The love and protectiveness that parents feel for their children is a powerful and instinctive force, shaping the core of familial bonds. This deep connection was poignantly evident in the case of Vili Fualaau, whose “relationship” with his former teacher, Mary Kay Letourneau, stirred public controversy. While the Netflix movie ‘May December’ covers some of the details of the real case, shedding light on the dynamics between the teacher and student, little attention is given to the parents of Vili Fualaau. In the aftermath of the legal proceedings, one might wonder about the well-being of Fualaau’s parents and how they navigated the challenges presented by their son’s vulnerable situation.
Soona Vili and Luaiva Fualaau Weren’t Aware About Mary Letourneau
Soona Vili and Luaiva Fualaau, both Samoan immigrants, welcomed their fourth and youngest child on June 26, 1983, in a pursuit to provide the best education and opportunities for their family. Little did they know that their son, Vili Fualaau, who was in the sixth grade, would be subjected to rape and sexual exploitation at a place where he was supposed to be safe. Soona Vili testified that she did not know her son was going through sexual abuse when he was 12-years-old at the hands of a school teacher who was well into her mid-30s. She said that she would have done something to protect her son had she known about it.
After Mary Kay Letourneau was convicted of child rape and sentenced to prison in 1997, she was released on parole after a few months. However, she defied the conditions of her parole within a month and was sent to complete her full sentence of 7 and a half years. In 2002, facing the aftermath of the controversial relationship between her son Vili and his teacher Mary Kay Letourneau, Soona Vili took legal action by suing both the Washington school district and the Des Moines, Washington Police Department. Her lawsuit alleged that they had failed to adequately protect her son from the inappropriate relationship.
During the hearing, Soona Vili confronted Letourneau, expressing her distress and disappointment. She revealed that she had permitted her son to spend time with Letourneau, visit her house, and accompany her on family trips under the assumption that the teacher would serve as a figure of trust and safety. By the year 2002, Soona Vili and her husband had taken on the role of legal guardian for both of Mary Kay Letourneau’s daughters with Fualaau. She said that the teacher had ruined her son’s life, and she was entirely to blame for whatever had transpired.
Soona Vili said, “I can’t say I hate Mary. Just a couple of weeks ago my granddaughter turned around to me and asked, ‘Do you love my Mary mommy, Grandma?’ And I’m supposed to tell her ‘Yeah, I hate your mother?’ I can’t. I can’t. … And looking at my granddaughters, I can’t consciously say I hate this woman.” In the same testimony, she added that Letourneau was still abusing her son. She added, “I never condone[d] the relationship … what happened was morally wrong. She was married and this was a teenage boy, but I will do what I need to do to get through this.”
Where Are Soona Vili and Luaiva Fualaau Now?
Following Mary Kay Letourneau’s release from prison, Vili Fualaau, having reached adulthood, took steps to redefine his relationship with her. He legally requested the removal of the no-contact order between them. In a significant development, Fualaau and Letourneau married in 2005, indicating a desire to move forward as a family. The couple’s two daughters subsequently went to stay with them.
In an interview before the wedding, Soona Vili said, “I think all mothers would like to choose the course for all of their children. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the right course. If I were to choose the course and it didn’t turn out the way that it was supposed to turn out, then he will turn around, in fact, and blame me. This is the course that my son had chosen for himself, so he’s living it out.”
In reflecting on the dynamics with Mary Kay Letourneau, Soona Vili acknowledged the challenges in building a relationship, noting that she perceived Letourneau as an equal in age as Letourneau was only three years younger than her. Despite these challenges, Soona Vili expressed a sense of relief that a chapter in her son’s life was reaching some form of conclusion. The family, especially Soona Vili and her husband, Luaiva Fualaau, have kept away from the public eye in recent years and are working to protect the peace after the harrowing years that they faced.
Read More: Where are Mary Kay Letourneau’s Kids Today?