“Domestic abuse, whether verbal or physical, knows no gender, societal status, age or race,” said Rahman. “It should not happen to anyone. Ever.”
In her book, For The Sake of Louise, recently published on Maui by MauiReaders, Rahman tells of the tumultuous series of events that took her from the Philippines, through Canada, to Sri Lanka, California and eventually Maui. She fought overwhelming difficulties, finally liberating herself and her daughter, Louise, from years of physical and emotional abuse.
“I decided that there was no other option but to be with my daughter, even if it meant living in hell,” she said.
Louise (left) and her mother, Lilia Lopez-Rahman, have spent years working through their healing process.
Rahman still suffers from moments of anxiety and low self-esteem from her ordeal.
“Once he began drinking and having affairs, my marriage to Ron Karu, who died in 2008, went from happy and productive to a frightening betrayal,” said Rahman.
When Lilia found out she was pregnant with Louise, Karu’s emotional abuse increased, accusing her of his own behavior and battering her with comments such as “Are you sure that child is mine?”
He began staying out for days and weeks at a time. He was moody, angry and unresponsive at home.
“Life was like a see-saw and felt like a bipolar situation,” said Rahman.
Even when Karu would be personable, Rahman always felt as though she was walking on eggshells.
“Our verbal fights escalated,” she said. “His voice was shrill and piercing, and when he yelled at me, the volume of his voice and the words he hurled at me gave me headaches and chest pains,” she said.
Rahman had a difficult childbirth, fighting an infection and high fever. Nevertheless, she rejoiced when Louise was born.
“At this time, I did not know the meaning of battered wife or battered-wife syndrome,” Rahman said.
By shutting her ears and ignoring him, she had unknowingly allowed Karu to verbally abuse her.
“It had been easier to not react to his tirades and to pretend not to be affected,” she said. “What I had failed to realize was that my passive behavior had allowed him to push me deeper and deeper into being a battered wife.”
The only light in Rahman’s life came from Louise and her own strong faith in God.
However, she did not want Louise to grow up “in an intense and nerve-wracking environment,” said Rahman.
About the time the physical abuse started, she was ready to see a lawyer. Karu was extremely angered by this decision. He was allowed unsupervised visits and one day, he did not bring Louise home.
“Paralyzed knowing my baby was gone and I might not see her again, I prayed,” said Rahman, “asking God, ‘Where do I turn now?’”
Louise was kidnapped at age 3 by her father and later used by him to commit a felony.
The book tells of the horrors that happened from that point on, the accomplishments in spite of them, and how Rahman courageously lived her life. She found a great deal of relief from constant panic attacks by reading scriptures such as Psalm 91: “Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high. All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress...”
Throughout her difficulties, Rahman went on and obtained a master’s degree in clinical psychology, a master’s in divinity and a doctorate in ministry.
“I was transformed in the seminary through the inclusivity of a loving and forgiving God,” she said.
An ordained elder of the United Methodist Church, she served as a pastor of churches in California and Nevada. In 2002, she married Mati Rahman. Both live in retirement on Maui where Lilia is an active member of the Ala Lani United Methodist Church.
She reveals how she discovered her inner resources for strength and hope, while also finding outside help from her church, her seminary and the legal system.
“We are finally seeing the light as we experience liberation and freedom from the memories and pain of abuse,” said Rahman. “I wrote For the Sake of Louise to help victims who are feeling hopeless as well as for my own healing.”
The Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another. Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, intimidation and physical force to wear someone down to keep them under their thumbs.
The fact that shelter homes are full of women and children demonstrates the continuing need for these safe havens.
“We must recognize the significance of the problem, offer protection, and address the issues surrounding the healing of the victims and education of the community,” said Randy Echito, executive director of the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Maui.
If you are living with abuse or know someone who is being abused, there is help. Contact one of the many agencies offering support in Maui County, such as Childrens’s Justice Center, Women Helping Women or the newly organized Men Helping Men.
To order For the Sake of Louise, go to MauiReaders.com.