Lauren Kavanaugh became known as the “girl in the closet” after she was rescued from being locked inside a tiny room for six years as a young child. Kavanaugh, now 23, just opened up about flashbacks which still prevent her from listening to country music and life with her new girlfriend. She was raped, tortured, and nearly starved to death while kept inside a closet at the family’s mobile home trailer.
“My life’s been pretty hard. I’ve been struggling a lot. I hardly sleep anymore. My anxiety is terrible. I have tried to commit suicide over 30 times,” Lauren Kavanaugh said during an interview on the Dr. Phil Show.
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Dr. Phil recorded two girl in the closet documentary style interviews with Lauren Kavanaugh which began airing on Wednesday evening and will conclude tonight. Kavanaugh’s mother, Barbara Atkinson, and stepfather, Kenneth Atkinson, had five other children in the home, but singled her out for intensive child abuse because she was “bad,” the Daily Mail reports.
“One day mom was so sick of me sobbing that she grabbed my arm and told me, ‘get into the closet.’ I was huddled in there for hours under a rail of dresses and shirts. I thought it was a punishment. There was no water or food, just darkness,” Kavanaugh recounted about the beginning of her years spent locked in the closet.
Barbara Atkinson and Kenneth Atkinson were ultimately convicted on child abuse charges and sentenced to life in prison. Lauren Kavanaugh said her parents blared country music to drown out her screams while she was kept locked in the closet, the Dallas Morning News reports. The horrific flashbacks from the six years kept in captivity caused Lauren problems in her later years at school as the painful memories flooded back in. She told Dr. Phil she now just hopes to have a “normal life.”
“They put country music on blaring to hide my screams. After hours of abuse, I was bundled back into the closet, confused and in agony. From then on, it became my new home. I couldn’t do anything in the darkness. I slept in there and had to use it for the bathroom. The carpet was drenched in urine and I lay under a thin, wet blanket,” Lauren Kavanaugh also said when detailing the horrific child abuse and sexual assault she endured as a little girl.
Lauren’s extensive vocabulary baffled police officers and caregivers at first. They eventually found out she learned how to talk from listening to the country music played to mask her painful cries. While at the hospital after her rescue she inexplicably began screaming when she stepping onto the grass outside of the facility. The staff soon realized it was the very first time the girl in the closet had ever felt grass beneath her feet.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the girl in the closet was rescued from the nightmare going on in her Athens, Texas home after her mother and stepfather shared their “little secret” with a neighbor. The shocked neighbor quickly called the police, who rushed to the scene and rescued the severely abused child. Lauren Kavanaugh’s case was considered the third worst child abuse case in the United States where the abused child actually survived.
When Lauren Kavanaugh was rescued from the closet, she weighed only about 25 pounds — approximately the average weight of a 2-year-old toddler. The girl in the closet was suffering from malnutrition and was potbellied. When she arrived at the local emergency room, she was rushed into surgery because her tiny organs were shutting down. The abused child was then fitted with a colostomy bag. Her doctors used a feeding method to provide drastically-needed nutrients to her body which was created to aid Holocaust victims during their successful attempt to save Lauren.
Because of the repeated rapes she endured at such a young age, Lauren Kavanaugh had to undergo significant and multiple reconstructive surgeries. Lauren said she burnt with cigarettes and tortured when her parents let out of the closet. She said she sat huddled in fear while listening to her siblings laughing and playing elsewhere in the house.
“I had to eat anything I could find in the closet and I was only let out for torture. One day mom ran me a bath and pushed my head under the water. Another time when I was six, mom put a bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of me. She told me I could chew it but then had to spit it back out,” the child abuse victim recounted.
Lauren Kavanaugh was given up for adoption by her mother when she was just an infant. Sabrina and Bill Kavanaugh took her into their home and loved her dearly. Just eight months after finding a new home with the Kavanaugh family, Barbara Atkinson decided she wanted her baby back and petitioned the court for custody.
During the adoption process, the attorney for Sabrina and Bill Kavanaugh didn’t follow through and file the paperwork necessary to terminate Barbara Atkinson’s parental rights. Based on the technicality, the judge ordered Lauren to be returned to her biological mother. Atkinson had a total of six children with four different men.
“I never loved Lauren. I never wanted her,” Barbara Atkinson told police investigators after her arrest. “When my other kids hurt, I hurt. When Lauren hurt, I felt nothing.”
This is the second time the girl in the closet child abuse victim has given an interview with Dr. Phil. When she was 18, she went on his show to speak publicly for the first time about her six years of abuse.
“I know she’s having a flashback because she stops right in her tracks,” Lauren’s girlfriend, identified a Janae in the interview, told Dr. Phil.
Janae went on to say Lauren Kavanaugh has developed a series of often disturbing coping mechanisms to come to grips with her childhood of abuse, torture, and rape.
“If we are somewhere that doesn’t have a closet, she will go to the shower, turn on the scalding hot water and sleep in there,” Kavanaugh’s girlfriend added.
Lauren also admitted to having struggled with not only depression but drug and alcohol addiction as well. Janae said before they go to sleep at night she will “baby proof” the house to remove anything sharp that Lauren could get her hands on because she sometimes turns “very violent” before bed and could harm herself.
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During the girl in the closet interviews, Lauren said her parents kept her in the locked in the small and filthy part of the house until she was brought out to be raped.
“I had to go to the bathroom in the closet, where I slept. I had a pillow on the floor and maybe a blanket every now and then if I was good. I would cry until I fell asleep,” Lauren said. “They took me out of the closet to have sex with me.”
The child sexual assault survivor also said her parents would tie her to the bed and continue to rape her until there was “blood all over the sheets.” After the rape was over, Lauren said she was beaten and tossed back into the closet. Kavanaugh said her mother would bring home both men and women to sexually abuse her. She said if she screamed during the rapes it would intensely anger her parents.
“My parents thought it was hilarious for them to watch. And I had to do what they said, so I could stay alive,” Lauren continued. Kavanaugh said she felt she was going to die on more than one occasion. According to Lauren, her stepfather would get the gun he kept beside the bed, put it to her head, and pull the trigger while pretending to shoot her.
Lauren Kavanaugh’s physical impairments from the six years held captive in a closet are only part of the lifelong impact of the ordeal. Because she was deprived of mental stimulation, Kavanaugh also reportedly suffered brain atrophy. She missed out on the important social and emotional development which occurs during the first years of life and therefore reportedly never properly learned how to trust or give affection.
“If I had a message for my parents, it would say, ‘Rot in jail,’ because that is where they belong,” the former girl in the closet said.
Barbara and Kenneth Atkinson each received life sentences for felony injury to a child but became eligible for parole in 2013 — when Lauren Kavanaugh was 38.
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