POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 18, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 08:18 p.m. HST, Nov 20, 2012
Like many victims of domestic violence, Tikesha Washington endured her husband's abusive behavior for the sake of keeping her family together.
At the height of an argument in September 2011, her husband choked her and repeatedly threw her around, and "my kids were brave enough to try and help fight their father off of me," she said in an interview. "My heart hurts every time I think about them witnessing that messy situation."
After that altercation, during which police were called, she filed for divorce. She is now living with a friend and shares custody of her "three beautiful children," she said.
Washington was able to get a part-time retail position for the first time in years, but can't afford to give her kids anything for Christmas. She applied to the Adopt-A-Family Program under Helping Hands Hawai‘i with the hope that some gifts might make up for the trauma her kids have experienced in the past year.
"They've endured the ultimate change in their family and witnessed things that children shouldn't be exposed to," she said.
The Star-Advertiser is once again helping to make the holidays a bit brighter for struggling families like Washington's through its Good Neighbor Fund drive, which starts today. Readers may adopt a family featured in our weekly GNF story with cash donations or gifts. Or they may contribute to the general fund for all families, and drop off material goods at Helping Hands' Community Clearinghouse.
Washington said her husband, who is in the military, is unlikely to provide the children with gifts. Over the years, he has withheld money, taken her car, used the children to get information about her, and done other things to exert control over her, she said.
Court records show that Washington's husband was charged with abuse of a family member and pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of harassment in January. He was sentenced to six months' probation.
Washington's support system is very small, as most of her family lives on the mainland and can't afford to help financially. The friends she made while living in military housing have since moved away.
"During my marriage, I did a lot of things because I put others before myself," she said. "When my husband wanted me to stop working, I stopped working. I also did it to care for my family, expecially my children," including two girls, ages 14 and 10, and a young boy.
Once her divorce is final, Washington hopes to make up for the time she lost during 16 years of marriage and rediscover her sense of self-worth. One of her goals is to get a bachelor's degree in social work as she originally intended, but she had bowed to her husband's pressure to get a business degree. Eventually, her education was put on hold.
"I was just always very passive about what I wanted to do because I didn't want to argue or fight, or hear any type of manipulating statement from him about whatever choice I made."
"For myself, I just want to get back to where I was totally independent before I met (my husband). I want to get that empowerment back that I pretty much gave up when trying to learn how to be a wife and family provider, to get back my own sense of security.
"Basically (I want) to be the person I was, someone that my kids would totally look at and see strength … and just enjoy life and be happy. I'm not seeking for a whole bunch, but just get to be the woman I know that I am, the woman I'm capable of being," she said, her voice breaking.