The couple, who divorced in 2007 after 7 years of marriage and 14 years together, have spent the last decade or so involved in legal and emotional squabbles. In recent seasons, Shereé and Bob aimed to put their past behind them, remaining friendly for the sake of co-parenting their kids — Kairo Whitfield, 20, and Kaleigh Whitfield, 17.
While they may be on good terms now, the 47-year-old reality star was still brought to tears on Sunday as she detailed the private turmoil she had been living in during their marriage.
The topic came up as the cast looked back at the former couple’s emotional exchange earlier in the season, when Bob joked about his alleged violent past with Shereé during the group’s vacation in Maui, Hawaii.
“After we split, we were in Las Vegas,” Bob recounted. “I was driving her and she fell asleep, and I was like, ‘Yeah, it’d be easy for me to take the seatbelt off of you and hit the breaks.’ So she can fly her ass through the window, you know?”
He the said that he didn’t remember ever physically hurting Shereé in the past, asking “could you still breathe?” when she claimed he had choked her and telling her, “Maybe I didn’t choke you hard enough.”
No matter how far they’ve come now, watching things back during the reunion wasn’t easy for Shereé — who went on to claim that Bob was verbally and emotionally abusive and that the two had had some “physical altercations.”
Despite being one of the RHOA‘s most outspoken and confident Housewives, she explained that she had stayed silent about her alleged abuse until the show — not even telling her own mother or children.
“I would have never talked about this had it not come up,” Shereé said at the top of the segment. “I’ve never talked about this with my mom until she watched the show. My mom, my girlfriends — I only told maybe a couple of people. None of the cast knew.”
“I don’t know if [my kids] have seen those episodes,” she added later, explaining how she still hadn’t discussed what happened in Hawaii with Kairo, Kaleigh or her 31-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Tierra Fuller. “I suppressed it. I’ve not talked about it for 10 years — I’ve never talked about it. I wanted to protect my kids.”
Protecting them meant making up excuses for Bob — even when he disappeared for their lives for six months without any communication while the two were still married. “He left and I didn’t get a phone call, I didn’t get an email — anything for six months,” she said. “So I’m in a house with young kids, and I don’t tell my mother or my friends — I’m covering for him.”
She wasn’t proud of not speaking up sooner either.
“I am ashamed,” Shereé admitted. “I portray myself as a strong woman who my daughters look up to and I am allowing someone to hurt me in a way that I would never want someone to hurt them.”
So what gave Shereé the courage to finally open up? Ironically, it came from Bob’s Hawaiian slip-up — which ended up being a wake-up call for Shereé.
“I was surprised that he even talked about it,” Shereé told host Andy Cohen. “Honestly, I think he forgot the cameras were there. I’ve never brought this up. I protected him, I protected my kids for all this time. So for him to say the things that he said, it brought back a lot of memories. Because those are things that I’ve heard him say.”
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Giving an example, Shereé recalled a time she was traveling on a flight with her mother. ” ‘The only reason I wish the plane didn’t crash is because your mom is on the plane’ — he’d say stuff like that,” she claimed.
“I didn’t realize I was still holding all this until the show,” she said.
Bob had spent a lot of time over the past two season of RHOA trying to convince Shereé he was a new man. While he doesn’t appear until next Sunday’s third part of the reunion, Shereé did tell Cohen that she had seriously considered taking him back — comparing herself to other victims of abuse who go back to their abuser.
” ‘He’s said he’s changed, he’s had revelations and all these different things,’ ” she said, quoting her thought process at the time. “Being able to have my kids see us where we can interact and we can do things as a family, that was important to me.”
Why didn’t she take him back? Ultimately, Shereé said it was because Bob was never able to truly explain what caused his behavior in the first place.
“I didn’t get the why — why he did that, why he left his family. I didn’t get any of those answers,” she said. “He wasn’t ‘fessing up or apologetic or sympathetic for the things that he’s done in the relationship.”
Talking about the alleged abuse may have been hard for Shereé, but she said she’s received an outpouring of love from the community since telling her story.
“I’m at the post office [and] women are coming up to me saying, ‘Oh my God, I want to give you a hug,’ ” she said. ” ‘I went through the same thing.’ I’m at the grocery store crying…”
Her fellow Atalanta Housewives were sharing their love too — offering her support and advice.
“It’s okay not to be superwoman,” Cynthia Bailey told Shereé. “You are human. You cannot have all the answers. Don’t ever feel like you have to carry everything on you. It’s out there and you can do positive things to inspire woman. I think it’s going to set you free, to be honest, to just move on.”
“I just hope that you received that you didn’t deserve that and you didn’t need to be treated like that and that none of what happened to you was your fault,” Porsha Williams said. “I pray that you accept that and that you can find some healing from what you showed women.”
REAL HOUSEWIVES REWIND: Shereé Whitfield sits down and talks with her daughter’s fiancé
Kenya Moore agreed and encouraged Shereé to talk about what happened with her children.
“The next thing might be to talk to your daughters about it so it doesn’t happen to them,” she said. “I don’t think they will ever look at you in a different way and look down on you, but actually admire you for your strength. You wanted your family together. You had to be tough. And no one will judge you for that. I’m proud of you.”
Shereé said she was ready to talk to her children — confessing that speaking out about it had been “therapeutic.” Before the episode’s conclusion, she offered advice to anyone else going through the same situation.
“You have to love yourself and know your worth,” she said. “You have to know when to get out and not just stay longer than you should have.”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sunday (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.