As I near the end of my senior year, I reflect on the events of my life that have molded me into the person I am today. In 2005 my parent’s divorced several weeks after their 13 year anniversary. Only 10 years old at the time, I understood that I had the responsibility to set the example as the eldest child of two younger brothers. Although this was a challenging time for my brothers, being so young and confused, the three of us overcame it together. For a year it was tough to grasp the thought of our parent’s divorce, but we managed to make the best of it from then on. I lived primarily with my mother because of the location and convenience of my school. My brothers lived with my father about 45 minutes away. In the beginning of my 8th grade year in 2008, my mother remarried to a man named Chance, who she had only known for two months. Living with her for 3 years prior, I continued to through her new marriage.
My bed was now the living room couch, and privacy was no longer an option. My freshman year was great. I had amazing friends and my grades were exceptional. It was during my sophomore year that things slowly seemed to fall apart. My grades declined, school attendance was unsteady, and socially I drifted from friends and teachers. At times my classmates would wonder why I’d miss so much school or why I couldn’t seem to focus during class. “I’m just tired,” I always said. “Don’t worry about me.” On the night of February 12, 2011 I received a call from my mother while staying the weekend at my father’s home in south Kona. Her voice shaky, she stuttered to ask the question I dreaded for 3 years. “Did Chance ever hurt you?” I said no as she repeated the question once again. “No” I said. She asked again, except this time she asked, “Do you promise on your sister?” My sister died of turner syndrome in 1999. “I can’t do that mom,” I said, anticipating the consequences of my confession. What happened after that phone call was heart breaking.
My very own mother refused to believe what I had told her. She even had the audacity to tell my family there was no way her husband could have done such things and refused to divorce him. From that night forward I lived with my father permanently. Three months after the disclosure I met with a detective in Kona, whom would investigate my case closely. My junior year was beginning and school became an obvious challenge. I continued to stay out of contact with my mother and her husband Chance. I received the support of my family, as well as my school counselor, who became well aware of my situation. It was the end of my junior year now and my mother still did not believe me. August 13, 2012 was my trial date at the Kealakekua courthouse. To my surprise, my mother was in the waiting room. I was very nervous, but knew that sticking to the truth of my story was the right thing to do. My family waited as I entered the courthouse.
My prosecuting attorney did her best to prepare me for this day, knowing the difficulty of the process. I did what I had to do, and my parents and nana watched wide eyed as I exited the room. They rushed to my attorney and I awaiting an answer, as she said “we did it, it’s a true bill.” I was overwhelmed with relief, as I looked to my crying mother. She hugged me, and said “I’m sorry” as we departed. I knew that wouldn’t be the end of it. There would be more upcoming court dates to settle the sentence during my senior year. For about 3 years a household member was silently abusing me, but I finally found the courage to say something. I found strength in sticking to the truth of my story and never letting disbelievers tell me there will be no justice.
From that day forward I promised myself that I would continue to pick myself up, never soaking in self-pity, and achieving my goals. I look back on these events with gratitude, knowing that because of what has happened to me, I will be able to help young, victimized girls by reaching out with open arms and guiding them through their hardships. I am humbled by these experiences and know that I have a purpose in this world to provide support throughout the community. I strive to live life through these values, as my perspective on life has brought me to realize the utmost importance of doing what is right. Sexual, physical, verbal, and all other forms of abuse are unacceptable and inhumane; however there can be justice if one is willing to fight for it. I am Leila-Marie Wong, proof that through strength and perseverance all can be endured.
Courtney from Study Moose
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