Bridgette says she’s terrified of her boyfriend, James, who she claims is verbally and physically abusive, controlling and jealous — and she says she fears he could kill her. James admits that he has an anger problem but says, “It’s her fault that I get as mad as I do.” And, two women who survived brutal attacks by their exes share their stories. Will hearing their experiences inspire Bridgette to stand up for herself — and her son? This program contains graphic images and strong language. Viewer discretion advised.

By the time this episode finishes, nearly 100 women will report being victims of violence by their intimate partners — and that doesn’t include the victims who do not report the abuse. Join Dr. Phil’s campaign to End the Silence on Domestic Violence and sign up to become a Silence Breaker! 

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“I’m Afraid to Stay with Him — But I’m Also Scared to Leave”

Dr. Phil and Robin meet with Bridgette before the show and assure her that she will be safe while she is taping the show. Dr. Phil urges her to be honest and speak her mind in front of James.

“I’m afraid that my boyfriend could kill me.”

James admits he’s abusive with Bridgette but says he doesn’t consider himself an abuser.

Dr. Phil goes over James’ criminal history, which includes aggravated battery, among other charges, and an 18-month stay in prison.

James says the battery charge stemmed from an incident where he was attacked with a baseball bat, and he beat up his attacker in self-defense. “I am a violent person,” he admits. “I do get violent.”

“Do you want help with that?” Dr. Phil asks.

“Absolutely,” James says, but adds that his relationship with Bridgette isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Dr. Phil and James clash onstage. “You seem to be, as I’m talking to you here, just seething beneath the surface because you don’t like my questions.”

Another Mother’s Perspective

Dr. Phil’s wife, Robin, joins the discussion onstage. Robin has been an active outreach ambassador to Dr. Phil’s End the Silence on Domestic Violence campaign.

Dr. Phil asks James if he has told Bridgette’s son that his mother doesn't love him.

James explains that Bridgette was going to miss her son’s first football game because of work. “I told him, ‘I’m going to be there, but she’s not because she doesn’t care,’” James says.

“What you want me to understand is that there’s more to some of these stories that are being told,” Dr. Phil tells James. “What I want you to understand is there ain’t enough story to justify some of the things that are going on.”

Robin addresses Bridgette: “Not only have you put yourself in a very, very dangerous situation, but you have also willingly put your son in danger. As a mother, you owe it to your son to put his needs first. He needs you to protect him, to keep him safe. You’re all he’s got in this world. You’re the only one he can count on, and you seem to have forgotten that.”

“I know that,” Bridgette says. “That’s why I’m here.”

James says Bridgette’s son is not exposed to any of the violence but knows that adults sometimes argue. He says if they’re having a heated conversation, and the boy comes into the room, they stop immediately.

“I think it’s a shame that you’re saying that little boys who are 6 years old know that adults argue, that parents argue,” Robin tells James. “You think just because he enters the room, and you stop arguing, he doesn’t know and doesn’t hear the arguing that was going on from outside the room. What he is experiencing right now, because of all this violence, will affect him for the rest of his life. In fact, boys who grow up with abuse are four times more likely to abuse in a dating relationship. They are 25 times more likely to commit rape as an adult. They are six times more likely to commit suicide, and they are 1,000 times more likely to commit violent acts against their own children.”

James says, “There is a lot of good, and yes, the bad is worse, and there’s no way to justify it, no way to make it right, but at the end of day, we all want to be a family.”

Dr. Phil plays a portion of James’ interview on video: “When I’m past my point of control, there’s nothing I can do about it,” James says in the clip. “I just don’t know how far I might go.”

Dr. Phil tells him, “That is very honest, and that’s why I have hope for you, because you get it. You recognize that there’s a point you cross where you are out of control.” He turns to Bridgette. “Did you hear what he said? So, you don’t have to wonder if it can get that bad — he’s telling you, ‘There’s a point I cross where I lose control, and I don’t know how far it will go.’”

Dr. Phil tells James, “I have, in all seriousness, a commitment to help you. I want to help you. I’ve made arrangements to help you in an intensive program that I believe can change your life. I know your history. People have judged you, they’ve charged you, they’ve punished and imprisoned you, but I can’t find anywhere that anybody has ever actually taken the time to try and help you.”

Dr. Phil offers to get James help for his anger issues. Will he accept?

Shocking Stories of Survival

Naomie and Amanda say they survived brutal attacks at the hands of their abusive boyfriends. They share their shocking stories with Bridgette.

“Every bone in my face had been broken.”

Amanda and Naomie join Bridgette onstage with Dr. Phil. Amanda tells Bridgette that hearing her story was like looking in a mirror. She warns her, “It will get worse and worse, because he cannot control himself.”

The two women say their attacks happened when they were attempting to leave their abusers — a phenomenon known as separation assault. “Separation assault is that time period when you have separated from the abuser, and they do something dramatic and tragic to try and control you,” Dr. Phil says.

Naomie has three sons. Dr. Phil asks, “Whenever kids are exposed to this, they’re at risk of having more problems than other children — problems with drugs and alcohol, and problems in school. Are your boys following any of that pattern?”

“They are,” she says. “My two older ones are in trouble with the law. My youngest one is going through anger and sadness issues, where at one point, he even threw a chair at his pregnant teacher and slammed a boy’s head on the floor.”

Robin tells Bridgette, “She’s telling you right now that her children have all suffered because of the abuse.”

Naomie tells Bridgette, “Even if you think that they don’t hear, he hears. When he’s coming in that door, a lot of times he’s probably worried for you, and at that point, he’ll make a noise to let you know, ‘I’m here at the door.’”

Bridgette nods.

James storms out of the studio. Dr. Phil makes it clear to Bridgette that he believes this is a dangerous pattern, and she needs to get out.

Dr. Phil tells Bridgette that an advocate from the National Domestic Violence Hotline is backstage, ready to meet with her. She agrees to speak with the advocate.

Finally Safe

Six months ago, with the help of Dr. Phil and Robin, Julie faced her boyfriend — who she claims was abusive — and ended their relationship. How is she now?

“He’s been released from jail. He still has not stopped trying to locate me.”

There is a right way and a wrong way to leave an abusive relationship. Follow these steps for a safe exit.

After you’ve left an abusive relationship, know the steps to keep yourself safe.