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.