Julie's Home Free Story
Julie was only 15 when she fell in love with Brandon.
Julie and Brandon met online after Brandon followed Julie’s Instagram account and sent her a direct message. The two began texting and video chatting consistently for multiple months. The pair lived nearly 2,000 miles apart; Julie was in Iowa and Brandon in California. Brandon was eager to spend time together in person and tired of the long-distance relationship, so he tried persuading Julie to move to California to live with him.
Brandon was eight years older than Julie and making ends meet by working at a local mechanics’ shop. He promised Julie he would take care of her and that she wouldn’t have to worry about money or a place to live because he would provide for her. Viewing the situation with rose-colored glasses, it all sounded appealing to Julie.
When Julie shared the idea with her mom, her mom warned it wasn’t good news and what Brandon was promising was unrealistic. Feeling as though she was being belittled and that her mom didn’t trust or understand her, Julie got frustrated and the two argued. Her mom questioned Julie’s safety and thought this idea was uncharacteristic of her responsible daughter.
A few nights later, Julie packed a bag, scrounged up enough money for a plane ticket and flew to California. She left without her parents’ knowledge.
Julie and Brandon had been living together for only a few weeks when Brandon became possessive and physically and mentally abusive. It wasn’t long before Julie had no choice but to leave. Julie had not contacted her parents since she left Iowa and felt too ashamed by her choices to reconnect at this time. With no one to turn to for help, Julie hitchhiked and rode buses for hundreds of miles, picking up odd jobs listed on Craigslist.
Eventually, a family hired Julie as a live-in caretaker. She did this for a long time, off grid, until she decided it was time to contact her parents. Before doing so, she needed emotional support and guidance. Julie called NRS’ hotline.
While her parents were thankful to hear from her and wanted her to return home, they did not have enough money for the transportation. Julie was making a minimal salary; not enough to cover the cost of travel. NRS confirmed Julie qualified for a free bus ticket through the Home Free program and the arrangements were made for Julie to travel back to Iowa. Thanks to National Runaway Safeline and Greyhound Lines, Julie and her parents safely reunited and are living together again.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or in need to getting to a safe place, call National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY or chat on 1800RUNAWAY.org and ask about our Home Free program. Our staff is available 24/7 and trained to remain judgement-free as they help you find the right alternatives and resources for your concerns.