The email Karen sent me the other day included this:
“I could cite for you all the statistics on child abuse, but let me give you just one — over five children a day are murdered in the US — the bulk of them are abused, neglected and killed by their own mothers.”
That was shocking to me. Not so for Karen. It was one of those many dark realities of life that led her to write her forthcoming book, A Silence of Mockingbirds, which chronicles the life and death of little Karly Sheehan. It will be released in April to coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention month.
I don’t normally ask my readers to consider buying a book, but Karen Spears Zacharias is a friend and a fantastic writer, and Karly’s story is one that needs to be told. What happened to Karly? What was Sarah’s involvement? And how did Karly’s father, an Irish immigrant, end up as the state’s primary suspect in the abuse investigation? A Silence of Mockingbirds is not a simple love story – it is the troubling tale of a father’s love for the daughter he was unable to protect.
Included below is a portion of an interview Karen gave about the book:
Question: How did you meet Sarah Brill Sheehan?
Karen: As a young teenager Sarah Brill was assigned to an in-school detention class that I was supervising. Sarah possessed the jaw-dropping beauty of Halle Berry, and the reckless nature of Casey Anthony. She embodied a certain dangerous vulnerability that I recognized, so I reached out to her in a mentoring way that teachers often do.
Question: How was it Sarah came to live with your family?
Karen: At age 19, Sarah got pregnant. She asked my husband and me to adopt that child. For a variety of reasons we didn’t, but after Sarah gave birth she came to live with us. We considered Sarah our “adopted daughter.”
Question: So Karly wasn’t her first child?
Karen: No. She adopted her first daughter out to someone I introduced to her. Karly was the daughter she had with David Sheehan. A native of Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland. David met Sarah in Corvallis, Oregon, home to Oregon State University. David was an engineer in town for training at Hewlitt-Packard’s Corvallis campus, when the two met. They married in a Reno rush, lived in Ireland for a short time, and eventually settled in Corvallis, where Karly was born in January 2002.
Question: What happened to Karly?
Karen: She was murdered on June 3, 2005.
Question: Does the book contain specific recommendations for individuals and society in preventing child abuse?
Karen: Yes. Absolutely. The book is being released in April to coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention month. I have partnered with national advocacy groups such as Childhelp (Childhelp.org), Child Abuse Intervention Centers, the National Children’s Alliance (NationalChildrensAlliance.org) and Fathers and Families (FathersandFamilies.org) to help raise awareness about our nation’s child abuse epidemic.
Flannery O’Connor said it best: “The truth doesn’t change based upon our ability to stomach it.”
Abused children don’t need us to feel sorry for them. They need us to act on their behalf – as family, as friends, as neighbors, as teachers, as doctors, as law enforcement officers, as reporters, as pastors, and as legislators. That is the only way we are going to curb this crisis. We cannot fix this world but we can change it.
But we can’t even do that until we educate ourselves on what we are failing to do and what we need to do better. A Silence of Mockingbirds provides practical insights into the subtle, and sometimes glaringly obvious things we overlook, the multitudes of ways in which abuse insinuates itself into our neighborhoods, and our communities, and our families. Everyone in Karly Sheehan’s life was college-educated. Many of them were trained professionals who were supposed to be able to identify and prevent child abuse. Yet, Karly’s abuse had been ongoing for months prior to her death. These people should have known better. Why didn’t they?
For more information on this book, go to MacAdamCage.com.
For more information on the author, go to karenzach.com
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