Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Police sergeant rises above childhood abuse

Published:Monday | November 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livington/Gleaner Writer
Sgt Sonia Campbell dreams of becoming a social worker.
Sgt Sonia Campbell looking to transform children’s lives.
1
2

Sgt Sonia Campbell mans the Longville Park Police Station, but her dream is to one day become a social worker, where she plans to fight for the rights of children.

This dream is no doubt powered by the tough upbringing Campbell had. It all started during the turbulent 1980 election period, when violence reared its ugly head and Campbell and her siblings had to regularly hide under their beds.

She said she can still remember the fear that gripped them as they sought refuge under the beds, even while having their meals.

Things got so bad that her mother, who was a teacher, decided to leave the community one night and relocated to Portmore. She kept the older children with her and sent Campbell and two of her siblings to live with their stepdad in St Elizabeth.

Campbell said that at age nine, she discovered what abuse was as she regularly beaten mercilessly with a guava switch by her stepfather.

"One day, he beat me so badly that my foot was cut. It was so bad that maggots infested the wound. One of my teachers who saw me limping, took me to the nearby clinic and I told them what happened," she said.

"The wound healed eventually, but the physical abuse continued, with the only reprieve being when my big brother visited on a Saturday. It was a day my siblings and I looked forward to.

"It was the only day we knew my stepdad couldn't touch us," she reminisced, saying her brother lived far away and could only visit on a Saturday. He also did not have the facility to accommodate them where he was living.

At age 11, and after another brutal beating, Campbell decided she had had enough.

At 2 a.m. the following day, Campbell woke her siblings and told them she was leaving and asked if they wanted to join her.

They walked from New Market to a house in Santa Cruz where Campbell remembered her mother once rented.

The people there took them in and the next morning they gave them bus fare to continue their journey to Portmore, where their mother lived in a two-apartment house.

Even with the challenge of facing hunger and having it hard, Campbell was happier than she had ever been in a long time.

"My mother was a teacher who had a real passion for children, so much so that she had six of her own; cared for three for her brother; a younger sister whose guardian had died; and still took in others whose parents may have failed them.

She treated us all equally," Campbell shared, adding that her mother tried her best to ensure that they all went to high school and got a good education.

While attending St Hugh's High School, Campbell said it was difficult to study with so many persons living under the one roof, so she waited until the wee hours of the morning to study by candlelight.

 

OVERCAME CHALLENGES

 

Her rough childhood proved to be the preparation for her in later life. After her marriage fell apart and she had to raise her two children on her own, that same resilience saw her overcoming the challenge.

Campbell, who said she joined the police force in order to "get a job to take care of my mother", admitted that she eventually developed a deep love for policing.

She recalled the challenges of serving while trying to see her two children through university and high school, and the creative juggling she had to do to make ends meet. With her mother as inspiration and a never-give-up attitude, Campbell said she now looks back with a sense of pride and relief as she has seen her children "past the worst.

"It was tough going, but I am thankful as my daughter is now a nurse and my son will soon graduate from maritime university as a logistics engineer," she informed.

"I love children I want to be a part of the change in protecting them and making their lives better," she shared, adding that although she does some of that in her capacity as a police officer, she wants to do even more, such as counselling. Whatever it takes, it's a dream she knows she will eventually attain.