|8 years old Lauren Kavanaugh when rescued|
Lauren Kavanaugh was terrified when at 3 years old she was locked in a wardrobe by her mother because she was crying. Later the same day began what turned to 5 years of agony as her own parents turned her into a sex slave. She was was banned from leaving the closet, was rarely fed, and was only brought out to be tortured and raped nightly by her paedophile mother and step-father.
Lauren's childhood was spent living captive in the 4ft by 9ft closet, separated from her brothers and sisters and the rest of the world. Their parents called Lauren their 'little secret', but they were caught when they showed her off to a horrified neighbour who alerted police.
Lauren, now a 21-year-old student, is bravely speaking out about her horrifying ordeal so she can help other survivors of sexual abuse.
Lauren tells her story, via UK Mirror,
“One day mum was so sick of me sobbing. 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.”
|Closet from which she was rescued|
Lauren was only three years old. She recalled later being pulled out of the closet and raped.
“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.”
While she endured endless days of misery and horror, she could hear her brothers and sisters laughing and playing outsise, who were not abused.
Lauren was also tortured and burnt with cigarettes. She was also starved.
“I was weak from hunger and was tied down so I couldn’t fight back. I had to eat anything I could find in the closet.I was only let out for torture. One day, mum ran me a bath and pushed my head under water.When I was six mum put a bowl of macaroni cheese in front of me. She told me I could chew it – but then had to spit it out.”
|Grown up Lauren|
When she was pulled from the tiny cupboard aged eight, she weighed just 25.6 pounds - the same as the average two-year-old. She was rushed to surgery where she was fitted with a colostomy bag, but her organs were shutting down.
After being rescued in 2001, Lauren Sabrina and Bill Kavanaugh adopted her – but her early trauma had a lasting impact and she would hide food for later, worried it would vanish.
She did not even know how to play with toys. She also had the mental age of someone much younger and would try and sleep in her wardrobe every night.
“The first time I saw grass I was eight and I thought it was biting my feet. When I had baths I would yell, ‘don’t drown me."
|High school graduation|
Lauren returned to school and completed her exams. She now supports other victims of sexual abuse.
“I’ve started studying psychology at college, I plan to go to university next year. My dream is to qualify as a counsellor.But I really want to help victims like me to overcome their abuse and be strong. I’ve been in their shoes and came out the other side.”
Her mother Barbara Atkinson and stepfather Kenny Atkinson, from Dallas, Texas, were convicted of abusing Lauren in 2002 and jailed for life. They are not eligible for parole until 2031.