book reviews, true crime

A review of Out of the Darkness by Tina Nash

Several years ago, when I was still writing this blog on Google Blogspot, I had several Irish readers. One of them alerted me to a book about a shocking true crime case that took place in Penzance in Cornwall, England. The book, entitled Out of the Darkness (published October 2012) by Tina Nash and ghostwritten by Ruth Kelly, sat in my Kindle queue for five years after I ordered it. I like to read true crime, so it’s unusual that it would take me so long to read a true crime book. This case was genuinely horrifying to me, so I kept putting off reading Nash’s story. I just finished her book this afternoon, after which I dozed off into slumber. The doorbell rang and I got a terrible cramp in my calf, fell out of bed, and slowly managed to stumble to the front door, only to be met by a guy in a T-Mobile lanyard, asking me if our Internet was “okay”. Yeah, it’s okay, but now I have a really sore spot on my calf, and I’m still a bit stunned by the book I just read.

I’m happy to be finished reading Out of the Darkness. I probably didn’t need to wait five years to read this book, but the case is no less horrifying to me now than it was when I first heard about it on my original blog. This is the story of a classic domestic violence abuse case with an absolutely ghastly end, although it’s not the worst it could have been. Author Tina Nash only lost her eyesight instead of her life. However, her ordeal was truly appalling. I imagine it continues to be appalling years onward.

What happened?

Tina Nash, who lived in Penzance, Cornwall in England, met Shane Jenkin at a party when she was a teenager. He was a “hottie”, at six feet four with black eyes and a powerfully built body that proved he took a lot of time chiseling it at the gym. Tina was instantly attracted to him, but one of her friends told her she should leave him alone. He was bad news. In fact, at the time of that party, Shane Jenkin had only just been released from prison, “for stomping on a guy’s head and giving him brain damage,” as Tina’s friend told her. She added, “He’s a bloody psycho.” Tina spent a couple of hours talking to him about their favorite rapper, 2Pac, but then Shane tried to rape her. She was still attracted to him, although that night, she ultimately took heed of her friend’s warning and steered clear of dating him.

Tina had two sons by different fathers, the first of whom she had when she was very young. She seemed to be raising them mostly alone, after a series of what she terms “dead end” relationships. She comes across as a bit blue collar… someone who isn’t particularly educated, but is not unintelligent, despite making some truly terrible personal choices. She’d seen her own mother beaten and terrorized by a long string of physically violent and emotionally abusive men. One of six children, Tina explains that none of them knew which or how many of them shared the same father. None of the men who had impregnated her mother stuck around, so Tina and her siblings grew up in public housing and were raised on money paid by the government. And yet, she was doomed to make the same mistakes her mother made years later, and that would cost her dearly. Although her friend had warned her about Shane Jenkin, she still found him irresistible. They started dating.

There were times when Shane Jenkin was everything Tina could ever want in a boyfriend. She mostly seemed physically attracted to him, describing him as a “giant teddy bear”, despite his violent proclivities. She also described times when he was “kind” to her, bringing her gifts, and treating her as if he loved her very much, keeping her on the classic cycle of abuse that keeps victims coming back for more.

Those episodes of kindness were interspersed with terrible episodes of violence in which he would insult, berate, degrade, and beat her. One time, he got so angry at her that he destroyed her car, which she needed to be able to get to work and run errands. Another time, he destroyed her disc jockey equipment (her dream was to become a DJ). After each episode, when she was left looking beaten and bedraggled, Shane Jenkin would scoff at her in disgust, shaming her, and saying, “Just look at the sight of you.” And yet, after every breakup, Tina inevitably invited Shane Jenkin back into her life.

On the night of April 20, 2011, Tina’s life was forever altered. In a fit of extremely intense fury, Jenkin wrapped Tina up tightly in a duvet, then beat her senseless. Afterwards, he gouged out her eyes with his fingers, and broke her nose and her jaw. She woke up with her right eyeball dangling from its socket. Her left eye was smashed. Despite her dire need of medical assistance, Shane Jenkin refused to take her to a hospital, so she waited twelve hours before she finally got help. Needless to say, she is now permanently blind. It later came out that Jenkin had watched a video depicting someone having their eyes gouged out. A physician told Tina that Jenkin would have had to use extreme force to do the damage he did to her.

Shane Jenkin is now happily locked up for the rest of his life. He was initially given a six year prison sentence, which he would not be able to begin until he convinced psychiatrists that he was no longer “mentally ill”, which supposedly would be very difficult for him to do. However, Tina says that Shane wasn’t “crazy” when he brutalized her and took her sight. He wasn’t drunk or under the influence of any drugs. He was simply consumed by rage and an extreme attraction to violence.

A BBC news story about Tina Nash. She is now completely blind, and her ex boyfriend, Shane Nash, was the last thing she saw.

My thoughts on the book

Out of the Darkness reads as if Ruth Kelly mostly wrote it the way Tina Nash told it to her. The writing is technically correct, but it isn’t particularly sophisticated. In a way, that is probably a good thing. As a reader, I got a sense of the type of person Tina Nash is and how she ended up in the situation she was in back in 2011. Yes, Tina Nash did things that were not very smart or responsible, but she comes across as a basically decent person. She certainly never deserved to have her eyes gouged out by her boyfriend.

Of course, reading this story, one wonders how a single mother of two sons could continue to stay involved with a violent monster like Shane Jenkin. The night he blinded her was definitely not the first time he’d abused her. There are quite a few instances detailed in the book. Each new instance was more terrifying and violent than the last. And yet, somehow Shane Jenkin would talk his way back into Tina’s arms. She’d forgive him, even when he’d held her prisoner in her own home or beaten her or destroyed her property… Every time, he’d convince her that he was going to change.

If I had not ended up an “overeducated housewife”, it’s very possible that I would have been working with people like Tina Nash. One of the degrees that makes me “overeducated” is a master’s degree in social work, and there’s work for social workers who are willing to deal with domestic violence cases. I think it would have been very difficult for me… as I know it’s difficult for people who do choose this type of work. Like a lot of people, I wondered why she kept forgiving Shane, but then as a wife to a man whose former wife abused him, I understand that, too. Abuse victims aren’t like regular people in normal circumstances. Still, it’s frustrating to read a story like this one. Shane Jenkin was clearly very dangerous, and this fact was clear long before he took away Tina’s eyesight with his fingers. I shudder to think the effect this has had on Tina’s children.

Anyway… I’m glad I’m finished reading this book. I’m also glad I read it, because it is a classic case of a domestic violence taken to absolutely gruesome extremes. Out of the Darkness is not a bad cautionary tale, and probably wouldn’t be a bad case study for someone learning how to help abuse victims. However, the story itself is pretty frustrating and sad, and I know I felt like shaking Tina and telling her to wise up, even though I knew that she’d already heard that from her friends and loved ones who were watching this unfold in real life. File this one under “cautionary tales” about dating bloody psychos.

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