Survivor of horrific child abuse reveals extent of damage caused by 'beast'
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Survivor of horrific child abuse reveals extent of damage caused by 'beast'

A SURVIVOR of horrific child sexual abuse has opened up about the damage the ordeal caused to her life and her decision to waive her right to anonymity.

Rachel Barry was raped by Keith Burke (29), of Addergoolemore, Dunmore, Co Galway, at a foster home she shared with him from when she was just nine years old.

Waiving her right to anonymity, Ms Barry spoke to an RTE Investigates programme.

She said: "He took my virginity away from me at 9 - it’s sickening because I can never get that back.

"In my eyes I was dirty, in my body I was dirty so how could I expect anyone to treat me any other way but dirty. I feel strong but at the same time, I feel weak because I can’t even face normal things, everyday things.

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"I don’t go out, I have no friends, I don’t do anything with my life, I can’t even go into town without feeling genuinely petrified, I’m nearly shaking like, it’s not a life, I’m doing the prison sentence."

The abuse began when Ms Barry went to a foster home run by Kathleen and Gerry Burke in Dunmore in Galway in 2005 when she was 8-years-old.

There, she became friends with another child called ‘Amy’.

Keith Burke then began to abuse both girls.

Ms Barry told the programme: "Keith called ‘Amy’ upstairs and asked ‘Amy’ to ask me to go to the hut to play, the hut was in the back of the house, a set of bushes and then there was the hut.

"In the hut, there was a bed, there was a curtain around the bed, there was a shelf and two windows.

"Myself and ‘Amy’ in turns had to strip down with nothing only our socks on and while he had obviously done it to ‘Amy’ before, he called her over and I had to watch what was happening to her."

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For two years following on from that, Keith Burke continued to abuse the two girls in front of each other.

Finally, in May 2007, Rachel confided what was happening to her biological mother.

According to RTE, Rachel underwent medical tests and following an investigation, her evidence was deemed "credible" by the HSE (who were responsible for child protection at the time).

A file was sent by Gardai to the DPP but there was no prosecution and 'Amy' stayed living with the Burkes.

The HSE deemed that Keith could not be left alone with the foster children, the foster parents agreed to supervise this and he moved out of the family home.

However at his sentencing two weeks ago, gardai said that he continued to have unsupervised access after 2007 to the foster home.

'Amy' confided about the sexual abuse to a teacher in October 2011 and the case was re-opened by gardai, which Ms Barry said was a relief.

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She said candidly: "I was excited but so scared. I couldn’t wait to give Amy a hug ...

"When she came out and said what happened, I was relieved as well in a way that I wasn’t lying, I was telling myself that I lied and I wasn’t, I didn’t lie - I was telling the truth you know."

After 'Amy' spoke about the abuse in 2011 gardai began to investigate Keith Burke again, he was charged with more than 70 counts of sexual abuse, he pleaded not guilty and Rachel, 'Amy' and 'Sarah' were forced to give evidence.

'Sarah' said she that talking to the trial brought her ordeal back.

She said: "I had to go into detail about everything, I couldn’t just sit there and say a certain word, I had to describe it down to a “T” ...I’ve never been through anything like that before...

"I was happy that this man was going to be put behind bars but at the back of my head I was thinking how long?"

In July 2017 he was found he was found guilty on 23 sample charges – including rape, sexual assault and buggery.

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At his sentencing hearing two weeks ago he admitted raping three foster children between 2003 and 2007 – all three girls were under 10 years of age at the time, he was aged between 14 and 18.

Burke (29) was sentenced to seven and a half years for the rape charges and concurrent terms of six and a half and five years for the remaining charges, the final year was suspended - 'Sarah' feels that justice has not been served.

'Sarah' said: "I was very angry, I thought I was fine but six-and-a-half years, seven-and-a-half years with one suspended, that's nothing and what he put us through."

The full RTÉ Investigates report, Fostered and Failed, will be broadcast tonight on Prime Time, RTÉ1, 9.35pm.