Was my girlfriend kidnapped?
March 19, 2017 11:40 PM   Subscribe

We are gay. Girlfriend's parents already disapproved. They managed to read all her texts and found that we are into BDSM. Now they won't let her come back to campus (we are in college). What options do we have? Preferably non-legal, but if it comes down to them pulling her out of school, I will consider it. NSFW details inside.

It's spring break. She went home to see her parents today expecting to come back tomorrow. Then they snooped through her phone somehow and read all her texts with me. We have been together for almost a year and they've known for a few months, but they didn't know we were having sex.

Recently we've gone down the rabbit hole with BDSM - mistress/slave roleplay in particular - and this has sent her parents into our worst nightmare scenario. They've recently moved here, so from now on they'll be making her commute instead of living on campus. They've been talking about pulling her out of college. I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to take her to India and marry her off, to be honest. They keep calling her depraved and her brother said she wasn't his sister anymore. I've talked to her about how controlling and, in my mind, abusive her parents can be. She maintains that they love her and they see her being gay as a willful rejection of their values.

So, what can we do in this situation? Legal means are a last resort. My University doesn't seem to have any documentation for this.

(As an aside: they've said they'll call my parents to tell them about the BDSM stuff. They are liberal but probably won't understand. Help explaining please?)

(Important point of reference: we are both Indian. Her parents are Hindu and, obviously, extremely conservative.)

Thank you for your answers.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder to Human Relations (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
She's an adult? Then it's up to her whether to do with her parents ask, or to do something else. If she chooses not to do what her parents ask, her parents then get to choose whether they want to continue the same relationship with her. It sounds like right now, they are supporting her financially to some extent. They might choose to stop doing that. But, that doesn't mean that they have the right to pull her out of school, only that they can decline to pay her tuition. Presumably, those are factors she'll take into account when she makes her decision about what she wants to do. But because she's an adult, no one can force her to live anywhere she doesn't want to live, or to move to a country she doesn't want to live in, or to spend time with her family if she decides that it's not a healthy relationship for her. The best thing you can do right now, is be a supportive presence, unconditionally backing her, as she figures out what she wants to do next. It sounds like she's hearing a lot of judgment and commands and anger from her family. You can help by being a source of just love and support and respect for her choices. Even if it's not what you would do yourself, you can still support her right to make whatever decision she thinks is best for her.
posted by decathecting at 11:51 PM on March 19 [43 favorites]

I'm really sorry you're in this situation.

It sounds like she is in communication with you, can you confirm this? Because that will make a difference. If she'll be returning to campus after spring break, even as a commuter, she can just bail the first day she gets back.

If she wants to avoid being forcibly sent out of the country, she can mail you her passport, or just cause a huge scene at the airport and refuse to get on the plane.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:51 PM on March 19 [6 favorites]

(As an aside: they've said they'll call my parents to tell them about the BDSM stuff. They are liberal but probably won't understand. Help explaining please?)

"Mum, Dad, I love you. But I'm not comfortable discussing my sex life with you. I promise, you have nothing to worry about."
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:38 AM on March 20 [54 favorites]

Wow, this is really tough. I'm sorry. I'm not sure there's much you can do if your girlfriend is willing to accept these rules and restrictions. They sound awful, and I'm sure she's feeling really stuck between her parents and you. I do worry you will push her away if you push her to push them away. If her parents are paying for college and she's not willing to risk that, then ultimately that's her choice.

Your parents: do they know you're gay? If so, I might call them preemptively, so they don't freak out if they get a call from your girlfriend's parents. "Parents, Girlfriend's parents just found out about our relationship and they are freaking out. They might call you with all sorts of crazy stuff. Please ignore it." Your sex life is none of their business, so in this case, a white lie to them is justified, I think.

Also, she should not get on an airplane with them. Does she have her passport? And, if so, could she give her passport to a trusted friend if she's concerned they'll somehow force the issue?

Did they give her her phone back? I'd encourage you all to get one of those apps where the messages implode after reading, so they can't spy on her and read the messages you all exchange.

Lastly, I suggest you reach individually get in touch with your campus counseling center. I'm hoping they have LGBTQ-friendly counselors; they might even have someone who has worked with LGBTQ students whose families are from more conservative cultures; you could ask at the campus queer center for advice on this. But you both have tons going on and it'd probably be helpful to talk this over.

Good luck. I'm sorry this sucks so much.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:01 AM on March 20 [13 favorites]

What decathecting said. And you should absolutely remind her of this. It can be easy to forget, in the midst of a parent-child relationship, that yes, she can decide to do whatever she wants. Don't beat her over the head with it, but you should tell her, once:

"You're over the age of majority. Your parents do not have the right to pull you out of school or housing. They do not have the right or the ability to make you go anywhere, live anywhere, or do anything. The only power they have is to stop providing money. You didn't do anything wrong, nothing about this is your fault."

As a financial note, as much as it sucks to get into debt for school, there are tons and tons and tons of financial aid resources out there. Lots of people (including yours truly) get through school, room and board included, without a penny from their parents wallets (they'd have loved to help, in my case, but had no ability to do so.) If she really wants to put down boundaries, finances don't have to put the kibosh on it, necessarily.

She should call the school and let them know to not release any information of any kind to her parents as well. They already should be not doing this, unless she's given prior written permission, but a phone call to make sure they know she doesn't want her parents involved wouldn't go amiss.

Unless they're physically detaining her at home, no she is not being kidnapped. If they try to physically detain her, yeah, go ahead and call police. But until that point it's just a family relationship decision that needs to be made.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 2:02 AM on March 20 [6 favorites]

Some of the comments about "well her parents can't make her do anything, she's an adult" are missing the (likely cultural) filial piety thing where this is a lot harder than it sounds.

I saw something similar play out with someone who is part of a local QPOC community here - I didn't know this person personally but we were in the same Facebook groups. They were visiting their mother in a different state and when their mother found out they were queer she threatened to trap her in the house and not let her out unless she renounces her sexuality. There was a pretty planned rescue effort where someone gave them an excuse to leave the house ("Oh I'm just visiting X friend in town"), then an Uber was called to a safe house. There was also fundraising for a plane ticket to get this person home and safe. There were definitely concerns about passports and such (I think they also had their passport confiscated somehow?) but that got sorted one way or another.

Is there a way you can mount a similar rescue mission? Like she can come to you, or a safe 3rd party, and then go into hiding from her parents?
posted by divabat at 3:09 AM on March 20 [29 favorites]

What you've described is not a kidnapping.

I see this is obviously an upsetting situation but I'm super unclear as to why you're using a kidnapping tag and your title is asking if she was actually kidnapped when you seem to know she wasn't. She's communicating with you freely and can leave when she wants.

Kidnapping is a REALLY BIG DEAL and I wonder if you're catastrophising this disproportionately.

Anyway, to answer your question:

1. She should end this visit as soon as possible claiming some school thing.
2. She should learn how to lock her phone to avoid phone-snooping issues.
3. I've talked to her about how controlling and, in my mind, abusive her parents can be. You overstepped here. It's good to listen and be supportive, but once you label her parents as controlling and abusive, you've put her in a position where she now needs to defend them -- She maintains that they love her and they see her being gay as a willful rejection of their values...see what I mean? Also, just as a general survival rule for relationships it's best not to say super-negative things about your partner's family unless they say it first. Even then you should tread lightly because after they resolve a situation, your partner will remember what you said about her parents.
4. Tell her you were out of line suggesting they were abusive and controlling.
5. If they literally do not let her leave and keep her with them against her will, then of course you should call the police.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:18 AM on March 20 [14 favorites]

Young SE-Asian women at risk of being brought abroad against their will from the UK were putting metal spoons in their underwear to set off metal detectors at the airport and initiate a private interview. I don't know if this would work in the US or might be a very dangerous thing to do given your airport security, reactions to POC, etc.
posted by Iteki at 4:09 AM on March 20 [11 favorites]

Also she's not really an adult if she relies on her parent's income to justify gov't loans. She can always go private, but that's incredibly expensive when cut off from her parent's support in other ways.

I think "she's just an adult" is also a bit short sighted. Leaving family support at such a young age is incredibly hard. People have done it, but again I'm assuming a lesbian, second generation immigrant is not going to have the same cultural support as a lot of us.

This might not be popular, but can she just hide it from her parents? Tell her she was experimenting and she might not be gay and that she wants to finish out her degree and throw them bullshit about cute Indian guys for a bit? At least until college is over and she's truly independent. Or maybe she just tells them you stopped seeing each other and leaves out the not being gay bit, because they seemed okay with that aspect, if not uncomfortable.

There's a lot to go through and I know people who have gone the "I'm an adult see ya" route and they rarely go to college at 18, or at least the traditional college dorm route and are instead working 40 hours a week to get by, taking out crazy loans and then working another 40 hours on coursework which at any competitive school is hard to do. And still leaves a lot of debt.
posted by geoff. at 5:11 AM on March 20 [11 favorites]

I'm so sorry that both of you are going through this - you sound terrified, and I understand why. I do recommend not calling it kidnapping. It sounds like it's not, at this point, unless they're physically barring her from leaving the house. Calling it that, even if it feels like that, may predispose people to think that you're exaggerating or catastrophizing, and may make them less likely to take you seriously and help you.

So: If they're paying for her college and/or her living expenses, they're within their rights to not pay for her to live on campus anymore, or to stop paying tuition altogether. She can cut ties with them, move out, and find a way to make it work financially on her own, either as a student or not. That's probably not going to be easy for her, but it is an option. If she wants to explore that, I would guess that she should start with the school's financial aid office, the student ombudsman if you have one (you may have to dig a bit, but you probably have one, and I really recommend taking advantage of that resource), and the campus queer support group.) The best way for you to help may be to do the research to line up those resources, if her communications are limited/monitored, and then to get that information to her when you can.

Until/unless things get to the "trying to send her out of the country against her will" stage, it sounds as if the most you can do is a variation on that theme - listen, support, find out what kind of resources or help she wants and will accept, and help provide those. It was reasonable for you to express your concern about how her family is treating her, but she's told you that she has her own take on it, and you're probably not going to do any good by hammering her further with yours. Listen and support is your mission now. Also: establish communication protocol for if her parents clamp down further and you can't communicate with her however you're doing now - is there a friend the parents trust that you can pass a message through? Some way you can get a physical note to her? An alternate phone number or email address they don't know about? It sucks that you have to plan for that, but if it happens, you'll be glad that you did.

Also also: Find support for yourself. You're in a scary place and you need somewhere to talk about it. Is there someone/somewhere you can go to talk without compromising your girlfriend's privacy with things she might not want you to tell mutual friends about? Friends that are just yours? A campus queer group or Indian culture group? Therapist? Please take care of yourself right now, too.
posted by Stacey at 6:03 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

She maintains that they love her and they see her being gay as a willful rejection of their values.

Yeah, they may see it this way, but that doesn't make their actions less messed up. I disagree with the person who posted above that you're putting her in a position where she needs to defend them - sometimes it is incredibly helpful in the process of realizing that you're in a bad family situation to have someone actually say "that's abuse". So - talk to her about what's helpful or not helpful for her.

Unfortunately what I have to add to this is that unless she is 25, she won't be eligible for financial aid without her parents signing on so they can force her out of college though probably not this semester if it's already paid for.

Other than that, everyone in this thread has fabulous advice. I hope very much that you and she get the help you need here, because while this isn't kidnapping it is very scary.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:35 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone for your answers. I'm sorry for catastrophizing and blowing things out of proportion. I legitimately didn't know whether it was legal to potentially pull her out of school like that, but as they're paying the bills there's not much we can do.

I posted this in the middle of the night last night when everything was happening and had no idea what to do - or what her parents were going to do. I shouldn't have jumped the gun. It looks like she told them we broke up so she'll be allowed to live on campus next semester but until then will have to go home every night and check in hourly with a GPS tracker. I will contact the LGBT Resource Center and generally try to be more sensitive and helpful to her in the future.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 6:53 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

As someone who was abused and similarly controlled at this age...

- If she is not allowed to walk out the door, like they will physically stop her - yes it's a crime.

- If she would not leave with police if they show up (very common in abuse and donestic violence situations) then right now there's not much to do.

I wish I had taken on school loans and become completely independent, but I did not.

The real problem here is that you are in a tug of war with her parents and she's not really willing to advocate for herself if I read the story correctly? I agree she's been harmed and is certainly in danger, but she might not see it that way? I think she doesn't. You know, she might also be in shock and unable to process.

Where is her passport? If she is an adult and they withold her passport, that is also a crime. She can and should alert relevant authorities, including simply reporting her passport stolen which will invalidate it and prevent her from being taken across the border against her will.

I suggest you call the Los Angeles LGBT Center. if you are in the US, any similar org if you are elsewhere for in depth assistance and advice.

You don't state how old you both are. You might want to specify both your ages as you seek assistance going forward. There is a cultural element people will want to be sensitive towards and the LGBT Center has experience navigating age, culture, and other concerns this situation entails. Get better advice. Best to you both.
posted by jbenben at 6:56 AM on March 20 [13 favorites]

Upon your update... A gps tracker for an adult as a condition of monetary support and housing is the definition of abuse.

I understand in the short term why your gf said yes to all this (been there) and I want to reiterate that she's likely in a bit of shock and she's not fully processing what has just transpired.

You both need professional guidance to help you sort this out, this is firmly a type of domestic abuse. The implementation of a GPS as a contingent in keeping an adult housed and fed? Yeah, no. Your girlfriend needs professional help to approach her in a way that will help and be heard. She's been through a trauma crisis, there are people who know how to deal with situations like this and those people are not you or me. Find competent assistance to help you navigate this and be an asset to your girlfriend.
posted by jbenben at 7:17 AM on March 20 [16 favorites]

You are the only one who knows how safe it is to come out to your parents, both about sexuality and BDSM. One possible approach is full honesty "Yeah, I like an unconventional relationship. We follow the guidelines of Safe, Sane, and Consensual. You can ask me any questions you like, or go to a BDSM 101 event with me where its just a bunch of normal adults in clothes sitting around discussing informed consent, safety, and communication"
posted by Jacen at 7:35 AM on March 20

Just jumping in to share this Queer Desi hotline info. As their website notes:

"DeQH is the first national Desi lgbtQ Helpline in the United States. We offer free, confidential, culturally sensitive peer support, information and resources for LGBTQ South Asian individuals, families and friends around the globe. We want to offer a safe and supportive ear for callers to share their concerns, questions, struggles or hopes through conversations with our trained South Asian peer support volunteers."

This story is similar to those of a number of people that I love. You are not alone. And I am sorry that this is happening to someone that you care about and to you. Their website also has a resource page with local community spaces. I am not sure where you are located.
posted by anya32 at 7:40 AM on March 20 [35 favorites]

Good suggestions above, but also:

There's a long process here beyond the immediate concerns: bringing her (and your) parents/families up to speed, and maybe bringing others along in the process. In the coming days and weeks, you can consult PFLAG for Hindu-specific resources for her parents (there are a couple possibly relevant videos here). You might even be able to get PFLAG folks to come to a samaj, cultural association, or other event your/her parents and families attend and respect. In the meantime, brush up on some references in case you end up in a conversation with a traditionalist and want to represent the ambivalence scriptures tend to have on matters like this.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:32 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Just jumping back in - I called DeQH to save you some time. They are volunteer based and the line is open on Thursday and Sundays in the evening, EST. You can call the line and the recording spells out the details.
posted by anya32 at 9:20 AM on March 20 [12 favorites]

Recently we've gone down the rabbit hole with BDSM - mistress/slave roleplay in particular - and this has sent her parents into our worst nightmare scenario.

I hate to catastrophize more, but is there any shot that they have communications or anything from your roleplay that would let them portray you as abusive or dangerous to her? As a matter of self-protection, it might be a good idea to pull together everything you have (old emails, messages, whatever) that establishes the consensual nature of what you were doing.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:30 AM on March 20 [7 favorites]

She needs to talk to an LGBT counselor on campus to come up with a game plan to keep herself out of a situation where she has no control over her person.

I think you need to help her make plans to sneak important documents out of the house, such as her passport, social security card, and birth certificate. There may come a time when she will have to chose between pretending to be someone they want her to be to stay in the family or being herself and being kicked out. Being a student and having to make important life decisions for herself, she will need those documents and she can't afford to have them held hostage by her family.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:59 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

Welllll shit. I agree that this may or may not be kidnapping via a legal definition but OP, my god, I don't think you are catastrophizing at all; this shit is fucking scary especially with a history of emotional abuse both about the queer thing and otherwise. Please do not minimize its severity? Especially since it sounds like your girlfriend is definitely doing that thing, which is a very reasonable survival mechanism--otherwise you wind up flat on the ground and unable to do anything--but not so good for actually identifying when a situation has gotten dangerous. Remind your girlfriend that she can speak to any customs or TSA official and say "I am an adult and being forcibly moved out of the country by my parents" and get help that way if she needs to.

(I'm saying this as, well, here's my own Ask from a few weeks ago for my context. Also, my partner wound up in a similar situation a few years ago, only they went home for a visit to their very rural hometown without the "my family is good people" blinkers. Their mother had called and insisted their beloved grandmother was dying and that they had to come home; she.... was not dying, and their mother tried to cut off all ability to leave. They were able to contact a neighbor who helped them flee in the dead of night. Your girlfriend's story is raising some red flags for me, let me tell you. And hitting me straight in the "oh god do not trust these people ever" place.)

Are you two part of your wider LGBTQ community? Like, outside your campus queer org? It might be worth looking into, because older queer folks tend to a) feel strongly about this crap happening to younger friends and b) have more resources than fellow college kids to extend you a helping hand. They also might know where you can apply for help and resources that your college queer center might not know about, especially informal networks that may not be well advertised. I'm not saying go, like, find a bunch of older queer people and transparently say "please support us kthnx", but it would be a good long term strategy for both or one of you to start socializing somewhere with queer people who aren't necessarily currently in college if you can so that you diversify your networks a bit and can pick up experiences from people who have seen a lot of situations.

I run an ace meetup, for example, and we have a college kid who will probably be financially cut off from their parents in the near future; we are all planning to be their safety net and support if they need it, and they have a number of emergency places to stay on couches or spare rooms and people who will drive out to get them on a moment's notice lined up in case shit gets bad--and we skew mid-twentiesish in age, right, no one's career is super well established. But we collectively have a lot more ability to do this sort of thing than I did when I was in college. That said, campus queer orgs are also often very helpful for finding people who will do what they can; are you active at yours? I bet you yours will know what the university will and will not do to protect you and your girlfriend both in terms of formal accommodations and, more crucially, whether or not the university follows up. Your girlfriend in particular, I think, needs access to queer-specific spaces very badly right now, but if she isn't interested you can build those relationships and help her with them if and when something worse happens to her.

I am with bile and syntax on this one: there is value to saying "hoooooly crap that is not okay" and not normalizing it, and, well: holy crap, this is not okay. I am also 100% down with Foam Pants: she needs to start quietly collecting her passport (if she has one), birth certificate, social security card, any other important documents she has. She needs to prepare herself for the possibility that she might have to run into the night with only what she can grab and carry, and start making plans. I had those plans all through college, although I never had to use them, and my parents never explicitly threatened me with sending me to a foreign country to be married (!!) or required me to wear a GPS at all times(!!); the worst I got was being threatened with being sent to charm school or finishing school, and that had kind of died as a threat by college. I felt a lot safer with those plans in place. Start helping her make them, as best you can.

I wouldn't push too hard, if I were you, on the notions that her parents love her. They might, in their twisted way, but loving someone does not preclude abusing them. I would lean harder on pointing out that this is not normal and this is hurting you and scaring you and helping her draw boundaries to shield her from the worst of her "love." She is probably dealing with a lot of fucked-up thinking internalized from her parents and will need support and encouragement most of all. Whatever you think you should do, encouraging her to make her own choices and be confident about them is most important, because that is the first thing that people who are controlling or abusive do: undermine a person's confidence in their own abilities. That being said, it might be useful to tell her about this thread and let her read the responses here. I don't know; you know her better than I do.

You can always MeMail me, if you want significant others with scary families advice or insight into the mind of someone trying to stagger back from emotional abuse shit (fuck, naming that is hard). I'm, um, not in a great place with respect to family myself right now, but maybe that's helpful for you too, I don't know. If you are anywhere near Texas, you can let me know and I will hook you up with good people or at least resources as well as I can. There is more help and goodwill out there for you than you think, even in red states and red areas, and I bet you that right now in particular there is a whole lot of straight and white privilege-guilt out there that you two can use in an emergency, too--people who are terrified and reeling and looking for someone to help. It is okay for that someone to be your girlfriend. Keep that in mind, okay?

Also: for the love of little green apples, talk to queer people. Find queer counselors or queer therapists--you can filter for them on the Psychology Today list!--or queer support orgs or whatever works for either you or your girlfriend, because both being in your girlfriend's position and the position of someone who loves her is a scary thing, especially when you are in college and may depend on someone else financially. You could, I suspect, use some support for you specifically yourself, and I hope you can get it. But I would heavily encourage you to look for queer people to ask first, because while they are not at all perfect this is a thing that in my experience straight people do not necessarily get well.
posted by sciatrix at 11:33 AM on March 20 [23 favorites]

To explain in a little more detail why I am personally 100% behind catastrophizing this--calling it kidnapping especially if your girlfriend used that word, treating this as a Serious Event that is a direct indication that her parents are a threat, immediately making backup plans assuming that her parents are going to escalate however they can:

Most of us--not just domestic abuse victims or queer people whose parents got abusive about it or children whose parents try to control them--most of us have this impulse to minimize this shit. We survive it, so it's not that bad. We make it smaller so the problem looks surmountable, and then we scramble over. We make it little enough that we can deal with it; after all, it's the price of living with our loved ones, the price of maintaining filial piety, the price of being a good and dutiful daughter. We make it small in our heads, no matter how big it objectively is, because making it bigger is paralyzing, and by making it small we can survive it.

This is a coping mechanism. Like many coping mechanisms, it can twist out of control once the situation it's best for has changed. In abusive situations, especially those where (it feels like) everyone around you thinks that that wasn't that bad and pushes you to go back, minimizing can do two big damages:

-when you minimize what happened to other people, they tend to try to minimize what they hear from you, which has the effect of pushing your mental normality bar that much farther out by telling you that oh yeah, this shit isn't out of line at all
-when you minimize what happened to yourself (or other people do it for you by moving your normality bar!), you tell yourself it wasn't so bad and in doing so make it harder to just leave, or make it harder to motivate yourself to actually make a plan to get yourself out safely if they do do something "really bad" that is past your normality bar

Like I said, I have had a similar situation where someone was lured home under false pretenses and then had parents attempt to bar them leaving/attempt to suck them back into the middle of a sick system. That shit escalates. And you know what? Calling it kidnapping--as we routinely do in my house, I should add--is an explicit act that refuses to minimize the terror that it inspired. It is the act that broke contact. It's great for that. It's a great way to shut down people who ask where that woman is in our lives; there's more reasons, but that's a great snappy one that makes people step the fuck off. This is a thing that can be framed as a Step Too Far, a Really Bad Step, to many people, and for that reason it has some serious fucking value when it comes to explaining what the problem was in a way that does not require you to a lot of heavy emotional lifting allowing people to pass judgement on your personal and painful lives. You know?

People are always, always going to skew toward going "but family!" It is useful to carry incidents to remind you that family love is not always kind, is not always without selfishness, is not always good for you. And this one is so full of red flags I ran out of time to list them, but just let me pull out a few things here your girlfriend's parents have done that set off my klaxons...

-attempting to cut off sources of support to your girlfriend (potentially physically moving her to another country, forcing her to live with them instead of in dorms or off campus where they can control her better)
-attempting to force her to change herself via the use of shaming (saying she's no longer her brother's sister, calling her depraved) which is some seriously emotionally abusive shit
-trying to force sources of support (you) away from her by threatening your own relationship with your parents
-digging through her communications to try to find out what she's doing and control it better
-going to some impressively horrifying lengths to control her more effectively, including moving to her city and forcing her to live with them (subtext: these are not people who are going to be lazy about their efforts to secure control, they care enough about this to expend substantial effort and money, which is a bad fucking sign)
-fucking making your girlfriend wear a GPS at all times

This stuff is not minor.
posted by sciatrix at 12:24 PM on March 20 [20 favorites]

She can choose to live elsewhere than her family's home. She can choose to get a replacement passport, if hers has been taken from her. In a domestic dispute, the police should assist her with recovering a passport, student ID and other documents. She has a right to attend classes, but they are not obligated to continue to pay for them. She has rights, but she may not be willing or able to exercise them at this time. If they pay for her phone, they can control access to it.

She can also choose to try to somehow be part of her family and still try to be herself. This is difficult, and she is telling you this. I've talked to her about how controlling and, in my mind, abusive her parents can be. She maintains that they love her and they see her being gay as a willful rejection of their values. I don't disagree with you. I agree that denying a person's equal rights - to be who and as they are - is abuse. But she sounds like she needs to clarify her own wishes.

I really recommend that she get her personal documents and store them with a trusted friend, you or someone else. That way, she can't be coerced into going to India for an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, on a personal level, listen hard to her. Be sure you understands what she really wants. Accept that she loves them and craves their love an acceptance. You can both get information from Domestic violence experts at the Uni or locally.
posted by theora55 at 12:50 PM on March 20

Friends of mine had to organise an international rescue after their gf was flown back to India for an arranged marriage. Their issue was the inter-faith aspect of the relationship not the queerness, but organising a burner phone, taxi, and flight internationally is a damn sight harder than at 'home' where you can at least turn up with a car and run. They managed it (hurray for angry Aunties) but honestly? Your GF laying low for now and preparing to run if she needs to are the first step.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:45 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Get in touch with Trikone too, they may have resources.

(Also I'm a queer South Asian with connections to similar, if you want to MefiMail me with your location I can ask around)
posted by divabat at 4:01 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Hi there, weighing in on the digital rights and travel stuff:

To reiterate to commenters (I bet OP already knows this) this is NOT THE MOMENT IN HISTORY TO CAUSE A SCENE AT THE AIRPORT. Do what you can to avoid get being at the airport against her will to begin with, if it comes to that.

I believe there are tools out there for faking GPS, for just such situations. Find one which is recommended by an organization working on domestic violence. Hackblossom might be a place to start?

You definitely both ought to think about encrypting your phones using a password. Here are some instructions, and other parts of the EFF's Surveillance Self Defense guide may also help.

Best of luck.
posted by gusandrews at 7:49 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]

Also she's not really an adult if she relies on her parent's income to justify gov't loans. She can always go private, but that's incredibly expensive when cut off from her parent's support in other ways.

For the record, being in a shitty situation does not mean someone is not an adult. It means they are in a shitty situation.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:40 PM on March 20 [13 favorites]

Hey everyone, here's an update to this nightmare situation.

Things are all right. GF is back on campus. Her parents track her intermittently. She told them we broke up to get some of the heat off of us. I talked to the director of our LGBT resource center right after everything went down, and basically got a "well shit, we can't do anything but that really sucks" answer from her and everyone else I spoke to. Unfortunately, her brother is coming to our college next year so we'll have to be extra careful. I don't think her parents will try anything really awful - unless they find out we're still together. Wish us luck for the future!
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 9:25 AM on April 20 [3 favorites]

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