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

House of Pain

"I'm living with domestic violence, and I'm scared for myself, and I'm even more afraid for my two little kids," says Kerry. "When I met my husband, it felt like all of my dreams come true. What do you do when you feel like the Boogey Man lives in your house?" Kerry has a college education and has a hard time seeing herself as someone who would be in this situation.

She gives a tour of the home in which she's lived for nine years. Pointing up a flight of steps, she says, "These concrete stairs are where my babies learned how to walk up and down stairs."

Kerry's husband dreamed of rebuilding the house and making it his dream house. For Kerry, the house is hardly a dream.


"Everything in my house is a potential weapon. This has hit me in the head," she says, holding up a heavy flashlight. "I've been chased out of the house with this." She indicates a pair of scissors. "I've learned how to run really fast. I can't ever leave because the kids are here. My husband is a violent man."

As Kerry and her husband started building the house, her husband began exhibiting abusive behavior. "There are signs of violence all around my house," she says. "Bashed in doors. So much has been destroyed in my house."

"What were the earliest warning signs that you saw something wasn't right?" asks Dr. Phil.

"He started to belittle me," she says. "I stopped it at that time and told him that he can't do that."


"But it didn't stop," he says.

"It didn't stop," she confirms.

Kerry visits the lowest level of her house. "When I come down into this basement, it's a reminder of everything that has failed so far in my life and the violence that I feel every day. And I've got to get out, and I've got to get my kids safe," she says.

Dr. Phil says, "Take me inside your mind when you walked up to that door each day and had to put your hand on that knob and open the door and go in. What was in your mind?"

"Oh my God, it's terrible," she tells him. "You try to get a sense. On the outside I never know what I'm going to find."

As she walks down the stairs of her home, Kerry points out a hand-painted message. "This 'caution' sign tells the world to duck their head. It has very different meaning for me. It's a very scary place for me. I'm scared every time I walk down these stairs."

Driving in her car, Kerry says, "Part of me feels like I'm a traitor. I've been protecting this family, protecting this secret for a really long time."

Dr. Phil points out that she saw the same situation with her own mother. "I saw brutal abuse," she reveals. "I saw my mom's ribs broken when we went camping. Vacations were terrible. She was thrown on the campfire ... I said, 'I'm going to be different. I'm going to live a different life.'"

"She loved me and looked at me as her role model, and I was being abused and I stayed," Kerry's mother admits. "The pain is horrible, to know that you've done this to your child, that you've given them this legacy."

"I want you to go back in time to the night that he first attacked you," Dr. Phil tells Kerry.

She shuts her eyes. "My husband was sitting in a dark room. Suddenly, he jumped up and he grabbed me, and he slammed me down on the floor. I have no idea where my head hit.
I was being strangled, lifted in the air and slammed to the ground. There's blood in my eyes. And I thought, not in my life. Not in my life! This man's supposed to protect me."


Dr. Phil continues for her, "Slammed you down, and you hit your head on the cast iron stove and split it open, and blood is everywhere."

"I just was saying, no," she tells him. "No. I love this man. He wouldn't hurt me."

"But he did hurt you," says Dr. Phil.

Kerry's husband went to anger management classes. Now he brags that the classes are "How to Beat Your Wife and Not Leave Marks." Kerry is not amused.

She recounts that when she became pregnant, she expected to enter a happy time. Instead, she says, "The venom my husband had for me while I was pregnant is inconceivable."

"Go back to a night that you are pregnant," Dr. Phil requests. "You are in bed, and he starts to kick you, and punch you, and push you and your unborn child out of the bed and onto the floor."

"He wanted to kill that baby," she says. "He wanted to kill the baby."

"What was in your mind? Look at me and tell me what was in your mind at that point."

"I've got to protect the baby. If I saw any signs of craziness, I ran, and every week I would have to sleep in my van. I've got to protect that baby. I've got to protect that baby."

Kerry recalls a time when her husband became angry and started to chase her with a two-by-four. He then took a jug of kerosene up to an upper balcony outside of what was planned to be Kerry's bedroom and threatened to burn down the house. He poured the kerosene about and lit a match. Kerry screamed from across the street not to do it, that the kids were watching, and he stopped. The house was spared.

"Aren't you mad at him?" asks Dr. Phil. "Would you step back and look at it? I made a list. He's slamming your head into a stove, he's kicking you out of bed when you are pregnant, you're sleeping in a van, he's attacking you with a razor, he's beaten your head against the dashboard. And in the last few weeks, he's threatened to jab your eyes out with a screwdriver."

"I feel like it's my fault somehow," she explains.

"OK, I want you to look at me," Dr. Phil instructs. "I want you to forgot about everything else, and I want to look at me and hear me very clearly. This was not your fault. Not any part of this was your fault.

"Answer a question for me," he continues. "Where were you standing the first time he attacked you with a razor knife?"

"I was nursing my child," she says.

"And he attacks you, threatening to slice you into pieces with a razor knife. Tell me how that's your fault."

"I couldn't run," she says. "Something inside me made it so I couldn't run! What happened to me? Where is Kerry?"

"Where are you right now?" asks Dr. Phil. "Where are you right this second? You are sitting here with me. Why?"

"Because I want help," she says.

"That's right, because you reached out," he reminds her. "You had the strength. You had the courage."

"And even with the fear, you said, 'I am isolated here.' Do you understand? That's what abusers do," Dr. Phil explains. "Abuse can be verbal, it can be emotional, it can be physical, it can be every way, but you know what they do first? They have to isolate you. Because they have to cut you off from the rational parts of the world because if they don't, you'll find out this is crap. This is no way to live. He isolated you in a hole in the ground. He put you in a basement with one window and one way out. And he controlled you."

"Oh, it's hard for me to admit," says Kerry.

"Are you going to take this from him anymore?" asks Dr. Phil.

"No," she replies.

"You've left three times before and gone back," Dr. Phil reminds her. "How do I know that now is different?"

"Because I hear the words that he speaks to me coming out of my 4-year-old's mouth. Because I see my daughter's eyes when she feels rejected by him. I don't want my little girl to marry a man like her father, and I don't want my son to grow up and be like him, and I don't want to be with someone like him."

"Tell me what you really want for you and your children," Dr. Phil probes.

"I want to be free," she says. "I want to be safe. I don't want to fear for my life every day. I don't want to fear that I'm going to walk in, and that could be the moment I die."