Info for Teens
You can't join Fort till you're 16, but this page might help meanwhile.
Everybody has the right to happiness. With adults it's their headache to reach it. With minors - it's society's job to provide you with a healthy, safe, supportive environment where you can thrive. Nobody can make you happy but yourself, but adults responsible for you (like your parents, your teachers, your doctors, your local police officers - everyone around you) have the responsibility of providing you with your basic needs, things no one can be happy without. Society cares about you, wants you to reach your full potential and turn out a happy, healthy, smart, responsible, well-adjusted individual. This is why we have laws in place to make sure you get what you need to do that:
You have the right to a safe home, adequate clothing, school supplies, food, medical care. When you don't have a winter coat, your home has no electricity, you haven't seen a dentist in years, there's no food in the fridge, or mom and dad yell at each other every night so you can't focus on homework - this is a bad environment to be in because you can't function like this. Nobody can thrive while cold, hungry, or sick.
You have the right to education and guidance. If you can't read - you won't get very far in life, you know. If you don't know how to do laundry - it's going to be hard once you move out of your parents' house. If you never learned how to balance a checkbook - things will be rough when you get your own bank account and start paying your own bills. You have the right to learn all these things you will need in life. If you can't go to school because you don't have textbooks, because you're embarrassed to go with a black eye that your dad gave you yesterday, or because other people in school bully you - something needs to be done here.
You have the right to love and support. When something is bugging you and you need advice, yet have no one to talk to - that's not right. When you're running amok doing stuff that hurts you, and no one notices or cares - that's not right either. When you've accomplished something you're proud of - someone at home needs to be happy and excited and proud of you too. It's a miserable life without love, you deserve better than that. People who love you but keep forgetting about it - need to learn to remember and express it more frequently.
You have the right to safety and respect. Just because you're under 18 it doesn't make it ok for people to commit crimes against you. Nobody has the right to assault you, bully you, threaten you, yell at you all the time, or otherwise make your life miserable. Such things hurt, and make anyone scared, confused, and constantly worried - not a thriving environment. Adults around you, like parents, teachers, doctors, police, etc - are there to help you, not to hurt you. No one can function well while they are worried about their safety.
You have the right to not be violated sexually. Sex is a tricky subject because it can be hard to figure out the right boundaries: some things seem ok, but just feel wrong somehow. Other things feel real good, but seem kinda off. And sometimes it seems ok, and feels ok, but still is deeply wrong, only you don't realize it till consequences hit you. Adults often struggle with such confusions too, it's not because you're young. This is a normal part of life, to be figuring out what you are and what you are not comfortable with, and with whom. However, you have the right to set your limits and have them respected - nobody should be touching you in ways that make you uncomfortable. And no adult should be doing anything sexual around you no matter what.
If you're a minor and aren't getting what you have the right to - it means you're being abused: someone around you isn't doing their job right. Society (majority of people around) cares about you, it truly does, but occasionally people mess up. It's very unfortunate, but it does happen. What you need to do is reach out for help. Alert someone to what's happening to you. This isn't right, and society will fix it, if it knows about it. Don't keep it a secret - you matter. It doesn't make you weak or a traitor, - asking for help when you need it is the healthiest thing you can do. Problems don't resolve themselves, taking active steps to get your life back on track means you're strong and smart. Do it. Reach out. Talk to someone about what's going on. It doesn't reflect badly on you, just means you need someone to help you out with this. We all need help at times, nothing's wrong with that.
Asking for help:
What you need is someone to intervene with what's happening and make things right for you, put things back on track, the way they're supposed to be. That takes a special sort of person, not just anyone. First, they need to be an adult: adults listen to each other better sometimes. They need to be in 3d: familiar with the situation and aware of options. Helps if they have training/experience. But above all - you just gotta trust them. It's better to talk to a friend's parent you trust than to a social worker you don't :)
Talking can seem scary, so here are a few tips to make it easier:
- Don't lie, don't exaggerate, don't skip important parts of the story. Makes a bad impression. If you aren't comfortable saying the truth - say so, and/or say a general thing, without specific details. For example, it is totally ok to say that you cannot tell why you don't like your step dad, or that you don't like him because he does bad stuff to you - without specifying what exactly that bad stuff is. It's understandable that once some adult(s) failed you, you wouldn't be having much faith in other adults ability and willingness to understand and help. Do give it a try though, most of them really aren't too bad.
- Talk more of facts. Give as many of them as you can. Opinion is something you think, fact is something the adult can check and verify. For example, if you started cutting, if you're missing school, if you got a bruise, if you don't have clothes or school supplies, if there's no food in the house, no lock on the bathroom door, if the coach often stays in school after hours with just one kid in the gym - all these things are palpable, adult can see them for themselves and verify that things really don't look right, there's a problem somewhere here that needs to be looked into.
- State your feelings honestly. It's not stupid, and it's not obvious. Don't expect them to know and understand and guess things you didn't tell them. They can't read your mind. If you're scared to sleep at home - say so. If you're thinking suicide sometimes - say so too. An adult, if they got any brain, won't put you in trouble for this.
- It's ok to not know what the problem is or how to solve it or what kind of help you want. This is what adult is for - to help you figure out what's happening and what are your options here.
- If you're scared of getting in trouble for talking - ask about their policies first. Find out when specifically they will talk to your parents, and why, and how. Tell them straight what are you scared of, so they can find a workable solution without putting you at risk. After all, they are there to help YOU, not your mom/dad.
Why Fort isn't the right solution:
Fort is open to those who are 16yo and older. It's nothing personal, not that we don't like teens and refuse to talk to them, or feel that they don't deserve support. Not at all. Just the support for minors is very different from support for adults. For example, it's a fairly common thing for our members to suggest each other to get themselves into therapy, to talk of their struggle with a mental health professional. For adults it's a matter of simply choosing to do so. While for a teenager it's a lot more complicated, as you can't just go get a therapist for yourself, you need to ask your parents to get you one, explain to them why you feel you need it, etc - which is a whole other can of worms, as many teens aren't comfortable disclosing their struggle to mom/dad. Our members, mods, admins, etc aren't qualified mental health professionals, all we can offer is our personal experience/thoughts, and so we won't always know what to suggest for specific teen issues such as how to talk to your parents, how to get counseling at school, how to handle classmates, etc. So a site made specifically for teens might offer a lot better support than we can. Also, since most of our members are older, they mainly discuss their specific adult struggles: work-related issues, spouses, children, etc. So a teenager might feel left out in our group, not able to relate to what people talk about, and not having other people relate to what s/he is saying either. It's nothing bad, just means you need to keep looking for 3D help, and/or for a site made specifically for teens. There are many such sites around, hope you find the one that's a right fit for you, and - above all - be safe, call police if anything. You matter, and you have the right to a decent life.
~ Janet Long
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