Victim of sexual abuse longs for better life

OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine — Pulled from school before she was 10 and sexually abused by a close family member who impregnated her when she was 13, 16, and 19, Angella Sterling has never quite recovered.

The now 53-year-old learned to read as an adult and ekes out a living as a housekeeper, but the jobs do not come in steadily. Plagued by an eye problem, she lives in a dilapidated house her biological father gave her 18 years ago. She longs for help so she can finally have somewhere to proudly call home.

She believes that will be enough to convince her 17-year-old daughter to live with her. For the last three years her only girl has lived nearby with a paternal aunt. Sterling had her when she was in her late 30s.

She is convinced that her daughter has a bright future ahead of her, certainly better than her mother’s past has been. According to Sterling, even though the child’s father was gunned down at the peak of her high school exams, her daughter graduated with five Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects in addition to passes in City and Guilds. The teenager wants to become a police officer, like one of her older brothers.

“I’d love her to come and live with me but when she sees the condition she says, ‘No mama, I can’t come back.’ This house is my father house and is only one room I have on it, so if anybody… can help me with a house for me and my daughter so that she can come back to live with me,” Sterling appealed during a recent visit by the Jamaica Observer.

A cracked staircase on a cramped veranda, missing window panes replaced with old zinc, and a rotting ceiling are some of the noticeable features that greet guests upon arrival. On the right side of the house there is a pool of water that escalates to flood level whenever there is torrential rainfall. At the back there is an unfinished bathroom. It has no toilet.

“These are my toilet — my pails,” Sterling said as she pulled the buckets from beneath her bed.

“It don’t feel good because the neighbours are seeing me and they are talking about it, and I feel bad,” she added.

Inside the house is littered with containers strategically placed to catch water that comes in from the leaky roof when it rains. She does her best to keep moisture away from her prized possessions: a few pieces of second-hand clothing, important documents, and photos of her five children. Her fourth son is 20 years old.

She occupies one room in the fragile, four-room structure which is also shared by a distant family member. There was no electricity and the kerosene oil in Sterling’s lamp was running low during our visit. Apart from a very large TV — a gift from a well-intentioned person — that takes up much-needed space, the house is void of electrical appliances. She uses a coal stove to prepare meals and her last cooked meal was seven weeks before our visit, she said.

Sterling is worried that she has become a bother to neighbours she often asks to charge her “banger” phone.

She dreams of being independent and self-sufficient but needs a start.

“I would love to build a little shop out by the front, but if anybody could help me with some material and labour; and whoever have the heart that can help me to stock it as well — I don’t ask for much,” she pleaded.

A GoFundMe account (https://gofund.me/de4026af) has been created for individuals who wish to help.

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