by ANTONY CLAY
TO call Caryn Walker brave and inspiring would be an understatement. She has gone through dark times in her life which, thankfully, most of us never will – and come out the other side with a positive intention to help others.
Caryn was sexually abused by her father for seven years when she was a child. It left her traumatised, confused and afraid. It ruined her childhood – but it has not ruined her life.
Aged 39, she went to the police in 2010 and saw Norman Yeo caged for 16 years.
She could have remained anonymous, as is the right of all victims of rape, but Caryn wanted to help others and tell her story. She wrote a book of her experiences – and it has struck a chord with many people.
Tell Me You’re Sorry, Daddy, written with Linda Watson-Brown, is no easy read. It is hard hitting and cuts to the core by showing the harsh impact of sexual abuse on a child.
The book has sold in the thousands and is now published in The Netherlands and soon in France. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – and Caryn hopes this will help other abuse victims realise they are not alone.
But she also hopes that others will be able to understand the serious impacts of abuse and spot the possible signs to watch out for.
Hers is a message which has struck a chord in Rotherham. Indeed, Caryn held a book-signing session at Honey B’s Tea Rooms and Takeaway in Kiveton Park last year which achieved a good public response.
Caryn, who lives in Wallasey, said: “The main reasons for writing my story was to reach other victims of child abuse to help them and show that even after 30 years and with no physical evidence you can take people to court and get a conviction.
“Sticking to the truth puts you on solid ground.
“The second reason was to give my sister a voice. She never had one.
“It’s my story and my memories.”
Caryn and her sister Jenny, it would be fair to say, had awful childhoods with a mother who cared more for herself than anyone else and who was unpredictable and cruel.
Jenny ended up in care for most of her childhood and Caryn was neglected by her parents – and was raped and indecently assaulted by her father from the age of eight to 16.
Jenny died of a brain aneurysm in 2006, aged 36.
Caryn said that she did not want Jenny to be forgotten and wanted to highlight her hard life as well as her own because she wanted things to change for others in the future.
Caryn said: “When Jenny died I was not the strong person I am now.
“I have been trying really hard to get the message out there.
“My book is quite raw and hard hitting. Some of the parts were so difficult to put in there and there were parts I can’t read back now but I included them because people will be looking for them.”
Caryn explained that other abuse survivors will understand what happened to her because they have undergone the same experiences of pain, shame, confusion and fear.
Caryn said: “Every time there is something out there about the book there is a new flurry of interest.
“Almost daily people reach out to me. Hundreds of people have been in touch.
“People are asking me ‘can I tell you something?’ and sharing their stories with me.
“The reaction has exceeded what I expected.
“I was worried what if no one wanted to read it.
“In the run-up to publishing I was warned that people might start trolling me on social media. But that has not happened. I was ready for it but it has not happened.”
Caryn said she has had a few comments from people who said they cannot believe what she endured really happened, but most have said the book deserves to be read.
Care workers and teachers have told her that the book has been “informative” to them because it shows them signs of what to look for in children who may be enduring abuse.
Sadly, Caryn believed that child abuse is as rife today as ever but that it isn’t up to children to tell. She said they can’t do that.
“It’s very rare for a child to tell. They only have that little world and think there is no one to tell,” said Caryn.
“I believed it was normal and that every dad and daughter did that.
“A child’s brain is not developed.
“Rather than children talking to a teacher, what if a teacher looks for the signs?
“I believe it’s still happening and is going on unnoticed. The nature of grooming is that a child does not speak out because they think no one is listening.
“The first step is to talk about it.
“It was like a blackness inside me. You walk around with it like a cloak and you think people can see it.
“Quite often children are isolated. I had no one to really confide in.”
Caryn said a woman told her that reading the book had made her see “red flags” with a child who she thought was being abused. The woman said she could now intervene.
Caryn said that the public in general need to be aware that child abuse is still prevalent, and be willing to accept that it may be happening amongst their own social circle.
“They might say if it’s a stranger ‘lock them up or string them up’ but when it’s someone they know they don’t want to go there,” said Caryn.
Support for her brave decision to go public has come from her partner of 18 years Elroy and 30-year-old son Karl.
She said: “My partner has been really supportive. He has seen me at my worst.
“My son has been incredible. It affects him in a huge way but he is fine.
“I remember looking at him as a new-born baby and thinking I don’t know how to love you, but I will.
“I have an older brother who lives in America who has been very supportive. I am proud of him for that. But not everyone in the family was supportive.”
Caryn, who changed her name from Karen Yeo to escape its association with her father, has been asked why she believed he carried out his horrible acts.
She said: “When he went to prison, a lot of people said would I visit him and ask him why he did it. But I wouldn’t.
“He is just a paedophile. He’s just a bad person.
“It’s awful, isn’t it? Sometimes I look back and think ‘how could he do that?’”
Caryn was left finding social interaction difficult by her years of abuse and unable to trust people.
But the publicity surrounding her book has made her find new strengths.
“At first I didn’t believe I could do interviews,” she said.
“When I did my first interview, with the Liverpool Echo, I had to have everything written down and was a bag of nerves, but now I find that talking helps me.”
But she has also gained a lot of her strength by knowing that her sister, who she dedicated the book to, has finally being recognised after her life spiralled out of control because she was so badly treated by a mother who criticised her at every turn coupled with a father who didn’t care.
It was a tragic tale but it is to Caryn’s credit that she has made her sister’s memory so prominent a part of her own story, that at least sibling love and loyalty has survived everything.
Caryn said: “I now know my sister has a really loud voice.”
Tell Me You’re Sorry, Daddy by Caryn Walker with Linda Watson-Brown, is published by John Blake.