Editors' Note: "Stories from the Helpline" is a recurring feature on The Bilerico Project, bringing in the personal accounts of Helpline counselors from The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth. This installment comes from Gabriel Amor, a volunteer Helpline counselor on The Trevor Helpline. He volunteers at The Randy Stone East Coast Call Center in New York City. This is his account of a family in crisis.
One call that really moved me was from the mother of 19-year-old Andrew. She was sobbing when I picked up and she had difficulty talking about what was bothering her. Andrew had attempted suicide at 16 and then told his parents (while in the emergency room) that he had tried to overdose because he was gay. He had never given them a clue before this incident.
When Andrew graduated high school, mom decided he should go to a college nearby instead of the one most of his high school friends had chosen. There is a history of mental illness and suicide in her family, so she wanted to keep an eye on Andrew. But college didn't go well for Andrew. He complained that he couldn't make friends and felt isolated at the dorms. He had always been a bright student but now his grades suffered.
The next year Andrew transferred to a school nearby so he could live at home. His behavior was erratic and his mom kept catching him in lies. He wasn't going to some of his classes and he was getting bad grades in the others. It seemed that Andrew was mostly hanging around campus and playing computer games with other kids over the internet.
Mom was distraught and decided to try some tough love. She laid out contracts and rules of behavior, but Andrew just did things behind her back. She finally told Andrew he would have to cut down to being a part-time student and get a job since his sister was graduating high school in the spring and they couldn't afford tuition for both of them. That night Andrew and his mom had a bad fight...that's when everything came out.
That's also when the mom called Trevor. She cried, saying she had been a bad mother and was ashamed of her failures. This shocked me because she had accepted her son's sexuality and tried to help him in every way she could. (We get so many calls from young people whose parents are hostile and even threaten to throw them out of the house for being gay). Andrew had broken down during their confrontation the night before and told her that he had been raped by a student at his old college. That was the reason he had transferred schools. That's why he had a hard time making friends and trusting other young gay people.
Finally all the pieces were falling into place. Here she was doing everything possible to help her son and she couldn't reach him. But she felt guilty for having been tough on him. We talked about resources for Andrew and for her. I recommended PFLAG and counseling for the mom. I explained to her about TrevorSpace as a good place for Andrew to meet other young LGBTQ people, and I suggested that she consider asking him to give us a call. They needed trauma counseling and a plan for how to deal with the rapist. I gave her a few other resources in her area - they both have a lot to deal with and they could use some expert help managing this crisis.
www.rainn.org (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) is a good resource for individuals who have been raped or sexually abused.