Listen up peoples, I'd like to share a story with you.
A number of years ago, one of my art school friends had a big adventure. She (let's call her Z) was much younger, and our friendship was a lot like elder and younger siblings, or maybe even aunt and niece. She would bounce in every day and relate stories about her adventures with housemates/friends/loves, and I would laugh along with her, and when she felt troubled, we would talk it through.
Z felt troubled a lot, because she knew that she liked women more than just as friends, but she came from a very strict family who were New Australians originating from a small southern European country. If her family were to find out she was a lesbian, she said, they would disown her. Perhaps go even further than that. So at that point she had never acted upon her feelings, because they led along a road of danger.
One day she bounced in even harder than usual. She'd met The One. Bugger the family. She just wouldn't tell them. Fair enough, I said, just be very careful.
They moved in together, along with another friend. She told her family that she was just sharing a house with two friends. All was good.
The girlfriend, who was very young and very indulged, having come from a very rich and accepting family, told Z that it would be ok if she came out to her family, and promised that she would 'be there' for Z whatever happened. My friend was still hesitant, but over time felt confident enough to tell her sister.
Of course, the next time Z and her sister had a fight, the news leaked to the family. Suddenly all hell broke loose. The family made violent threats, the girlfriend instantly dumped Z and scarpered. They came down to Canberra with baseball bats to force her back into the family home in order to 'make her see sense'. When they arrived at the house she wasn't there.
Over the next few months the family made not-very-subtle investigations into where their daughter might be. This involved finding out who her friends were, knocking at their doors and making alternate threats and pleas for information, depending on whether the doorknocker (and door-answerer) were male or female. It was a stressful time for all of Z's friends.
She was at my house for about half of that time, and I had a small child who couldn't be expected to tell lies or even keep quiet about his beloved Z. At one point Bumblebee almost blew it, and it scared the hell out of both of us. But I believed strongly in Z's right to love who she wanted to. And I was cranky as hell with her stupid ex-girlfriend, who had thought it was all a game.
Eventually I persuaded Z that it was worth taking the whole situation to the police, something she'd been averse to all along, because she thought her sexuality might not give her many rights. Luckily the police came through for her with some protection, advice, mediation and even some rights, and the family went through a long period of court orders, property negotiations and eventual subjugation.
It was a long and dangerous journey, but eventually Z and her family were reconciled. But it snuffed out a large part of her innocence and joy for life. She's still bouncy, but there's a bit less trust in the goodness of things like friends and family. I'd like to say she's in a good relationship, but I'm not able to do that right now. But she's alive, and well, and has lots of friends (including me), and that's a wonderful blessing.
However, the memory of that time always reminds me, especially listening to the news lately, that there are sometimes reasons why people disappear. Not pointing fingers, but just saying. And hoping. But not really expecting.