Liza speaks from personal experience. She has herself faced and overcome much adversity in her own life. As a child she suffered sexual abuse, she has been homeless and suffered domestic violence. However, Liza was determined that her life would not be defined by these events. Instead, she dug deep within herself and found the strength to turn her life around and become a successful businesswoman.
“I can’t change the things that have happened to me, but I can take control of the rudder and steer my life in the direction that I want it to go in. I’ve gathered the diamonds within and used them to better my life. Now I am embarking on a journey of doing the same for others.”
Liza Pavlakos seemed to have it all – a supportive husband, five wonderful children, a successful business and a home by the sea. But deep inside all she felt was a dark pit of despair. What Liza hid from the outside world was a series of soul-destroying events that had robbed her of her childhood and shaped her adult life.
Growing up in Malaysia the daughter of a famous pastry chef mother and a successful radiologist father Liza should have had a childhood filled with happiness. But instead, she grew up in an unhappy household with two parents at war with each other. Largely brought up by maids, she was abused as a child by her uncle , an event which was ‘swept under the carpet’ and kept hidden to avoid shame.
When the family upped sticks and moved to Australia it seemed that things would improve. But as a shy, darkskinned Muslim girl she always felt different and often found herself the butt of racist comments. Despite her loneliness things did start to improve, her parents were getting on better and soon her mother was pregnant with her younger brother. Liza began to feel happy again and started to enjoy a more carefree outdoor life.
However, this temporary respite came to a crashing end when her father’s mistress turned up on their doorstep with their small child. Together with her siblings Liza was swept up by her mother and taken back to Malaysia. Here she found herself surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins and it was then, while her mother was distracted, that fourteen year-old Liza was sexually assaulted by a close family member. Speaking out about the assault caused her to be accused of lying and disloyalty by her parents and lead to her first suicide attempt.
Deeply troubled Liza started to skip school and was caught stealing from fellow classmates. Another failed suicide attempt followed. Eventually she ran away from home, away from a father who raised his hand to her and into the arms of an abusive boyfriend. Her then on her life descended into a cycle of domestic abuse. She lost all her selfesteem and confidence and it was at this lowest point that suffered a violent assault and abduction at the hands of a stranger. Let down by her family and by the legal system Liza felt she had nowhere to go but back to her abusive boyfriend.
As a release during this turbulent time aged 23 Liza amazingly found the strength to set up and organize the Miss India International Pageant in a bid to empower other oppressed women. In its first year this event attracted an audience of 4,000 and generated around $100,000 in ticket sales. The event went on to run successfully for five years. But it was during this time, that Liza turned to drugs as a way to escape the domestic abuse she was suffering. These were dark times and despite her business successes Liza found it impossible to escape both her abusive boyfriend and the pull of the drugs.
Liza eventually turned to God and started to read the Quran again. It seemed that reaching out to God brought salvation in the form of Nick, a Greek Orthodox tailor who seemed to understand her better than she did herself. At last Liza felt she had a chance of real happiness.
Surprisingly her parents after years of blaming her for bringing shame on her Muslim family welcomed Nick into their family. Liza and Nick were married and Liza gave birth to Alexxi, but still dark shadowy hands reached out from within to drag her back down into the mine.
In order to finally escape this darkness inside herself Liza knew that she had to face up to her past and deal with it. She walked into a Police station and filed charges against her abusive boyfriend. He was prosecuted and left Australia.
Whilst never completely free of the dark mine of despair, Liza now feels in control of it and how it affects her life. This has led to her wanting to share her own experiences and success with others to help them too to overcome difficulties in their lives. Acceptance of what has happened in her life has been a huge part of the healing process for her.