When she was just 34 years old, Malia had lost count of how many times she had been beaten. The first time her husband Jason hit her, Malia was pregnant with their firstborn son.
Though Jason had been verbally abusive for a long time, Malia never really thought he would hit her. Malia doesn’t remember what provoked that first beating — she just remembers how sorry Jason seemed when he came back, apologized, and said it would never happen again.
She always believed him and tried even harder to be a good wife. But the beatings continued, over and over again. Finally, one night their sons saw Dad hit Mom. At 5 and 2, the boys were getting old enough to remember, and Malia knew that one day they’d be beaten, too. Malia was terrified, but she knew she must take her little boys and run. It was one of the hardest days of her life.
Looking back, Malia says that at first she never thought of leaving Jason. “To me, people who loved you hurt you. It was all I knew.”
Growing up on the island of American Samoa in a large family, Malia learned that lesson early and often. Her mother always found something wrong with Malia that needed “discipline.” This discipline involved beating Malia with whatever was within reach: a shoe, a hanger, a broom, an electrical cord. Malia walked on eggshells around her mother, trying to please her, but her mother’s violent rage only increased. Things grew worse for Malia at age 10, when her father began sexually abusing her.
Malia sums it up this way: “This was ‘normal’ family life to me. I didn’t know any other way.” Even in a big family, she felt lonely and isolated.
When Malia met Jason in college, she fell hard for him. Yes, Jason was possessive and aggressive, but Malia thought it was just a sign of how much she meant to him. No one ever cared that much about her before. She had no idea what she was getting into.
Though she was terrified the day she decided to take her boys and run, she was determined to escape for good. She and the boys went to stay with a friend from church. Malia’s friend told her about Shepherd’s Gate, and Malia called to find out if there was room for a mother with 2 little boys.
To her surprise and relief, a room was available. Malia — and her sons — were finally safe. “When I first came to Shepherd’s Gate, I was so scared and worried about my boys adjusting. But all I found when I walked through the doors of Shepherd’s Gate was healing!”
Through counseling and abuse recovery classes, Malia is in the process of starting over. She has truly discovered God’s love and has a whole new picture of what real love looks like. “I feel like I’ve found myself again. I found a way to trust people again and am learning how to love myself and others.”
Malia still has big dreams. Since childhood, Malia has had a big heart for people in need, especially children. Once she gets back on her feet, Malia wants to go into social work. She wants to run a home for hurting and needy children one day, and she knows that with God’s help, all things are possible. “Shepherd’s Gate has been that stepping stone I needed to help me rebuild my shattered life . . . now I can reach out to others in need and make a difference!”