Lauren Kavanaugh survived horrific abuse at a young age, spending most of six years trapped in a closet in her parents’ Texas trailer before being rescued when she was 8.
Now, at 23, Kavanaugh says she is still grappling with the effects of her trauma.
As she detailed her journey on Dr. Phil this week, she was accompanied by her girlfriend of several years, Janae, who also opened up about their relationship, their struggles and the support she provides Kavanaugh.
“Before we go to bed, I normally put everything away that’s sharp,” Janae explained. “Anything that she can hurt herself on. I literally have to baby-proof the house.”
Janae told host Phil McGraw how Kavanaugh repeatedly finds herself in the throes of night terrors and flashbacks to her years of violence and sexual abuse in captivity. During these episodes, Kavanaugh is clearly distraught, but unreachable.
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“You can’t see what she sees, you only see what she’s doing,” Janae said, “and sometimes you want to wake her, you want it to stop, ’cause you don’t want to watch her go through that pain. But you know that you can’t, because then you become that person.”
Janae and Kavanaugh met as students at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, in 2014, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Their connection deepened quickly, and they planned to move into their own apartment.
“It’s complicated, of course, and every day it’s a struggle, but I love her,” Janae told the Morning News at the time. “I’ll go through it every day for the rest of my life if I have to, because you go through things for the people you love.”
But Janae said on Dr. Phil that there have been near-breaking points in their relationship: During one altercation, Janae said, Kavanaugh became distressed after seeing a police car and jerked the wheel of their own vehicle from the passenger seat, almost causing it to flip.
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Janae said she is afraid for the woman she loves. “I just don’t want Lauren to die,” she said. “That is my worst fear.”
The couple is looking to the future, however: In a GoFundMe created this week, Kavanaugh wrote of Janae, “I have a family now.”