Lauren Kavanaugh was locked up for 5 years as a child and only brought out for sexual and physical abuse by her mother and stepfather. They even invited others to participate in the abuse while playing country music to muffle her screams. To this day, she cannot listen to country music as it triggers memories of the abuse.
She spent more than 5 years in a state of abuse until she was finally rescued, weighing only 25.6 pounds, the size of a typical two-year-old. Despite her traumatic past, she later became an advocate for abused children. Unfortunately, at the age of 25, Lauren was arrested for the sexual abuse of a child. However, recently, on October 12th, 2021, the sexual assault charges against her have been dropped.
“It was considered one of the third-worst abuse cases where the child didn’t die”
Who is Lauren Kavanaugh
Lauren’s biological mother, Barbara Calhoun, first encountered Bill and Sabrina Kavanaugh when she was four months pregnant. Barbara had recently moved in with Sabrina’s relatives and both Sabrina and Bill were eager to adopt a child. Although Barbara seemed willing to give up her daughter for adoption, she was unaware of the father’s identity.
Sabrina accompanied Barbara to all of her medical appointments and sat outside while medical professionals questioned the young mother to ensure she was not being forced into adoption. When Lauren was born, Barbara refused to hold her and Sabrina took control of the umbilical cord. The next day, adoption papers were signed and Sabrina fed Lauren for the first time. Despite being asked, Barbara declined to hold her daughter.
The following day, Sabrina brought Lauren home from the hospital, with the infant sitting in the back seat.
However, eight months later, Sabrina received a call from Barbara’s attorney, informing her that Barbara was filing a petition to take Lauren back. The custody battle lasted for a year, during which time Barbara married Kenneth Atkinson, a high school friend.
Barbara changed her mind and wanted Lauren back. Due to a mistake by the Kavanaughs’ lawyer, Barbara won custody of Lauren. Over the next year, the Kavanaughs gradually lost custody of Lauren. In 1995, Judge Lynn E. Markham from Houston County awarded permanent custody to Atkinson.
Why would a mother fight to regain custody of a child she had given up, only to abuse and torture her? Not only did Barbara fail to protect Lauren, but she also subjected her to cruelty and seemed to take pleasure in her pain for more than six years.
Chew it but don’t swallow
After Barbara won the custody battle everything started to go downhill for Lauren, she was given minimal food and water and was beaten regularly. She was forced to sleep on the dirty floor without a blanket or pillow. The abuse was so severe that she was left with permanent scars on her body. Her mother and stepfather would also neglect her basic needs such as bathing and using the restroom
“My mom would bring home guys or girls to have sex with me. If I screamed or yelled, that really made them mad. My parents thought it was hilarious for them to watch. And I had to do what they said, so I could stay alive. My stepdad would get the gun beside his bed, put it to my head, and pull the trigger, pretending to shoot me.”
Barbara had six children with four different fathers. All of Lauren’s siblings were aware of the fact that she was being kept in the closet, however, Barbara and Kenneth warned them not to reveal this to anyone. On occasion, Kenneth would force Lauren to eat broccoli and instruct her not to swallow.
When Lauren was finally rescued, her siblings revealed that they often heard her scream and shout during the night but had no idea that their parents were also sexually abusing her.
Saving Lauren Kavanaugh
The discovery of abuse came to light when Kenneth revealed the situation to his neighbor, Jeanie Rivers. Jeanie immediately took action and informed her husband, Joe, who then notified the police. Jeanie expressed her shock and disbelief, stating, “I had no idea this was happening. It just reached a point where Kenneth couldn’t take it anymore.”
When the officers arrived, they found Lauren in a deplorable state, weighing only 25 pounds and covered in filth. Her hair was matted and infested with lice. She was quickly transported to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas for treatment for malnutrition. The doctors were forced to use a feeding method commonly used for Holocaust survivors as Lauren’s body was severely emaciated and in dire need of sustenance.
If it had taken any longer, Lauren may not have made it, as her body was shutting down. Her esophagus was obstructed by feces, carpet fibers, and plastic waste. Sadly, Lauren was unable to perform basic tasks such as sitting in a chair, writing, or even reciting the alphabet. Upon her release, she was unable to recognize even the simplest objects and the sun, despite never being trained in basic hygiene such as potty training.
The arrest of Barbara and Kenneth
The police officers who entered the house reported that Lauren had suffered from years of sexual abuse at the hands of her mother and stepfather, the Atkinsons. Despite their findings, they determined that having Lauren testify in court would be too traumatizing for the young child. As a result, the Atkinsons were never convicted of rape. Instead, they were arrested and charged with injury to the child.
In the house, there were other children ranging in age from 22 months to 11 years old. All of these children were placed into emergency care. Although they were found to be physically well, they had not been properly taken care of and were living in a mobile home filled with dirty garbage and animal feces. Lauren’s siblings were even instructed to lie about her existence.
In 2002, Barbara and Kenneth were sentenced to life in prison, with eligibility for parole in 2031. After spending six years in foster care, Lauren was eventually adopted again by Bill and Sabrina Kavanaugh. The Kavanaugh’ showered her with love and affection, providing her with a stable and nurturing environment.
Rescuing Lauren Kavanaugh
“I could not get out, no matter what I did. It was always dark. I didn’t get fed. I didn’t get to eat. 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.” said Lauren Kavanaugh.
Children who are subjected to abuse during their formative years, particularly the first three years of life, may face irreparable cognitive damage. The neglect and abuse during these crucial years can hinder their intellectual and functional development, resulting in a lifetime of limitations. Lauren, who was a victim of sexual abuse, struggled to overcome her trauma. However, she went on to pursue a degree in psychology to support other victims and cope with her own experiences.
The abuse left a profound impact on Lauren’s life, even after several years. She still struggles with triggers, such as country music, which her parents played to mask her screams. She has also attempted suicide over 30 times and is plagued by daily flashbacks of her traumatic childhood.
Her girlfriend, who supports her through her struggles, acknowledges the lasting impact of Lauren’s past on their relationship. “I can tell when she’s having a flashback because she suddenly stops in her tracks,” she says. “If we’re in a place without a closet, she’ll go to the shower, turn on the hot water and sleep there.” Lauren has also struggled with substance abuse in recent years.
In a 2013 interview with the Dallas Morning News, Lauren shared, “She was supposed to be my mother, and instead, she treated me like garbage.”
Lauren Kavanaugh’s sexual assault charges
In December 2018, Lauren Kavanaugh, who was 25 years old at the time, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a minor. She had met the 14-year-old victim on her Facebook page, “The Lauren Kavanaugh Story,” where she had been offering support to other abuse victims. The page has since been disabled.
After a sexually explicit conversation on Facebook was discovered, police questioned Lauren and informed the victim’s family about the allegations. During an interview with police, Lauren admitted to having a sexual relationship with the underage girl.
Both the victim and Lauren confirmed the existence of this relationship, which the victim reported had been ongoing for the past two months. According to Capt. Joseph Hunter, “There was no force or threatening involved. It was a consensual relationship, but due to the victim’s age, it was against the law in Texas.”
Lauren’s criminal defense attorney, Greg Westfall, argued that the case should be dismissed because of Lauren’s traumatic upbringing. He stated, “Trauma affects the developing brain of a child, and the brain grows based on experiences. When children are exposed to harm and danger on a regular basis, we can expect a much more serious outcome.”
Lauren Kavanaugh released from Jail
In March of 2019, Lauren Kavanaugh was indicted on three counts of sexual assault of a child. However, these charges were eventually dropped. According to Denton County court records, the prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the charges and the case was closed by a judge on the same day.
The decision to drop the charges was made as part of a collaborative effort between the DA’s office and local experts, but the reason for the decision cannot be disclosed due to confidentiality. Lauren Kavanaugh, now 28 years old, was released from jail on October 13th and her court-appointed attorney did not respond to a request for comment.