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Teen Prison, Abuse, Laws, Education

Just start writing. Put whatever down until something useful comes out.

That is what I am telling myself right now.

It is about what I witnessed last night.

Her crying.

Her sister on the phone saying she wanted to leave.

Talking to the police, them saying she can’t legally leave until she is 21.


The average age of the American soldiers killed in the Vietnam war was 19.

Yet Ceci can’t leave until she is 21.

It is okay for a country to send you to another part of the world and have you killed, but it is not okay to leave a home where you are being hit and imprisoned.

Maybe that is all I will say this morning.

I don’t know if I can write more or not. I am physically tired and feel pretty powerless.

But am I?

Who among us is really powerless?

Can one person change the world?

Can one person get laws changed?

Can I make a difference in Argentina?

Can it really be true that an 18, 19 or 20 year old can not simply walk out of a building called a home and not be forced by the police to go back?

I know that in the USA a 17 year old like Ocean can not just walk out of the building called her home and go stay with a friend with whom she feels safe. But is it really true that even a 20 year old can not do this in Argentina?

Maybe I will go to Chile to see what the laws are there, or I will start a survey of South American countries.

Or I will find out what the laws are in Spain, the country that enslaved virtually all of South American a while back, leaving behind the slave/owner mentality.

We all know a slave can not leave the place where the owner lives. Are there still slaves in the world, we might ask? Yes, I’d say so.

When one person is told to do something that another person wants them to do and does it only out of fear, and they can’t just walk away from the person giving them the orders, then I would call them a slave.

This may be a new definition of a slave. But if you agree with this definition then it means that there are now millions more slaves in the world than we might like to admit to ourselves. We might like to think that when one person orders another to do something and that second person does it, they do it because it is … well, why do they do it? Why does anyone do something someone else tells them to do?

Why would a 20 year old stay inside a building called her home when someone called her parents tell her to, yet she desperately wants to leave and be with the person she loves?

Is it because the 20 year old respects the people called the parents?

Or is it because she is afraid of them?

Maybe she is not afraid of them hitting her. Maybe she is afraid of other things. Such as them refusing to pay for her education if she disobeys them.

Let’ stop for just a moment and think about this.

Do we want a society where someone can deny someone else an education simply because the person wanting to be educated was disobedient?

Do we want a society where a 20 year old can not move to another city and study the profession of her choice simply because she disobeyed her parents?

This is the situation in Cecilia’s case. Or almost. She is 18, yet if she were 20 it would be the same. And actually if she were 21 or 22 it would be the same. If Cecilia does not have her own money, how will she be able to move to Buenos Aires and study to become an air traffic controller, as she wants to?

Right now her parents could pay for her trip to Buenos Aires. They could pay for her room and food there. But they can legally use the financial power they have to not pay for any of this if she commits the unforgivable sin of disobedience.

In South America it is common for females to live under their parents roof and rules until they are married. Argentina is a bit more developed and quite a bit more wealthy than other countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, but still females here often don’t have something we call financial freedom. And if you don’t have financial freedom, you probably don’t have freedom freedom.

Let’s get back to why Cecilia doesn’t walk out the door when her parents tell her she is grounded. You might think it sounds odd to talk about grounding an 18 year old. Yet that is exactly what is happening as I write this.

Ceci was told she is “grounded.” She can’t even leave to use the Internet in a cyber café around the corner from her parents house. Neither can she go see her boyfriend, even to say goodbye to him and to explain what her parents are doing to him.

In case you have forgotten Ceci’s age, she is 18. And her parents will evidently have this same control over her until she is 21, and possibly longer if she has no source of financial independence by then.

Yet please don’t think that this is shocking just because Ceci is 18. What about a 17 year old in the USA? And what about a 15 year old in Canada, England and Australia where females are allowed to live where they want at 16?

Why did anyone come up with a law in the first place which says a person of any age can’t leave a situation they don’t want to be in?

Why did the people who thought up and passed such laws think they know more what a young person needs than that young person does?

Do they also know when a young person is hungry and thirsty or has to go to the bathroom?

Just the other day I heard from a teenager who told me that her father got angry at her for refusing to go to bed when he ordered her to. She is almost 16. At 16 the laws in her country will give her the legal freedom to leave her father's home and live in a place where she decides when she wants to go to bed.

Yet it is highly unlikely this teen will exercise her legal power and move out. First there is the financial issue. Second, there is a psychological issue of not wanting to hurt her parents. No matter that they have hurt her over and over. She has been trained to believe they do everything because they love her and it is for her “own good” as Alice Miller writes about.

So back to why Ceci didn’t just leave when I had the taxi waiting downstairs and her 22 year old sister was helping her pack her things.

She didn’t leave because her 19 year old brother came home. And he was told by the parents to make sure Ceci didn’t leave. So Ceci was afraid to leave.

I asked Patricia, the older sister, if she thought her brother would physically stop them from leaving. She said, “He wouldn’t stop me but he probably would stop her.”

He apparently approves of his parents hitting his 18 year old sister in order to “discipline her” and “keep her from getting pregnant.”

The keeping girls from getting pregnant is a bit ironic here in South America, to say the least. Here in South America I have never seen so many teenagers controlled by their parents, all supposedly under the comforting sounding name of “protecting” the little children. Yet for some strange reason South America also has what may be the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the world, as well as the highest rate of teen fathers who completely abandon the mother and child.

So something suggest to me that something is not working very well. And it suggest we might call the South American culture a bit “dysfunctional.”

So last night I learned that I can’t just talk about “teen prison” anymore. I now have to include twenty year olds.

I still find it hard to believe a 20 year old in this country can not decide where she sleeps. Yet is that really anymore shocking than thinking of a 15 year old who is legally prevented from the same decision? Why do we accept such laws? Why do so many people underestimate teenagers and their innate intelligence?

To me this relates to emotional intelligence because the laws prevent a person from using their own feelings to make healthy decisions.

It is very obviously not physically or psychologically safe for Ceci to live under her parents' control. Yet the laws keep her a prisoner there.

In South America one is able to see society’s problems a bit more clearly. Things are not as hidden and glossed over here. In Peru for example, parents would directly tell children “If you don’t obey me I will hit you.”

It is the norm, not the exception to be hit in Peru.

Here in Argentina not many people will be surprised when I say that Ceci’s mother hit her the other night. They might not even be surprised when I say that her mother is a school director.

Yes, you read that right.

A school director.

An educator.

Or so they say.

Can someone really be an educator, yet hit their own 18 year old daughter?

This reminds me of an arch I heard about. It was said that no Jewish person could walk under that arch, or something like that. The explanation was that if a Jewish person did walk under it, he or she would no longer be considered a Jew when they passed through to the other side.

So could we say that anyone who hits a young person can no longer be considered an educator?

Could we strip this woman of her title as “school director” because she has hit her 18 year old daughter?

What if she passively watched while her husband hit her 17 year old daughter, or her 13 or fourteen year old daughter?

I have told Patricia, the 22 year old sister, that it is unlikely the parents will continue to hit Ceci if Patricia and Ceci go to the women’s shelter or the police and file a report against the parents. I have said that in my experience school directors are very worried about their image, more so than they are worried about their children at home or the students in their schools. So it is my guess that the hitting would stop once it became public. That is one reason I am writing this, using their actual first names and all other actual facts.

Perhaps Patricia and or Cecilia will ask me to take this down, and I will if they ask me to. But for now it is going up just as it is.

How sad that two people are so afraid of the truth. So afraid of speaking out against two abusive people called their “parents.”

Yet that is the situation in so many families. If it isn’t the fear of being hit it is the fear of being disapproved of, rejected, punished in a thousand ways.

So many young people live in fear. Inside the homes in which society wants to think are safe places. But let’s stop lying about abuse. Every time a sensitive teenager is even invalidated it is abuse. Yet invalidation is perfectly legal.

At the very least, let’s teach young people what invalidation is, and let’s teach them to listen to their own feelings a little more instead of their parents. Let’s put more value on a child and a teen’s feelings and stop passing laws which suppose that such feelings matter not.

If a young person falls in love with someone else, don’t his or her feelings matter in this legalistic society?

If a young person can not be with the person they love because two other people known as “parents” can stop them from leaving a building, talking on the phone, chatting on the Internet etc. then how much value does love really have in society?

And if love itself has little value, then how much value do feelings in general have?

I will try to get the laws changed here in Argentina. Please try to get the laws changed wherever you live.

And please try to bring the things I write about on this website into the schools wherever you are reading this.

At the very least, let’s educate people like Patricia and her sister so they will know what is being done to them. That way they might have a chance to lead healthy lives once they are free of their parents control.

And they might do a better job of being parents themselves one day in the future.

S. Hein
Salta, Argentina
January 20, 2007


Teen Slaves
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