Sep 3, 2020

Mediation Resolves a Gossipy Dispute

Trent and Jess were referred to mediation at CCR after a fight at their school. A conflict between the two of them got physical and escalated into an altercation involving multiple students. Trent’s probation officer recommended the two try mediation to see if they could settle things between themselves.

The mediator began by asking about the history of their relationship. Jess and Trent started dating in 8th grade and continued until their Junior year. They had been their school’s most recognizable couple until March when rumors began that Jess had cheated on Trent. After hearing it from several friends, Trent broke up with Jess. That same week during lunch, Jess and a couple of her friends confronted Trent and demanded to know why he believed others and not her. Trent shoved Jess down and a fight broke out. As a result, Trent was arrested.

Both students attended mediation with their mothers and the women began to chime in about how the other kid was a bad influence on their own child. The dynamic between the two mothers began to worsen and they each began questioning the parenting methods of the other.

The mediator stepped in and asked the parties if things had always been this way. Everyone agreed that it was only within the last year that things had started downhill. Sensing a tipping point, the mediator continued to explore by asking why things had changed. Jess’s mom, Maria, said, “Because Trent started hanging out with those gang boys.”

Trent denied that he was in a gang and said that he had only been trying to protect Jess. Everyone began speaking at once and the mediator helped focus the conversation by asking Trent to explain more about what he meant.

At the end of Sophomore year, Trent had been 5’8” and about 125 lbs. By November of Junior year, he was a little over 6’ and weighed close to 160 lbs. Gang affiliated guys that he had known, some since grade school, started to recruit him. Trent tried to duck them, but they wouldn’t stop. Trent said they just started telling other people that he was with them. Once word got out, he couldn’t deny it or he faced retribution from them and/or pressure from rival gangs.

To make matters worse, the guy whom Jess supposedly cheated with was one of those rivals. As the drama unfolded among seemingly the whole school, Trent said his affiliated friends told him that he couldn’t let this stand. If he wasn’t going to do something, they would. When Jess and her friends confronted Trent that day, he knew he had to do something and all he could think was to shove Jess.

Everyone was silent for a moment and then the mediator asked how that had felt for Trent. After a few seconds, he said that he had felt trapped and angry. Following up, she asked who he was angry with. Trent said he was mad at Jess, but he was angrier with the other kids who had threatened her and seemed to be controlling both their lives. He still cared about her and had been hurt by the alleged cheating, but he was afraid his new acquaintances would be a danger to Jess.

The mediator asked Jess what she thought about all this. Through tears, she explained that she’d never known this before and now she was even more upset. Not at Trent, but at the people who started all the gossip. Because things had moved so quickly, the two of them never had a chance to discuss the gossip and her friends had been pressuring her to stand up for herself. Jess hadn’t cheated and that’s why she had confronted Trent.

The mediator summarized for both parties that it sounded like they were feeling manipulated and out of control of their own lives. She said that it seemed like they both cared a lot about each other and that they wanted freedom to be themselves and enjoy their relationship without everyone else getting into their business. The mediator also highlighted that it wasn’t just their emotional safety that was at stake, but possibly their physical safety as well. Then she asked what they would want to do to move forward and to avoid something like this happening again.

Right away, Trent apologized for hitting Jess and for not trusting her. He said in the future, he would always come to her first if there was a question. She apologized as well for confronting him in public and agreed that they should always talk together about any issue before letting others push them towards an action.

Finally, the mediator asked how they would handle this when they got back to school in a couple of months. Both of them felt like things would have settled down, since COVID-19 had everyone thinking about other things and school would be remote anyway. But, they both agreed to tell any friends who asked that the cheating rumors were not true and that they were back together again.

Jul 10, 2020

Caught in the Middle

Lisa rented an apartment from Arthur and Annie for over 3 years. Everything went well between them until about 6 months ago. Lisa was late with her rent on two occasions and then stopped paying altogether. Arthur and Annie filed an eviction against Lisa and when the three of them appeared in court the judge referred them to mediation with CCR.

As soon as she had a chance to speak, Annie began angrily demanding that Lisa pay the $2,300 she owed and get out. Before the mediator even had a chance to say anything, Arthur jumped in telling Annie to calm down and be quiet. This did not have the desired effect. Instead, Annie got even more upset and started yelling at Arthur! The mediator intervened quickly and asked everyone to pause and re-set. She then began again by turning to Annie and acknowledging that this was a really upsetting situation for her and asked her to explain in more detail why she was feeling so angry.

Annie felt Lisa had been disrespectful by paying rent late, and then by eventually not paying at all and avoiding their calls. Lisa argued it was Annie who had been disrespectful by confronting her about past due rent in front of her children, and explained she had just been reacting to Annie’s insults.

As the mediator explored this incident more, it became clear that both women had been going through a difficult time. Annie and Arthur’s adult daughter lived in the apartment prior to Lisa, and there had been a falling out between them. This resulted in the daughter damaging the apartment and being arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct. The event was traumatic for Annie and she had not recovered from it. Lisa had recently lost her job and been sued for custody of her two children by her ex, who claimed she was an unfit mother. She had been under a lot of pressure when Annie confronted her about the rent.

The mediator highlighted that when the two women had their confrontation, they had both been angry about other things. This impacted their ability to have a productive conversation at the time. The mediator asked if they had it to do over, would they change anything? Lisa acknowledged she could have notified Annie and Arthur about the situation and asked to make a plan to pay her rent when she was able. Annie agreed that more communication would have helped and that she could have waited until she was able to speak with Lisa privately to discuss the rent.

Arthur, who had quiet for most of the mediation, interjected that Lisa had always been a really good tenant, and it had been disappointing and scary when she had gone silent. When the mediator asked him to say more about why it was “scary,” he talked about how their daughter had been staying rent free, even though they needed the money, because they were trying to help her get on her feet and deal with her substance abuse issues. They had come to care about Lisa as well, and seeing another young woman possibly going down a concerning path made them worry that they were in for another bad experience both emotionally and financially.

Lisa told them that she had a new job, but that it didn’t pay as much as her old one, and she could no longer afford to stay in the apartment. If she could find a cheaper place to live, she would make some payments to catch up with the back rent. Annie said that she appreciated that honesty and believed that Lisa would pay what she promised.

Arthur and Annie agreed to give Lisa six weeks to find a new place and to dismiss the case as long as she was able to make some payments under a payment plan. Lisa agreed, since it would avoid an eviction on her record which could be problematic for her custody case with her ex and would impact her ability to find new housing.

Everyone expressed to the mediator that this resolution made them feel much better about the future and allowed them to resolve the issue completely. They thanked the mediator and headed back to dismiss their case.

May 8, 2020

Virtual Mediation Allows for a Resolution

When David’s friend pulled up in front of his house on a Saturday morning and asked him if he wanted to drive, David said “Yes!” and cruised around the neighborhood. It turned out David was driving a stolen vehicle. As part of his probation, David participated in a mediation session with his mother, Monica, and Marina, the owner of the car. Due to Covid-19, the mediation took place via video conference.

David reluctantly began the mediation by sharing his side of the story - that he did not steal the car, claiming he had no idea the car did not belong to his friend. David felt his friend who stole the car should be the one at the mediation and not him. His mother, however, was quick to remind David that he was responsible because he was the one driving. She told him the minute he left the house, where he was supposed to be watching his younger siblings, and got behind the wheel, he was responsible for his behavior. Monica also wanted to be sure Marina knew that David was a good kid, had great grades and had never been in trouble before. During the mediation, David shared more about himself; that he wants to do well in school and become a video game designer.

Marina appreciated the opportunity to share her side of the story as well. Marina is a single mom with a teenage son and was completely panicked when she could not find her car one morning. She searched for an hour before finally calling the police. She could not go to work that day and her son missed school. Even though she got her car back, she had been unable to drive it due to the damage. Marina had to rely on others for rides and spend money on Uber to get to work. Marina also expressed that she felt violated that her car had been stolen.

During the mediator’s private conversation with David and his mother, David spoke about how frightening the entire experience had been for him. David was incredibly scared and cried when he was arrested. His younger sister and Grandmother witnessed his arrest and they both were traumatized by the experience. Mom and David both spoke about how they wanted to move forward and put this incident behind them so David could focus on school and his future.

When the mediator brought the parties back together, David apologized to Marina. Marina told David how much he reminded her of her own son and how she knows teenagers make mistakes and that is important to learn from them.

David’s mom then shared that her own car was stolen the previous year and found totaled in a neighboring state, filled with firearms. She understood what it was like to lose the independence a car provides and the expense of having to use Uber. Since she knew David did not have any money to give, she offered to pay Marina $225, and in return David would help her out more around the house; doing weekly laundry, cleaning out the garage and babysitting his siblings. David quickly agreed to this.  

They decided to write up this agreement, exchanged cell numbers and Marina, David and mom all wished each other well. Through mediation, David, Monica and Marina were able to find a solution that met their needs and opened the possibility for a more positive relationship in the future.

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