annoying.”
“Look, they were both gropers,” said someone else, exasperated.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said, displaying my awesome professional panelist demeanor, and dropped my head in my hands. “This is why we can’t have nice things.”