We're in Canada, if that's relevant.
My partner and I live by ourselves (late 20's), and my partner's 16 year old step-sister has recently fled an emotionally abusive home life (no physical abuse so far as we can tell). Because there's no physical abuse, we're finding it much harder to determine how we should evaluate the situation - damage is much less tangible.
How can we, as outsiders, tell how much emotional abuse is "too much", to the point where it's beneficial for a teenager to be removed from their parents? Is it appropriate to react to this situation by offering to host her while she figures things out? Are there best practices or guidelines for what to do when on the receiving end of a runaway?
What factors should be considered when deciding whether we should support her independence, try and push her and her parents back together, or try to stay as neutral as possible in everything?
Edit: While previously on friendly terms with the parents, they've gone somewhat "off the rails" now and lashed out at anyone who has contact with their daughter. They follow her friends on social media (she's blocked them), hunting for untagged pictures, and wait outside her school to find out where she's staying etc. I would be hesitant to try and confront the parents about the situation and try and have a reasoned discussion, as they're unstable enough to fall into "scary" territory.
Update: For anyone who happens upon this, I figured it was worth updating how it played out. Roughly 2 years on:
- Step sister was reasonably well prepared to run away, as much as a 16 year old could be. She stayed with her biological sister for a short time but the sister was not in a position to support the step-sister (same family, similar situation, also ran away when she was younger)
- We hosted the step sister for just over a year
- Her parents went a bit more crazy, abusing each other, threatening to show up at our house and take her back, nothing actually happened though (we got a heads up they were on their way over, so we left and locked all the doors, no idea if they actually showed up)
- Entire side of the family cut us off, which was difficult for my partner but easier when it was so obvious who the terrible people were
- Eventually it came out that there was some physical abuse, but "not that bad" (not downplaying physical abuse, just saying the step sister considered the emotional abuse to be more impactful, which says a lot...)
- My partner helped step-sister get settled, got all the needed ID (parents held it hostage), got a driver's license, etc.
- Step-sister did a few therapy sessions, but was not eager enough to continue on her own
- Step sister graduated high school (yay!) and did a year of university in a program that supports those who don't really have the skills or knowledge to be in university. This was a personal goal of step-sister.
- As you might imagine, university went terribly. No study skills, too much life to live out from under oppressive parents
- Now she's mostly living a mundane adult life - job, boyfriend, friends, etc.