A Dr. Phil Prime Time Special: Escaping Danger: Courthouse

Courtroom Confrontation

"I just don't even want to look at him," says Kerry about her husband, Matt. She is headed to court and will see him for the first time since she left. "I want to take care of the court proceeding. I'm concerned because they need actual concrete proof to get an order of protection, and all it is is my word against his."

"This isn't just a he-said-she-said situation," Dr. Phil tells her. "He has two prior assault convictions. You have trips to the hospital. You have neighbors that have called 911. You have a lot more than what you may think you do."

"But Dr. Phil, I have to ask you, my kids are asking about their dad, and I don't know how to respond to that," says Kerry.

Dr. Phil has two basic rules which he spells out for Kerry. "Never ask children to deal with adult issues; number two, you never put them in a position of being accountable for things they don't control, because that is a helpless feeling."

"My 4-year-old, things coming out of his mouth are the things he's heard come out of his dad's mouth," Kerry reveals. "'I hate you. I will punch you in the nose. I will choke you.' I'm not sure how to undo what he's already seen."


"It is horrible that they have been exposed to that," says Dr. Phil, "and you need to say, 'Stop. Wait a minute. Big boys don't talk that way.'" He advises her to challenge her son to be a big boy. He tells her, "I know there's intimidation. There are hurdles to clear. You've got a lot of people at the Heartly House. The people at the House of Ruth, they're helping you and supporting you, and they will continue to. So you're not alone. No more secret life. No more shame, no more guilt."


Dr. Phil and Kerry review the mantra he gave her last time they spoke.


"It's not my fault," Kerry says with a smile.

"You needed to get that right," says Dr. Phil. "It is not your fault. But what happens now is your choice. I want you to walk up those courthouse steps with your head in the air and dignity and self respect in your heart."

"I think I have it at this point," says Kerry.

"I think you do as well."

Kerry must go before a judge to request an order of protection, which would last for six months to a year. As part of the proceedings, she'll have to describe, in front of her husband, all the incidents of abuse.

"I'm really fearful of my husband's reaction," she says. "I don't know what mindset he is in. I'm terrified that he could actually kill me."

Later, with the day in court behind her, her mood is more relaxed.
"I'm pretty pleased with how it went today," she says, "but it was very scary. He did everything in his power to try to intimidate me. He tried to sit next to me in the courtroom." Kerry received full custody of the children, temporary support for her and the kids, and a six-month protective order.

Carole Alexander, Executive Director of House of Ruth, details a variety of services of which Kerry is able to take advantage, including critical legal representation and a job readiness program.

"Dr. Phil has performed a very, very important service," says Carole, "in highlighting what safe houses can provide." 


Sue Hecht, CEO of Heartly House, says, "Kerry's story is one, but it's one of hundreds of thousands. We want anybody out there that needs help to know, you have help available."

Mark Wynn of Wynn Consulting warns of the startling statistics. "Women in Kerry's position should be aware that, of all the victims who are involved in domestic violence cases, 75 percent are killed as they attempt to leave or they already left," he says. "So when a victim decides to leave, they should never lose sight of the behavior of the offender."

Kim Gandy, president of NOW, says, "Women who are victims of violence often blame themselves, and so no one knows what's happening in their homes. It's a silent epidemic. The National Organization for Women definitely supports the advice that Dr. Phil gave to Kerry, which was to make a plan, leave at a safe time, get legal advice. Connect with women's organizations and shelters so that you can get help starting a new life, free of violence."

Dr. Phil takes a final moment to reveal that Kerry has relocated and is moving on with her new life. Matt is in rehabilitation. He says, "If you or someone you know are the victim of domestic violence, there are over 5,000 shelters across the country to help support your needs emotionally, physically, and legally. I hope this [show] will give someone out there the courage and direction to make a change."

If you or someone you know needs help, call 911 or the Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE.