Brianna, 25, claims she was raped 10 years ago and that her mother, Bridget, coerced her into sharing her story with the national media — creating backlash from her peers. Can they fix their fractured relationship? Plus, best-selling author Mitch Albom shares a personal experience and offers advice for living a life without regret.
Ten years ago, Brianna, then 15, attended a party after her high school’s homecoming dance — where she claims that two classmates raped her while she was passed out from drinking too much. She says her mother, Bridget, and stepfather, Michael, tracked her down at the party when she failed to come home. “The next time I regained consciousness was to the sound of my mother’s voice coming down the hall of the trailer where I was raped,” she says, adding that her mom later coerced her to share her story with the national media.
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Bridget admits that she yelled at her daughter when she found her at the party. “I think I said, ‘What were you doing there? What were you thinking? How dare you go and do this; this isn’t how I raised you,’” she told Dateline NBC
Brianna says her mother wanted to report the incident to authorities, and she agreed. “The case went nowhere, so after months, we decided to go to the media,” she says. “I didn’t want to go to the media, but after my mom coerced me into believing that going to the media was more about empowering other girls to stand up and speak for themselves, once again, I agreed.” She says the backlash that followed made matters worse — and her relationship with Bridget and Michael has since been severely damaged.
Bridget insists that she tried to be an advocate for her daughter and checked in with her every step of the way. “She wanted to keep going forward,” she says, adding that her daughter changed from a sweet, bubbly person to dark and angry. “Her acting out really escalated,” she says. “Brianna has become a liar, a thief, a con artist. She’s a self-destructive abuse victim; she’s becoming an abuser herself.” She adds, “I absolutely did not bring my daughter up this way.”
Michael says he wants to see Brianna turn her life around. “Brianna suffered psychologically from what had happened to her, and those difficulties manifested themselves in her acting out,” he says. “When she was younger and acting out, my wife and I would say, ‘She’ll figure it out. She’s a smart girl.’ Now, she’s 25. She’s set a pattern she won’t be able to escape from.” He continues, “Brianna has made bad choices regarding lifestyle. She has admitted to me the use of drugs. She has made bad decisions in where to live and whom to live with.”
Charges against one of the students accused in the rape were eventually dropped, and the other teen later pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent and was given two-and-a-half years of probation.
Brianna explains how her life has changed since the incident. And, did Bridget get swept up in the media spotlight?
“You raised her, so where did you go so wrong?”
Bridget and Michael accuse Brianna of being in a controlling and abusive relationship with her partner, Vickie, and say they fear for the well-being of Brianna’s 7-year-old son. “Bridget and I live in fear that someday, the phone will ring, and we’ll find out that either Bri or our grandson have died,” Michael says.
“I’m concerned about my grandson’s physical and emotional safety. He is in an incredibly unstable and precarious environment,” Bridget says. “My daughter has admitted to being involved in drug trade and trafficking; and I find it appalling. It is so dangerous.” She says she had no choice but to call CPS recently. “I witnessed Vickie physically abusing and assaulting my grandson twice,” she says. She claims that Vickie beat the boy with a belt on one occasion and jammed two fingers into the back of his skull on another — accusations Vickie vehemently denies.
Dr. Phil introduces Vickie, who is seated in the audience. He asks her if she abuses, uses corporal punishment on or spanks Brianna’s son, and she says no.
“We take fun things away — that’s how we punish,” Brianna responds. Dr. Phil asks if she hits or neglects her son, and she says no. She says her son is properly supervised and lives in a stable home. She also denies that she would allow herself to be abused. “With everything that I experienced, I would not endure physical or verbal abuse from anybody,” she says.
“They’re making this up because they disagree with my life choices and lifestyle.”
CPS tested Vickie and Brianna for drugs — hear the results.
Does Brianna want a relationship with her mother? And, is her son really in danger?
Dr. Phil challenges Bridget and Brianna to talk once a week, for 15 minutes, without discussing Brianna’s son. “Just be mother and daughter,” he tells them, offering the family professional resources to help them repair their relationships. Everyone accepts.
Mitch Albom: An Author’s Perspective
New York Times
’ best-selling author Mitch Albom shares a painful, personal experience that inspired his book, The First Phone Call from Heaven
, and offers advice to Bridget and Brianna.
“You only have one mother in your life; and at the end of one or the other’s lives, it doesn’t count who won the argument, but you will remember what you lost.”