By Conrad Dudderar
An Oklahoma City police detective told a Yukon audience this week that she has “bounced back” from the “darkest” time of her life.
“There is always hope after abuse,” said Sherrica Buckingham, an 11-year survivor of domestic abuse. “You can survive it. When people ask me about domestic violence, I tell them I’m a ‘survivor’. I’m not a ‘victim’.
“I advocate for anybody to reach out and get help. If you’re in a leadership position in your organization, make sure the resources are there for your employees.”
A 15-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, Buckingham shared her journey of strength during the Canadian County “Honoring Hope” luncheon on Oct. 4 at Yukon’s Discovery Church.
“Everybody understands that this (domestic violence) is a national problem and it’s going to take the entire community to work together to help our own,” she said.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Cardinal Point family justice center presented the second annual community fund-raising luncheon as its signature event.
Cardinal Point serves victims of domestic abuse, child abuse, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, elder abuse, and human trafficking.
The center and its resource partners provide a welcoming, safe place in central Canadian County where adult and youth victims can go when they are hurting.
A faith believer and mother of four, guest speaker Buckingham told the audience how she overcame her past abusive relationship thanks largely to the support of the OKC Police Department and Oklahoma City YWCA.
“During that time, it was the darkest, darkest place in my life,” Buckingham said. “It still is to this day.”
When she started as a patrol officer with OKC Police, Buckingham responded to many domestic violence calls and saw how victims were impacted.
“I was one of those people, on patrol, I just didn’t understand it,” she said. “I always said, ‘Why not just leave?’ Many people have heard that. But it’s not that simple. It’s mental. It really is.
“And until I was touched with domestic violence personally, you couldn’t have told me anything else.”
Buckingham began dating her abuser in 2009, in her second year as a police officer. She described him as savvy, very handsome and convincing.
“It started out good … everything was great,” she shared. “Then eventually, the insults started. The verbal abuse started, then the physical abuse started.
“I balanced being a police officer and trying to survive my abuser. … My kids were scared and didn’t know what to do because they also had never been touched by domestic violence.”
Buckingham initially would not get out of her abusive relationship and ended up being placed on administrative leave at the OKCPD. A Department of Human Services’ referral was made, and her children were placed in state custody.
“My world was rocked,” she recalled. “At that point, I realized, ‘I have to get the heck out of here’.”
Her faith in God was being rattled, her children were taken away and her career was in jeopardy.
One of Buckingham’s greatest obstacles in overcoming her situation was being a police officer. She was embarrassed and ashamed, hoping nobody would find out.
“I’m supposed to be tough,” Buckingham related. “A victim of domestic violence? What? Seriously, I was in the thick of it. Whether I wanted to be or not.”
It was at the Oklahoma City YWCA that Buckingham met Kristie Chandler, one of her advocates.
Chandler is now the CEO of Cardinal Point, Canadian County’s family justice center helping domestic violence survivors.
At Chandler’s suggestion, Buckingham received individual counseling which proved greatly beneficial.
Buckingham started to thrive as the counselor helped her overcome issues that arose from her father being in prison her entire life.
She ultimately took ownership of her past abusive relationship.
“I made a bad choice by picking the wrong guy – whether it was intentional or unintentional,” Buckingham added. “These were the consequences of choosing that wrong guy.
“I had to get myself out of it, and I had to figure out how to bounce back in life – and chase after my dreams.”
After Buckingham had been on a lengthy leave of absence, then-Deputy Chief John Scully called her into the office to tell her it was time to return to the police department.
Scully could tell Buckingham wanted to be back on duty because she had “fought” for her kids, her career and herself.
She had taken the initiative to seek help and get out of her abusive situation.
“I’m so thankful today that my agency allowed me that time off work, because I needed it,” she related. “I needed it to get myself together. I needed to focus on my family. I needed to focus on myself.”
Buckingham went back to the patrol division, later working in police/community relations and the investigations bureau.
Five months ago, she achieved her career goal by becoming a homicide detective.
Buckingham thanked Chief Wade Gourley for being a “huge” supporter of the OKCPD’s wellness unit. She’s grateful to other command staff and officers for their help and encouragement.
Today, Buckingham is married to someone she described as a “wonderful, God-fearing” man.
“After everything I’ve been through, and everybody who rallied around me, I’m so thankful,” she concluded. “I’m at peace. I love my life. I have a wonderful family. I have a wonderful career.