My friend is in a gang, and he wants to get out, but that involves him being hurt, what do I do to help him?
What a good friend you are. This is a big deal and you need support form a trusted adult on this matter.
Being a gang member can be a dangerous thing. It is never easy to leave a gang for a number of reasons. One might feel an obligation or family tie, or because as a member you have information that could be shared with authorities like the police, or you might think you cannot leave. Gangs don’t want members to leave for a variety of reasons, it is a hard decision to make for many people.
Sometimes the decision to leave a gang can be even more dangerous than joining. If your friend is thinking of leaving, remember that it will not be easy. I would suggest you talk to your friend and ask them to reach out to someone they know and trust to let them know their plan to leave. In many cities there are gang outreach groups that can help.
Your Life Counts offers a few suggestions for leaving a gang you can pass on to your friend:
1. Never tell the gang that you plan to leave. Don’t leave any written, text, or e-mailnotes that they could find. You could place yourself in great danger.
2. Find other interests in your neighborhood like sports clubs or art groups. Try to spend more time with your family if you can.
3. Dress down and rediscover your own identity. Gangs often have a dress code that can be identified, so begin to ditch the gang clothes and start to wear what you really want.
4. Don’t speak or act like a member of the gang. How you speak, dress and act are often controlled by the gang, so make a decision to speak, dress and act differently, like yourself!
5. Don’t be available to the gang –change your contact information (phone number, e-mail, etc.) and even move cities if you can. Be persistent in ignoring them when they come to find you, and give good excuses for being unavailable.
If things get dangerous and your friend’s safety is at risk, they need to let someone know and make plans to proceed. Remind them that they aren’t alone, and many other people have left gangs before. Once they get their life back, it will be better –they can have thier own identity, own freedom, and make thier own decisions.
Leaving a gang can be hard, but being in a gang is harder. They do not need to go through it alone. By having someone support them, the process will be so much easier.
Thank you for being a good friend,