It completely floored me when Ruth Ewertt of Yonge Street Mission shared that from a survey she helped conduct that “if youth felt a sense of love or belonging at home, even with physical or sexual abuse, they most likely would not run away and end up homeless.”
Everything in me tells me that I would leave an abusive situation. However, looking back I myself was excessively disciplined and I never ran away.Reflecting on this, I can’t even call it physical abuse because as much as I hated it I always knew there were good intentions somewhere underneath it all, proving Ruth’s point.
Even the times I did leave home, I would always eventually go back, because as wrong as what I felt they did to me was, I still felt that there was still something right about home. If what Ruth says is true, I’m guessing some of the kids may have been abused even less than I was, but when they ran away, they didn’t feel that they had anything to return home to.
It scares me to think that a lack of love or belonging may be the greatest form of abuse because sadly it changes my notions of a healthy home. There are many people I interact with where there have not been any reported cases of physical or sexual abuse, but this statement forces to me to change my assumptions on whether they are in a loving home. It is not enough for my family, or the families I lead to simply prevent physical or sexual abuse.
Ruth statement makes me feel like I’ve been in shock of all the wrong things. As bad as news-headlining type of abuse is, I need to be shocked by the lack of love and belonging that is being fostered in our own homes. When I reflect on how much I am loved by my own family and closest friends, street children are no different. They crave a sense of belonging and love just as much as I do, and likely more because they have received so little of it in their lives.
I am amazed at the capacity of the human heart to long for relationship even amid abuse. I am saddened that it was so difficult to come by for so many of the youth on the streets. Of all the labels I naturally place on street kids, ‘unloved’ has never been one of them. Youth at risk are not just victims, they are the undesired, the unwanted, the unloved. I use to feel that it was naive for people to think that street children are not dangerous.Now I feel it is completely naive of me to assume that they have had just as much opportunity of experiencing love as I did.
Of all the things I’ve ever wanted in my life, for the first time, I want the unwanted.