The Girl in the Closet

An 8-year-old girl spent six years locked away in a closet, naked, starved, infested with lice and surrounded by human waste. For the first time, Lauren, now 18, bravely speaks out about the unimaginable horrors she suffered at the hands of her own parents.

The Good Mom



Sabrina and her husband adopted Lauren as a baby. When she was 2, Barbara Atkinson fought for her return — and won. They never forgot about the little girl in the six years they hadn’t seen her. Sabrina says she was horrified to learn that the girl they still felt was theirs was the one found in a closet and treated so cruelly.

“When she first got to the hospital, she dropped down to 22 pounds, and they thought that she wasn’t going to make it,” Sabrina says. “The doctor said that they had to do surgery in through her esophagus because she had been impacted with pieces of plastic that she had eaten from bowls that they had left whenever they went on vacation. She had eaten wood from the door frame. Lauren told me that her mom made her eat dog poop and her own poop.

Sabrina fought to get custody of Lauren once again and after the little girl was in better physical condition, they were reunited. “When Lauren first came home, she was really quiet. She didn’t trust anybody. She didn’t want to be alone. She was scared to death. Still today, Lauren sleeps on the floor. In the beginning, we would find her in the closet. She would go into the kitchen, get food, take it to the closet, eat it and then throw it all up. She was hoarding food. We would find food underneath the mattress, underneath the bed, a lot of different places.”

Sabrina says her daughter had improved a lot, given the circumstances, but isn’t 100 percent yet. “Lauren’s growth is stunning. Lauren is 4-feet 11-inches. She has scars on her head. She has cigarette burns on her back. Lauren had to have reconstructive surgery on her private parts because whoever sexually abused her tore her all up. She’s having seizures, and we don’t know why. Neurologists have said that it’s because her brain is trying to bring back memories and that her body is physically trying to fight the memory because of the trauma. If I was abused like my daughter was, I would hate people. My daughter loves people, and that’s amazing to me.”
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