Dr. Phil's Get Real Retreat, Part 4: Kathleen

A Child in Charge

In another share time with the group, Kathleen stands and says, "At the age of 5, [censored] started sexually molesting me. And when I tried to tell my dad what had happened, what he did is he tied …" She pauses and struggles to speak. "He tied my brothers up so they couldn't do anything, so when I tried to tell dad what had happened, he told me and my older brother to go in the room and show him what that boy had done. After that, I never told him about anymore episodes, whenever I got molested by anybody, because I didn't want him to not believe me or make me go and show him what was done. I worshipped the ground that my dad walked on. I loved him even though he abused us. He tortured us."

"How did he torture you?" Dr. Phil asks.

"One time, my little brother was playing with matches, and he caught his mattress on fire. I smelled the smoke so I got my older brother, and we put the mattress outside, and got the water hose and put it out. We let it air out, and we brought it back in, and I flipped it over so Daddy wouldn't know, and I made the bed, and I didn't think anything about it until he came in, and he asked what had burned. So, I told him that my brother had caught the mattress on fire, so he took us with his cigarette lighter … He burned my hand and my little brother's hand to where we couldn't close our fingers, so that we'd know what to burn up would feel like," she says.

"You get, don't you, that none of that was OK?" Dr. Phil asks her. "What your mother did, leaving you, was not OK. What she did in failing to protect you was not OK. Your father beating, burning, abusing was not OK. That has nothing to do with you. You got caught up in it, and ground up in it and had to pay the price for it, but it didn't have anything to do with you. Do you get that?"

"But I have a lot of guilt because my little brother is blind in one eye because I got angry at my dad, and he got hurt," she says.

"How did he get hurt?"

"I was supposed to watch the kids, and work at the store, and go to school, and do all the housework and take care of everything, and I was just tired of it," Kathleen says. "I was 14. I think he was 8, and he kept asking me if he could go play, and I just finally told him, ‘Go. I don't care anymore,' and he went. An hour later, they brought him " " Kathleen stops, getting choked up. "They brought him to me. He had been shot. One of those powered BB guns. I stayed with him in the hospital because I made that mess, and I had to fix it."

"Do you get that that wasn't your job?" Dr. Phil asks her.

"It was though," she whispers.

"No, it wasn't your job. A 14-year-old is not equipped to parent children."

"But it's hard when I see him, and I see his eye and what I did," Kathleen says.

"Did you shoot him?"

"I didn't shoot him, but I'm just as guilty by not standing my ground and making him stay with me and letting him go."

"Did you know he was going to get shot in the eye? Could you foresee that he was going to get shot in the eye?" Dr. Phil asks.

"No," she says. 

"It's what they call an accident. Accidents happen," Dr. Phil says. "You're at a point where you've got to decide, ‘You know what? I did what I knew how to do, and when I knew better, I did better. When I had more tools, I used them.' But you were in way over your head. Six-year-olds, 7-, 9-, 10-, they don't have jobs. You say, ‘If I had done my job right …' You shouldn't have a job! You're their job! They're not your job. It's unreasonable to expect a child to be a parent, to be a protector, to make decisions, adult decisions. You were put in an unreasonable situation that was not your fault. Your mother was wrong to leave you. Your father was wrong to abuse you and threaten you and your siblings. That's just wrong! If you're ever going to get a start on a new day, you've got to forget about the old days. You've got to forgive yourself and others about what's happened in the past. And the way to make the past your future is to walk through life looking over your shoulder at what did happen. You made it this far. Seems to me like you're a pretty tough ol' girl, because you haven't had an easy run, but you made it."