Ava Lindo: Not a victim
"Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning." This quote by Denis Waitley, motivational speaker and author, could not be more right than when applied to the life of Detective Sergeant Ava Lindo, who fought for her success.
Lindo was Lasco's Jamaica Constabulary Force's 2015-2016 Police Officer of the Year. But that is not all of Lindo's story. She had produced an exercise book, to be distributed to students, containing safety tips to guard against sexual abuse. These tips hit very close to home for the sergeant who, at 15, suffered a terrible ordeal that turned her life upside down - causing the then-competitive teen who wanted to be an engineer to drop out of school. Lindo was raped by men in a neighbouring community.
She recalled to Flair that she felt dirty, violated, and like she was not good enough. "For many years, I was stuck in 'why me'?" she admitted.
For Lindo, the rape was not the end of the story, but there was something greater happening to her that she did not recognise until a friend came to her.
"I was not aware that anything was wrong with me, but one day my friend Toriano Bernard - we called him Tito - he said, 'Ava, you are going to have to stop coming to school.' I was completely confused and I asked him why he would say that. He said to me, 'You are pregnant'." She recalled the conversation as if it were yesterday..
He also told her that other people were noticing. She did not believe at first, but then she started experiencing nausea, and she started to recognise changes in her body, and her period had stopped. She then told her grandmother that she thought that she was pregnant. When it was confirmed, she was four months pregnant with twins. She gave birth to a boy and a girl, but the boy died five days later - passing away in her arms.
Lindo knew who the father was, and he had told her grandmother that he would help to raise the child. While attending the teenage mother centre in May Pen, she was teased on the bus by boys who would take off the baby's socks, checking to see if who she said the father was, was really the father. It was a humiliating experience for her that did not help her self-esteem, but through it all, she decided to go back to school, although by that time, her dream of being an engineer had died.
She applied to May Pen High School and told the principal that she had left Edwin Allen High because she became pregnant. What she didn't reveal was the fact that she was raped.
The principal asked her why she thought he should take her into his school, and with tear-filled eyes, Lindo recalled the encounter:
"I said," she paused as the tears started to roll down her cheeks, "I just need a second chance." When he accepted her into the institution, Lindo said she felt like someone believed in her and that he also agreed that she needed this second chance.
She worked her way through school and returned to the classroom as a teacher. She told Flair that one day out of the blue, she thought, 'Why not become a police officer?' She could not recall why this came to her, but she followed the feeling.
While she seemed to be coping well despite her ordeal, she recalled that there were little things that happened that made her realise that maybe she had not got past it.
One such incident occurred when she was a constable. She was speaking with her colleagues and they were talking about which section of the police force they would work. "One said to me that because I was so good with children, maybe I should consider working with the rape unit (now Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse - CISOCA). I was so upset and burst out saying that if they ever sent me to the rape unit, I would quit," she said. "It was then I knew that it was still there."
But even so, she still did not deal with her struggles or speak about them. It had always been a secret that she never spoke about until 2011. She was doing a one-year gender-based violence course with the Women's Resource Outreach Centre. They showed a video of a female bartender being raped, which caused her to have flashbacks. She just felt the tears flowing, and was so overwhelmed that she had to go outside and sit to compose herself.
SUPPORT FROM WROC, CHURCH
"There was an open microphone after the session, for people to share and I shared my story with the group. They were so supportive, and it was due to that reception that I spoke about it at church. Their support was overwhelming. There were also other persons who had experienced sexual abuse, but did not know how to talk about it, and me speaking about it helped them. I think talking about it helped me."
She continued, "My sister always told me that one day, I would look back and laugh. My brother always made me laugh and these things also helped me." She told Flair she wanted to help children. "I wanted children to be aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate touching; also to open communication between parents and children, so they can tell their parents if anything is wrong."
It has been 27 years, and she has been a member of the force for 18 years - working hard to succeed. But she still has some dreams to fulfil, such as acquiring a bachelor's degree in counselling, and writing a autobiography.
Today, Lindo is confident that she has lived through her advice, "Always believe in yourself - always. Nothing is impossible for you to do. Remain positive."