"My husband was strangling me because he wanted me dead"
When you look at Hazel Gonzales, mother of 5 and successful businesswoman, you'd never guess that she is a survivor of domestic abuse. Read her story here.
“There was a point in my life where I decided that I wasn’t going to be a battered wife anymore,” reveals Hazel Gonzales over a cup of tea.
The mother of five and successful businesswoman recounts the last beating she took from her then-husband that drove her to end their marriage. Hazel shares that her ex-husband showed up drunk at a friend’s birthday party and had to be restrained by male guests. In order to prevent the situation from escalating, Hazel decided to cut her evening short and got into their car with her ex-husband at the wheel — a choice that she would later regret.
She recalls the evening in detail: “He drove me to a motel and when we got there, he didn’t even touch me in a romantic way. He just kept beating me up. He was really strangling me because he wanted me dead. I was crying and was so tired of fighting him. He had three fingers down my throat [while] he [covered] my nose.”
“I was so tired, I was like, ‘Lord, I can’t breathe. If you’re going to let me die, don’t let it be a long time before my children find my body because in the eyes of my children, I am beautiful. They always tell me I’m beautiful. Don’t let them find me as a rotting corpse.’
“Yun talaga naisip ko. I was really more concerned about them, then I was for myself. My head was throbbing and was about to explode. I was in so much pain when all of a sudden my then-husband said, ‘Ay, let’s go home na! 7AM na pala! Baka hinahanap ka na ng mama mo!’”
Hazel’s ex-husband then picked Hazel up from the floor and drove her back to her mother’s home. It was later discovered that her ex-husband — who had been diagnosed bi-polar — drank heavily prior to the party and only stopped beating her because the effect of the alcohol had worn off.
“That’s what bi-polarism [did to him] kasi. [He was] either very, very, very happy or [he was] very, very, very angry. I was then rushed to a government hospital in a tricycle because I had already passed out. My daughter and sister were trying to wake me up and were literally dragging me out of my bed to bring me to the hospital,”
Upon arriving in the hospital, Hazel drifted in and out of consciousness, but had all her injuries documented. These medical records not only helped to grant her an annulment from her abusive husband, but also full custody of their five children.
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In typical battered wife reasoning, Hazel held on to the abusive relationship because she wanted to keep the family intact for the sake of their children. However, because she did not want her daughters to grow up thinking that it was normal for women to be beaten by men, and for her son to grow up thinking that it was okay to beat women, she finally made the decision to leave the abusive marriage.
The road to recovery was a long and hard one as Hazel was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. But because she had five mouths to feed, she knew she had to step up to the plate to provide for them. Hazel initially sought employment at a call center, but later quit to pursue a career in the makeup industry. With the support of her parents, she was able to finish a course in makeup school and began her career as a freelance makeup artist.
“I really had to invest my money. I barely had enough for cellphone load which I would only use to coordinate with clients! I started with 200 pesos, which I would use to call clients and potential clients,” Hazel recalls.
“Grabe, I remember how strapped for money I was back then. That’s why I'm very passionate about makeup or I get irritated when people say, ‘Makeup lang ‘yan!’ This is what provided for my family, put food on my table, clothes on my back and a roof over my head.”
Hazel worked hard to slowly but surely build her network of regular clientele. She was able to acquire a property at a low price and thought, instead of making it a condo, why not turn it into a makeup studio? Thus, the birth of HG Studio. The first in the industry, HG Studio offers makeup, hair, photoshoot and photos editing services in one venue. According to Hazel, the business thrived because it was the first of its kind and she was the first makeup artist to offer airbrush makeup.
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Empowering women through beauty
But more than working hard to provide for her family, Hazel also strives to survive and thrive on their own. She spoke of the women who worked for her, whom she mentored and are now successful makeup artists themselves — referring to them as one of the reasons why she decided to establish her own makeup school, Centre for Aesthetics and Visual Arts.
Through Centre for Aesthetics and Visual Arts, Hazel empowers women by not only providing them with the skills necessary to thrive in the makeup industry, but by also helping them land makeup jobs whether as a freelancer or by assigning them to different makeup companies for internships.
“The thing with us [domestic abuse victims] is that we’re overcome with hiya, feeling of unworthiness. Women believe the lies that their abusive husbands tell them so much that they have a hard time finding their shine when they leave the relationship. This is why I put up the school, to help women find their power to shine.”
She adds, “The thing about us is that we’re all so courageous. All women are courageous. We just need help to take that first step.”
Hazel is a lucky woman, but a lot of her current good fortune is due to her inner strength. She continues to provide a stable family environment for her five children with the help of a loving beau who gives her and her kids the support and respect they deserve.
Two of her children are already university graduates who’ve ventured into law and medicine, while the other three are still in school. She continues to run HG Studio and Centre for Aesthetics and Visual Arts, and has a number of food franchises that she operates with her beau. While she no longer communicates with her ex-husband, Hazel shared that they underwent rehabilitation after the incident and that he had since become a pastor.
Hazel was a battered wife, once upon a time, but she is not a victim, and we can all find hope in her story.