I smile sideways into the camera, wearing a grey jacket and my pounamu pendant

That’s In A Name

I’m a nerd who lives on the internet and has a reasonably common name and a couple of email accounts, so I am often made aware of the existence of other Karen Healeys.

Sometimes I learn about these other people who share my name when I get email intended for them. There’s a Karen Healey in the USA who is a deeply Christian woman with a large circle of friends who haven’t all updated their address books from a mistype a couple of years back. They are all very nice when I notify them of this error, and frequently promise to pray for me, which I’d rather they didn’t. There’s a Karen Healey in Australia who likes Shakespeare, which I know because the email informing her that she’d successfully bought tickets to Richard III came to me instead; I called the ticket company and they got in touch with her to sort that out.

And, of course, because I am a nerd who lives on the internet and has a couple of books, the reviews of which I follow, I sometimes learn something about these people because they come up as search engine hits. There’s a Karen Healey who does something with environment science, and another who does something with consumer research. There’s the equestrienne Karen Healey, who is one of the finest hunter trainers in the USA – the day my name outranked hers on Google was an embarrassingly proud one for me.

But a couple of days ago, a new Karen Healey started showing up on searches.

She is naming sportswriter Bill Conlin as the man who sexually abused her and other children in the 70s. And she is calling to account the families that knew of the abuse, and, rather than get the police involved, chose to cut off further contact with Conlin instead.

Jezebel has an article with a good overview:

Karen Healey, who is now a 44-year-old corporate sales executive with three children, says she’s shocked by how adults reacted at the time. “Nobody called the cops,” she said. “Everyone went back to living their lives … It’s never talked about. None of the kids are offered therapy. We all go on with our lives.”

Philly.com has a much lengthier, more in-depth article, where Karen Healey’s mother expresses her shame:

In retrospect, Barbara Healey said, she and the other mothers should have done more: “I decided the wrong thing.”

(Bear in mind that the Philly.com comments include a number of victim-blaming suggestions. Conlin resigned from the Philadelphia Daily News, and he has many fans frequenting the site.)

The statute of limitations has run out on this case and many others; Karen Healey and the other women and men naming Conlin as the perpetrator of sexual assault on them cannot pursue justice through the criminal courts.

But she has come forward to name him, at the inevitable cost of her own name being dragged through the mud, of being labelled a money-grubbing fame whore, of being held accountable for the abuse perpetrated upon her by every victim-blaming asshole who cares to take the time.

Karen Healey is brave and principled, and I admire her very much.