When Uilani* shares her story as a domestic violence survivor, there is a true strength in her voice that seems to come from deep within. But that strength, she says, wasn’t always there. “I’m finally in a place where I’m healed,” she says. “I’m OK speaking about it, and I can honestly say that I’ve learned from the experience. It’s made me who I am today.”
*Not real name
Uilani was pregnant with her fourth child when she found out her husband was involved in a disturbing affair. He was in an adulterous relationship with a woman who encouraged him to start abusing drugs. He was rarely home with Uilani or their three children. Any confrontations led to physical and verbal abuse – so much so that he threatened the safety of their children and the health of their unborn child. On one night, a particularly bad fight led to Uilani passing out on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night and waking up in the hospital. Her baby was thankfully safe, and her husband, scared of how far things had come, promised to change and be faithful to her. Uilani believed him, but unfortunately, it was a matter of time before he soon returned to his girlfriend and drugs. It was a cycle that she felt she couldn’t get out of.
“My family would tell me to leave him, but I couldn’t bring myself to act. I would say I would leave, but I never did. The situation felt like it was never-ending, and I couldn’t escape. He would tell me that if I loved him, I should let him continue to see his girlfriend in the night, and be with me and the kids during the day. And, I believed him. Looking back now, I was so brainwashed,” says Uilani.
Through recommendation from her cousin, Uilani finally turned to CFS where she started attending a weekly CFS domestic violence support group and as a result, she was able to find what she called her “true inner strength” and actually file for divorce.
The support group was made up of 10 to 15 women, all of them in different situations of harmful relationships. Uilani formed a strong bond with them immediately. “When I went to the support group, these other girls would talk about all their stories and I was able to talk to them and not sound like a crazy lady,” says Uilani. “I felt so depressed, but they understood what I was going through. It was like a different type of support that I never experienced before. These women made me feel like I can keep going.”
Uilani and the other participants also learned about the signs of abuse and what components are needed for a good and healthy relationship. “I feel like I woke up, and my eyes were opened by attending these groups,” says Uilani. “I asked myself, why was I in this relationship? If I didn’t have that group, I would have gone back to him eventually.”
Uilani’s divorce went through in October 2016, and she hasn’t seen her husband since. She still stays in touch with her support group members, and she continues to share her story to new participants. “When I tell my story, I see their eyes get wide and it makes me cry because I know exactly how they feel. I want them to know that there is a light at the end, and you can make it out,” says Uilani.
Uilani is working hard to support her family, and is thankful for the support she has receied from CFS. She works multiple jobs while her mom babysits her children. “I don’t have time to stop and feel sorry for myself. I want to keep working for my family, supporting my four kids and setting them a good, strong example. That’s my goal,” says Uilani.