My Reaction to an Episode of Dr. Phil

TW: rape, abuse, and molestation

In this video, Dr. Phil hosts a mother and daughter who went through horrific abuse at the hands of the step-father. The problem is that the mother doesn’t remember any of the abuse that the daughter describes at all, despite working in a group home for girls who have been abused. Obviously, Dr. Phil works on this issue throughout the show, but there is something that really stuck with me and struck a chord with my own past. 

If you were to watch this from start to end, you will hear the mother, time and time again, bringing the problem back to herself and the abuse that she went through. While I am not here to discount or throw away her experiences, it bothered me that she never once truly acknowledged her daughter’s pain and suffering. She continually makes excuses for herself or mentions her own abuse, but never once truly, fully acknowledges what her daughter is saying. Mind you, the mother doesn’t remember anything that the daughter is saying happened, and with my back ground in psychology I can certainly attest to the possibility of memory suppression, but what the mother never once does is sit and actually listen to what her daughter is saying and say afterwards, “You know, I may not remember this at all, but I believe you that this happened, and I am sorry that I failed you by not getting us both out earlier.” This might sound very corny, but to someone that has a background like this, acknowledgement can truly help in the healing process. Yet, the mother in this video doesn’t really do this, continually highlighting her own abuse rather than recognize her daughter’s experience. 

Another point that really bothered me was that the mother made light of her daughter’s depression, saying that she believed her daughter wanted to be that depressed and even wallowed in it, that she liked it. The mother says, “I think she enjoys the depression, because I think she puts herself there, so she can punish herself.” This is terrible for a few reasons: it denies that her daughter still is experiencing the negative effects of her abuse, it perpetuates the stigma of depression as an invisible illness, and it essentially says that depression is a choice. I cannot argue enough that these things are wrong, and for someone who worked in a group home for abused girls, I feel she should know better. Her attitude towards the matter was appalling and pretty offensive. The daughter herself says that her mother tells her to just put the past behind her and move on, which coming from a woman who doesn’t remember catching her husband raping her daughter not once, but twice, is not really surprising. 

Where this becomes personal for me is that it really forced me to remember my own abuse and how my mother handled it. My situation was much different from the daughter’s in the video, I could truly feel her pain because my own mother was very much the same in that she always made the situation about her, made excuses, and always made light of my depression. Of course, my mother was in the throes of an addiction to prescription pain killers and was almost as bad of an abuser as my stepfather was during the worst of it all. I went through emotional, physical, and (once) sexual abuse, and when my mother started to go through the process of ending her addiction, when I felt I could talk to her about everything that had happened, I found that she wouldn’t acknowledge what had happened to me, not just by her, but also by my stepfather. Everything became about her and her woes/experiences, and it hurt me even further to know that the one person I needed confirmation from would never give it to me. 

To this day, I still wonder why she stayed with my stepdad. When I was fourteen, she found out that he had molested me, but she didn’t leave him then. This man hit me for years until I learned how to punch properly and hit him back (especially after he discovered I was stronger than he was and hit harder). This man spanked me hard enough that on two occasions bruised my tail bone. She knew all of this was happening and still didn’t leave him. It hurts worse knowing that when the physical abuse stopped, the verbal and emotional abuse got so much worse, not just by my stepfather, but also moreso by mother.

I, too, ended up leaving my home, and while I bounced back a few times, trying to give my mother a chance to change, it never happened. Now I am in Japan, and I don’t think I will ever speak with her again. Not only does she not acknowledge what happened to me as a child under her watch, but she also made sure that she told me how she thinks I have chosen to be depressed and that I should stop taking my medication for depression. She has told me that she believes that I am not depressed, just lazy. Just thinking about this hurts, even now. 

Overall, I sympathize with the daughter in this video. It’s almost like a betrayal of trust to have a parent do this to you. It is a difficult thing to come to terms with and even harder to forgive. This was hard for me to watch, near triggering, but it really struck me how I am not the only person that has had such a similar experience as me. Now, all I can do is to hope that this girl gets all the treatment, love, and acknowledgement that I never had or will get. Abuse is something always stays with you, but I hope, for her, it is something that doesn’t define her for the rest of her days. 

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