Lauren Kavenaugh

‘Girl in the Closet’: Woman who spent childhood abused and hidden in closet is accused of sexually assaulting young girl [Police]

A woman dubbed “Girl in the Closet” after spending years inside a closet while being abused and starved was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl, Denton, Texas, police announced on Wednesday.

Dallas Morning News reports that police received a tip on Monday concerning Lauren Kavanaugh and a 14-year-old girl. According to police, the girl and Cavanaugh had been in a sexual relationship for a few months after meeting through the Facebook page, “The Lauren Kavanaugh Story.”

While speaking with investigators, Kavanaugh reportedly admitted to a relationship with the 14-year-old. She was subsequently arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child. She remains behind bars at the Denton County jail on $10,000.

Authorities declined to provide additional information. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Kavanaugh, now 24, was subjected to horrific abuse for most of her younger years. From age two and until she turned eight, Lauren lived her life in a 4-by-8-foot closet in her mother and stepfather’s Texas trailer.

Lauren’s stepfather, Kenneth Atkinson, and her mother, Barbara Atkinson, not only deprived her of basic necessities such as food, clean water, and clothing, but they also took turns sexually assaulting her. Later, Barbara Atkinson let strange men and women sexually assault the little girl, and became angry if Lauren screamed or cried.

“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,” Lauren told Dr. Phil last year.

The pair also played twisted and cruel games on Lauren. Her stepfather would put a gun to her head and pretend to shoot. Other times, he would cut her, burn her with cigarettes, or hit her hard enough to leave bruises.

Lauren lived with five other siblings. All of them knew of her closet confinement, but were warned by their parents to never utter a word. Later, a few of her siblings would reveal that they often heard Lauren shrieking and screaming at night, but they had no idea that their parents were sexually abusing her.

On the night of June 11, 2001, Lauren was rescued. Dallas Morning News reports that Officer Gary McClain can still clearly remember the shock and horror he felt when he first entered the family’s trailer and saw Lauren covered in cigarette burns, cuts, and bruises.

“She looked like one of those kids out of a horror movie. I know that’s terrible to say, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it.”

A young Lauren Kavanaugh after authorities rescued her and the closet she was forced to live in [Photos: Dallas County District Attorney’s Office]

Lauren was returned to the family that adopted her as a baby. Barbara Atkinson had previously demanded to have Lauren back after she was placed with an adoptive family. Courts allowed Lauren to be returned to Atkinson, but her adoptive parents never forgot about her and welcomed her back with open arms.

The transition back into a normal life, of course, wasn’t that simple for Lauren. She told Dr. Phil that although things have gotten a little better as time progressed, her life has been difficult, filled with numerous struggles.

“My life’s been pretty hard. I’ve been struggling a lot. I hardly sleep any more. My anxiety is terrible. I’ve tried to commit suicide over 30 times. Sometimes I have flashbacks about my past, my childhood. Sometimes when I have flashbacks, it’s of [my parents] beating me.”

During high school and college, Lauren was teased by football players who reportedly told her she “liked what happened to her.” It’s left her, according to a child psychologist who worked with through the years after her rescue, with the tasks of dealing with life’s obstacles more so than most others.

“Every single human being — whether gifted with intelligence or the ability to earn money or personal attractiveness — we all come with gifts and we all come with burdens. And we spend our lifetimes maximizing our talents and working with our burdens. Lauren has more than her share, but her job is to be the best Lauren she can be.”

Kenneth and Barbara Atkinson were both sentenced to life in prison.

[Feature Photo: Laura Kavanaugh/Police Handout]