After years of being raped, beaten and confined to a closet by her parents, Lauren Kavanaugh, now 21, has rebuilt her life.
Lauren, who lives in Athens, Texas, has graduated from high school and is now attending community college where she studies psychology so she can help victims of abuse like herself.
As a baby, Lauren was adopted by Sabrina and Bill Kavanaugh, but due to a legal error, Lauren’s biological mother, Barbara Atkinson, and stepfather, Kenny Atkinson, were able to take custody of her.
When Lauren was 3 years old, her mother forced her into a 4-foot-by-9-foot closet without food or water. She was later raped and shoved back into the closet. “From then on, it became my new home,” she said. “The carpet was drenched in urine, and I lay under a thin, wet blanket.”
Lauren was routinely starved and beaten. “… When I was 6, [my mother] put a bowl of macaroni cheese in front of me - she told me I could chew it but then had to spit it out,” she said. Lauren was also burnt with cigarettes and had her head shoved underwater. “I was weak from hunger and was tied down so I couldn't fight back,” she said.
When Lauren was rescued in 2001, she was so malnourished she had to be given food with a technique used for holocaust victims. At 8 years old, she weighed a mere 25.6 pounds.
Lauren was re-adopted by the Kavanaughs, but her transition into a healthy childhood was difficult and fraught with violent outbursts and behavioral issues.
After being placed in an alternative school and receiving residential therapy, Lauren got her life on track. She has since transitioned off of her medications for depression and bipolar disorder and plans on transferring to a university next year.
“My dream now is to qualify as a counselor,” she said. “I really want to help victims like me to overcome their abuse and be strong. I've been in their shoes and come out the other side.”