Athens Review, Athens, Texas

November 19, 2013

Ignoring child abuse problem won’t make it go away

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

Athens — For those of you that might have missed it, this  past week the Athens Review has been running a series of stories titled “Girl in the Closet.”

The series is about a 8-year-old girl named Lauren Kavanaugh who was found after six years in a closet. The child had been abused, starved and had more trauma caused to her little body than most of us will experience in a lifetime.

The Review has fielded a number of phone calls about the series of stories. Most of the calls wanted to know why we publicized her torment. That by no means was the intent of the Review. We never wanted to bring shame to Ms. Kavanaugh. She has nothing to be ashamed about.

For those who were not aware, the original series of stories ran in the Dallas Morning News. The News talked with and interviewed Ms. Kavanaugh and her family for the exposé. The Review received permission from the Dallas Morning News to reprint the articles. The only stipulation the News had was we give them credit, and ask people to check their website for an interactive conversation about the topic.

The request was totally valid. The reporter and the News put a lot of time and energy into telling a difficult story, and  opened a discussion about a very difficult topic. This could possibly be an award-winning story for the Morning News.

Now, back to the reason the Review ran the series. Lauren Kavanaugh, the subject of the articles,  is a Eustace High School graduate, and currently attends Trinity Valley Community College. The story had a number of local ties to the community. People in the community knew Lauren, and knew her story very well.

The other reason, which may be of more importance, was the topic. Some of the calls the Review received said the story was too sad to appear in the paper. It's a very sad story, but it's a very true story. This story needed to be told to remind us how sad and difficult  Lauren's life had been.  Not all of us could comprehend her situation, but there are elements of society who have no regard for children or human life.  There are people in this world that can hurt you to the core, and never think they are doing anything wrong. Those people should be exposed.

I was always told when life throws you a curve ball, catch it and run with it. Not sure the person who said that was talking about a 8-year-old in a closet for six years. We all go through life with trials and tribulations, but nothing like what Lauren has endured.

As you read Lauren's story, it is very sad, but if you read the entire eight stories, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the girl referred to as “Girl in the closet.” She grows up, graduates from high school and enrolls in junior college.

When they found her in the closet weighing 25 pounds, I doubt those police officers and the hospital staff thought this little girl would ever graduate from high school, much less attend college.  Good for you, Lauren.

The past 12 years have not been an easy road for Lauren and her family. I don't believe anyone thought Lauren could come out of this situation intact. This girl, who is a woman now, will need a lot of therapy to survive what the adults she trusted put her through. 

Today on one of the television channels’ websites – I can't remember which one –  there was a story about a little girl who was in a closet for two years. They just recently found her. 

There were the women in Cleveland who were kept captive for 10 years – adult women now, but children when they were kidnapped. If you watch the news, this happens more than we would like to believe.

We should never forget the “Girl in the closet.”  None of us should take our lives for granted. Unfortunately for all of us, there are some really bad people in this world. We need to protect our children. They are our future.

There is help in Henderson County and the surrounding counties.

Leslie Saunders, Executive Director, of the Henderson County Help Center said, “If anyone knows any child who they think might be abused, please contact the Help Center.”

The Center has a Child Advocacy Program that works closely with law enforcement, Child Protective Services, the District Attorney’s Office, medical and mental-health professionals to assist children of abuse.

Services include a video-taped interview by a trained staff member, assistance filing Victims of Crime Compensation claims and free counseling.

The Help Center provides a family advocate for the families that are served through the Children’s Advocacy Center. It also provides counseling in group settings for the child and non offending family members of the children served by the CAC.

Sanders said “If we can't help the victim, we can refer them to an organization to get help.”

Ignoring the problem does not make it go away.  We all should be advocates for the  children. If you know of a child being abused, contact the  Henderson County Help Center at 903-675-4357.

Kathi Nailling is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.