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You are not what they say you are

Hope ran away at 14 to escape unimaginable cruelty. Her courage will blow you away. Learn about Hope’s journey thanks for the support of her DCJ caseworker Sarah.

Hope, 15 years old


I planned my escape carefully. Hiding clothes, books and things I wanted to take in the front yard where my parents wouldn’t find them. I even took coins from my little brother’s money box. I feel bad about that now, but I needed the money to run away and the abuse to stop.

I snuck out of my house before the sun came up. I left a note on the kitchen table telling my parents I was tired of them hurting me. I told them I wanted more for my life. I even bargained – ‘If you don’t try to find me, I won’t report you to the police’.

Hope and Sarah

My parents hurt me a lot – verbally, physically and emotionally. My stepmum told me I was useless and that my dad regrets having me. Dad agreed with everything she said. I felt unworthy and that I didn’t belong. The weird thing was that they never hurt my siblings, only me.

Things got so awful I tried to end my life. More than once. I would always stop myself because of my baby sister – I couldn’t do that to her.

Dad threatened that he would send me back to Korea to be locked up in a mental health facility. That’s when I knew I had to get away. I didn’t want to end up abandoned and forgotten overseas, never to return home to Australia.

I fled to Sydney where there is a big Korean community which I thought may take me in. I feel safest around people from my own culture. The first thing I did was ask shopkeepers for a job. Everyone was kind, but they got worried when they realised I was all alone at the age of 14 and called the police. That’s when I met my caseworker Sarah.

I was terrified I would have to go back to my parents. Thankfully Sarah believed me and reassured me she would keep me safe no matter what.
Hope


I like that Sarah listens to me and makes no judgements. After years of feeling helpless, it means a lot that Sarah cares about my opinion and includes me in decisions about my life. It helps me feel a sense of control. When I’m anxious she hears me out and I never feel ignored like I did at home. Sarah let me choose where I wanted to live and encouraged me to make the phone call to my new house parents to tell them I was coming to stay. I was feeling freedom for the first time in my life.

We hang out a lot. We’re both foodies so we go for bubble tea or cook something together. Sarah shares her experiences of being a woman from a different cultural background. We have that experience in common.  She tells me about some of the mistakes she made as a teenager which helps me feel less awkward talking about some of mine. When Sarah and I are together we chat about school, my friends and my future. I hope other kids have a caseworker like Sarah, who really got to know me for who I am. When she asks me what I feel like doing and what I want to talk about, I feel I can share the hard stuff too. It all comes pouring out. Sarah motivates me to try hard at school and value who I am by telling me to aim high and go for my dreams. I don’t feel useless anymore.

If you’re a kid reading this and are being hurt by someone who is meant to care for you, please tell someone you trust. Remember you are not what they say you are – you are so much more.

I’m so thankful to my friends and everyone who has helped me. I know that I have a generous heart. I work hard and will make something of myself – hopefully go to uni, get a car and one day buy a home. I want to prove to my parents I made it and I did it on my own. I am worthy.

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Last updated: 14 Dec 2020