It was an emotional night for Real Housewives of Atlanta star Shereé Whitfield on Sunday’s episode, as she sat down and opened up to her kids for the first time about the alleged abuse she received at the hands of their father, Bob Whitfield.
The somber scene happened at Chateau Shereé, where the 47-year-old reality star gathered with Kairo Whitfield, 21, Kaleigh Whitfield, 18, and her daughter from a previous relationship, Tierra Fuller, 32.
As fans remember, the abuse claims first came up last season on the hit Bravo show, when Bob —who was married to Shereé for 7 years and together with her for 14 years before their divorce in 2007 — joked about his alleged violent past with Shereé during a cast 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.”
It was a tough thing for Shereé to relive at the time. She later claimed during the Season 9 reunion part 2 that Bob was verbally and emotionally abusive throughout the relationship, and that the two had some “physical altercations.”
Still, despite being one of the RHOA‘s most outspoken and confident Housewives, Shereé stayed silent about her alleged abuse until the show — not even telling her own children. “I would have never talked about this had it not come up,” she told host Andy Cohen during last season’s reunion. “I suppressed it. I’ve not talked about it for 10 years. I’ve never talked about it. I wanted to protect my kids.”
All that changed on Sunday’s episode, though, when Shereé finally addressed the private turmoil she had been living in during their marriage to Bob with Kairo, Kaleigh and Fuller.
“I’m sure y’all are on the internet, y’all heard the story about the domestic violence in the household,” she told them, explaining why she had stayed silent for so long. “You know, I just kind of kept you guys away from, didn’t let you guys know what was going on . I just put on a happy face, but it was very toxic.”
For their part, Kairo, Kaleigh and Fuller all said they felt taken aback by the news when they first heart it.
“I was in shock,” said Fuller — Kairo echoing her surprise because his mother “never said anything about it.”
“Me and dad talked about it,” Kaleigh revealed. “He tried to explain the story to me, but I just drove off. It was after a soccer game, so I didn’t think it was appropriate.”
Shereé, who has since become an ambassador for the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, told her kids she never wanted them to look their father “differently.”
“I was worried about the image of their dad and I protected this man for all of this time,” she told audiences. “But he didn’t protect me.”
She then gave her kids some advice about how navigate similar situations in the future.
“You need to know that nobody deserves to be mistreated,” Shereé said. “You know, sometimes girls are thinking, ‘He hit me, he loves me.’ That’s not true. That’s not the way life should be. I don’t want you guys to follow my footsteps.”
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Having the conversation with her daughters was freeing. “That’s something I held in for 10 years and I’m no longer doing that,” she admitted. “Now that it’s out, it was — believe it or not — pretty therapeutic. Believe it or not, talking to you guys is one of the hardest thing I’ve had to do.”
Her kids gave her nothing but love. “We’re defiantly here to support you,” Fuller said. “You know we think you’re like Wonder Woman. We just want to see you be happy and grow. We love you [and we’re] so proud of you.”
“You’ve been everything for us,” Kaleigh added, as all three joined in for a group hug.
Meanwhile, Shereé and Bob remain on good terms now, putting the decades of legal and emotional squabbles, behind them in recent years to focusing on co-parenting their children.
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In November, Shereé told PEOPLE Now about the outpouring of love she’s received since opening up about the alleged abuse.
“For me to talk about it and for it to empower so many people, that made me feel good. Honestly, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I had this shield on I was trying to hide from everyone. But it’s out there, and I’m good.”
“I’ve had so many people reach out to me, telling their stories and saying they can relate to some of the things I was going through or I helped them get through a situation, which is wonderful,” she added. “We are as women — as survivors — we’re embarrassed, we don’t want to talk about it. [By me] speaking and telling my story, I have enabled other women to speak up and tell their stories.”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.