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A brave teen who was raped by her father at just nine years old has decided to share her ordeal as she braces herself for the possibility that he could be released from jail next month.
Danielle Keenan, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, courageously waived her right to lifelong anonymity at the age of 18, so she can tell her story for the first time and warn others about child abuse.
Michael Keenan sickeningly started to abuse his daughter at the age of seven, which was just a year after they had moved to Germany where he had been stationed in the military.
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“He said if I told anyone, I would have to shoot him and the Army would make me watch," Danielle told the Manchester Evening News.
"But I just knew he was my dad and I loved him because he was my dad.”
Danielle recalls feeling ill after catching a stomach bug and said she was sick into a bucket when her father sexually assaulted her for the first time around Christmas.
She said: "I had underwear on but he would grind up against the back of me. A couple of weeks later, he came back into my room and did it again.”
Danielle says the abuse worsened when her mother, who has asked to remain anonymous, went into labour with twins. She caught an infection and was in hospital for several weeks, meaning Danielle was left alone with him at home.
“He said he was lonely because mum wasn’t there and it started properly every night," Danielle added.
"Mum went into labour and got quite ill. Before he went to work, he would start doing it every morning and night. He would come into my room and ask me to get into bed with him.
“We lived in Germany and I was away from all my family and friends. We were constantly moving all the time, and that’s one of the things he was banking on. I didn’t have anyone else permanent other than my mum.”
Danielle's dad raped her when she was nine. The horrific attack happened in the basement when Danielle was asked to clean out the rabbit hutch.
She said: “He followed me downstairs. We had a pull-out sofa because it was a kids’ room. I didn’t know what it was, it just hurt. He said if I told anyone, no one would believe me and I would ruin the family.”
Danielle, who now studies health and social care at college, says she tried to tell others about the abuse but “couldn’t find the words” to describe what had happened to her.
It wasn’t until her mother, 38, noticed she had become withdrawn that Danielle was finally able to tell her everything – using teddy bears to show what her dad had done.
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Danielle said: “One night, he was in my room and in bed with me as normal. My mum came upstairs to check on me and she looked at me and could see on my face that something wasn’t right.
“I had to use two teddies to show her. I told her everything after showing her. After that, I knew he was lying and they would believe me.
“He denied it. He kept saying it never happened and that I was lying. But when my mum looked at me, he turned and said: ‘She’s telling the truth’.”
Danielle‘s mother can recall the moment she found out what had been happening to her daughter – just by looking into her terrified eyes.
She said: “Leading up to this, I had already been concerned about Danielle. I had spoken to him about it and he said she was probably just adjusting to the move and missing her friends.
“I went upstairs to find him and Danielle’s door was cracked open. He was lay down with her and I didn’t see anything, but I saw Danielle’s face and she wasn't there. It wasn’t my little girl there. There was no life – nothing.”
Danielle‘s mother hesitated in the doorway for a second before the harrowing realisation set in.
She continued: “I swear to God, for two seconds, I don’t even know how long it was, I was arguing with myself in my head. I thought: ‘This can’t be it.’
“He started play-fighting with her because she sat up on her knees and pointed at me. She kept looking from me to him while he tried to play fight with her. It was so staged; I’m not stupid.
“He was waiting for me to leave first, and obviously I wasn’t going to. As he walked out of the room, I shut the door behind him.
“I looked at Danielle and said: ‘Has daddy done something?’ and she said: ‘Yes’. I asked her to tell me and she said she didn’t know how.
“I gave her two teddies and asked her to show me. She put them together and I knew. She touched my face and said: ‘Are you okay mum? Is daddy going to get shot?’“
The mum-of-five still struggles with guilt every single day.
She said: “The worst part is, I feel so guilty. It went on for so long and I never knew. His friends were messaging me and crying on the phone saying he wasn’t like that and he was all about his kids.
“I was groomed by him because it was all a lie. I lived a lie for 13 years. I met him when I was 18; I thought I knew everything about him.
“When I first met him, he had a son that was 10 months old. That was one of the reasons I was attracted to him because I thought he was such a good dad. I thought this man was someone great to have children with. I’m not a bad mum. I didn’t know what was going on at all.”
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Keenan, who was 34 at the time, was arrested that night after Danielle‘s mother alerted military police. Keenan walked out of their home, which sparked a police search, before he eventually handed himself into a barracks.
In court, he admitted 10 child sex offences and was sentenced to five years imprisonment in July 2015.
Then, on New Year's Eve of that year, Danielle messaged her grandmother on an iPad and told her she had been raped by her father. The police were immediately alerted.
Following a trial at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester, Essex, Keenan was found guilty of rape of a child under 13.
In 2017, he was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison. But the dad-of-six, who served with the Royal Logistics Corps, could be released on parole next month.
Danielle‘s family are fighting for an exclusion zone to be put in place near their home to prevent Keenan from contacting them – but Danielle says she is “terrified” at the thought of her rapist dad being free once more.
Danielle said: “It’s alright because he’s in prison at the moment but I’m terrified. When he gets out, how can I be one hundred per cent sure we are safe?”
The teenager now suffers from PTSD and insomnia as a result of the abuse. While she’s taken part in rehabilitation programmes and continues to have therapy, she will carry the trauma of what happened to her for the rest of her life.
“I barely sleep at night and I get flashbacks and panic attacks all the time," she said.
“He could be getting out next month and I just want everyone to know who he is so no other child can get hurt like I was.”
Danielle is raising money for Embrace CVoC, which helps child victims of crime. To donate visit here.
If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 08 08 16 89 111 or visit their website, www.victimsupport.org.uk.
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