After leaving an abusive marriage, 43-year-old Reketta Montgomery is on the path toward rebuilding her life.
Her main priority is the well-being of her 18-year-old daughter, Qaydenz Montgomery, from a previous relationship. “She is my rock,” she said.
Helping Hands Hawaii, a nonprofit organization that helps families overcome obstacles, has partnered with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and First Hawaiian Bank for the annual Good Neighbor Fund campaign to help families in need during the holiday season.
The campaign assists the agency’s various programs such as the nonprofit’s Adopt A Family Program and Emergency Assistance Program.
Originally from North Carolina, Montgomery, a 20-year Air Force veteran, said she fell into depression after her marriage to her wife began to crumble and turn abusive.
She thought their relationship would improve if she loved her spouse more than herself. “I was blinded by love, blinded by stupidity, blinded by thinking if I love you more and love me less, this will work,” Montgomery said.
An alleged assault by her wife’s friends earlier this year following the couple’s separation also left her traumatized.
At the time, Montgomery was attending Chaminade University studying environmental and interior design. Faced with financial challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic and still rattled by the alleged attack, she left college. “I was still shaken really, really bad,” she said.
The Domestic Violence Action Center has helped her move forward and regain her inner strength.
Generally, victims of domestic abuse experience a range of emotions when they pivot and rebuild their lives, said Chief Executive Officer Nanci Kreidman of the organization. “You marry somebody and you have a vision of what your life is going to be like and you invest in that vision and having to change it and abandon it is fraught with all kinds of emotional and psychological after-effects.”
“And stabilizing yourself at the same time, you’re abandoning that vision and changing direction looking to create a new future is pretty unimaginable for most people,” Kreidman said, noting memories of harm interfere with moving forward and the confidence to make the right choices.
Montgomery has made a concerted effort to forge ahead. She found a two-bedroom apartment for herself and her daughter from a previous marriage in a neighborhood on the south shore of Oahu.
She is also in the process of filing for a divorce from her estranged wife.
Her mother, Wanda Rhodes, described Montgomery as an intelligent and sensible woman who lost her sense of self in the toxic relationship. “I pray for her all the time,” Montgomery’s mother said in a phone interview from North Carolina.
Montgomery said she is undergoing therapy and has made self-care a priority to be strong for her daughter. “If I’m not mentally healthy, I can’t be physically healthy, spiritually healthy,” she said.
Her daughter, a gymnast who loves Japanese manga (cartoons), is her main focus as they continue to move forward together. “That’s all I can do is move forward,” Montgomery added.