Newest Review: ... the book is apparent. The reader feels a deep empathy with Shy at one point when she describes over hearing her mother tell Sidney t... more
A shocking story which makes you question human nature
Broken - Shy Keenan
Member Name: brightlight
Broken - Shy Keenan
Date: 31/03/11, updated on 31/03/11 (350 review reads)
Advantages: Riveting read, hard to put down, good value.
Disadvantages: May be hard for some people to read due to the graphic content of sexual abuse
Broken is an autobiography, written by Shy Keenan in 2008.
You may have heard Shy's name before, as she is the co-founder of the charity Phoenix Survivors. This independent voluntary organisation advocates on behalf of the victims of child sexual abuse, and for the families of children murdered by child molesters. Shy run's this organisation with Sara Payne, mother of Sarah Payne, who was murdered at just 8 years old by a peodophile.
Shy is not the author's original name, rather it is a nickname which she aquired as a young child, due to her apparent shy and quiet nature. Shy's real name in the book is Karen, and she is often referred to as this. The reader is left with the impression that she has adopted the name Shy, as a way of leaving her past experiences behind her, firmly where they belong. Karen is the young troubled girl in the book, whilst Shy is the young woman who tries to look to the future and piece her life back together.
Broken is a truly shocking story, because it is a true account of a young girls horrific experience of sadistic abuse over a lengthy period of time.
Shy Keenan's autobiography is a heart-rending account of her life as a child and young adult, and tells the story of how she managed to overcome physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Shy was born in Birkenhead in the 1970's. She was born to young, wayward parents who were seemingly unwilling and unable to be good parents, having their first child removed by extended family. Shy's very early memories recall a period of neglect and abandonment. When her parents seperated, her mother moved in with her new 'step-father' the peodophile Sidney Claridge. Shy describes her mother as someone who was a manipulative, theiving, lying woman, who's sole purpose in life revolved around shoplifting and scaming the authorities, whilst spending all her free time in the local bingo hall. Nevertheless, Shy's desperation to get her mother to notice and love her throughout the book is apparent. The reader feels a deep empathy with Shy at one point when she describes over hearing her mother tell Sidney that she wishes Shy was dead and that she 'hates her.'
Shy attempts to tell her mother about Sidney's abuse of her, but her mother refuses to believe her and beats her up. Later in the book, it becomes evident that her mother is clearly aware of the sexual abuse which is taking place, but she turns a blind eye. The reader finds it hard to understand how a mother can allow this to happen without concern.
The extent of the abuse Shy suffers is overwhelming. From the age of four years old, shy is raped and sexually abused practically every single day. Although her step father is the main perpetrator, other men also attack her. It later emerges that Sidney is selling her to other men, and she finds herself being gang raped by 'faces' on a regular basis on ships and on people's houses.
I found it particuarly hard to fathom how so many individuals can have such little regard and care for another human being. It is not only the sexual abuse, which is bad enough, it is the lack of consideration for the pain and suffering that Shy goes through, in addition to the mental and emotional abuse that Shy is subjected to. Two shocking incidents stand out for me within the book. The first is when Shy's parents pretend that she has epilepsy which is completely untrue. Gobsmackingly, the health professionals believe this without any tests, and she is locked up as a mental patient and given epileptic drugs to sedate her. Sidney uses this to his full advantage and for months she finds herself permenantly unconcious, often waking up in the middle of being sexually assulted in strange houses.
Another shocking incident takes place on the day of Shy's mother's funeral. Immediately after, Sidney and his friend rape Shy, and his friend assaults her sexually with a bottle. The reader is left with the feeling that these men must surely have a 'missing link' to see Shy as a sexual object, almost as if she has no feelings or thoughts of her own. The story is a worrying insight into the minds of pedophiles and their predatory natures.
At the end of the book, Shy recollects how she becomes concerned for the safety of other children who Sidney and his friends are abusing. Her story makes constant reference to numerous times where she has told professionals and authorities of the abuse, but to no avail. It is particuarly disturbing to see how she is treated by social services at the time, who believe Sidney's version that Shy is making sexual advances towards him, and that he has to fight her off! Even when Sidney is finally convicted he is initially given a lenient sentence and her sister, who he is also abusing, is allowed to stay with him at the home.
In 2002, Sidney and two other's are convicted thanks to an undercover documentary which Shy undertook with Newsnight. This shows Sidney confessing to his crimes, and this time the authorities were forced to act. This brings some relief to the reader and of course to Shy and her family.
The book is written in the first person, and the reader is encouraged to relate to the child who is abused throughout her life, because her story is described through a child's eyes. Shy describes what she sees as opposed to using the correct terminolgy. She describes 'flashing lights' rather than cameras which are being used to film her abuse. She also describes people's faces rather than uses names, which emphasises the fact that so many people are treating her like an object instead of a person. For instance, she talks about 'shiny head' and 'angry face.' The drudgery and misery of her life is played out well, however she does talk about her year's stay at her grandparents house at Patley Bridge which she loves. This also gives the reader a period of respite from the shocking and depressing state of her daily life. The end of the book highlights how Shy has moved on and is providing her support to other victims of abuse. She is keen to describe her adult self as 'loving and loved' by her family, although she states that parts of her soul will always be 'broken' due to the horrific experiences she endured.
I have read a number of real -life autobiographies over the years, however this one really shocked me. I think the reason is because of the level of abuse documented, but also the frequency and duration of it. It really is hard to believe how human beings can treat other's like they do. In the case of Shy's story, multiple people were involved in her abuse, although it was lead by her step father. For the majority of decent people who read this book, it will shock them to the core.
The other issue which is hard to fathom, is how the authorities (Police, social services, health professionals) all ignored all of the warning signs and refused to act.
The only saving grace is that much of the abuse took place in the 70's and 80's. One can only hope that the authorities and systems in place to protect children have substantially moved on and improved today. Nevertheless, when you think that it was only in 2002 when Shy managed to get her abuser to confess after being brushed off by the authorities, it is clear that poor practice is only too recent.
I would certainly recommend this book for a thought provoking and interesting read. I could not put this book down and read it within two days. Yes, it can be a little depressing, however it will make you realise that no matter how unhappy you are your life could have been far worse than it is. It will also make you have a greater sympathy, awareness and understanding of the victims of sexual abuse and why some victims behave in the way that they do as young children and young adults.
I recommend that you purchase this book from somewhere like Amazon.com. It cost me £4 for a brand new copy, which is generally cheaper than in book shops.
Published: 2008 by Hodder and Stoughton
Thanks for reading!
Summary: Excellent book, worth reading
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