"I Am That Girl"

"My father, he's been really, really mean to me, and just yells at me more than the other kids. Sometimes I don't want to come home, but when I come home, he says, ‘Come here. Come here and give me a hug.' I go, ‘No, it's not right,' and then he goes, ‘Fine. Go sit on the couch. I'm going to break you. You're not going to break me.'"

She describes other punishments. "When I came home, and I showed him my report card, and I got a bad grade, he grounded me for six weeks, and I had to go in my room, no cell phone, no computer, no TV, no nothing. I felt unloved and unwanted, and he made me feel like a nobody.

"He got a phone call from his job. Me and my sister giggled. And then he got really mad and lined us up in front of the stairs, and he took off his belt and hit me in my hip, and then my mom started talking to him and telling him if he ever does it again, she's going to leave him.

"When he yells at me, he makes me feel like I'm a person who's really horrible. The reason why I write in my journal is so I don't keep my emotions inside and break down one day and be completely destroyed inside," she says.

There is more that this family is struggling to deal with; something that has been swept under the rug.

"Approximately three months ago, my 13-year-old daughter came to me and told me that a friend of the family had been sexually abusing her," Trisha says.

"There was an incident. There was abuse there that she's not willing to talk about," Rafael says.

"When I was little, he just started doing stuff, really inappropriate," their daughter recounts. "I was sleeping on the couch. He started touching me, and then he … then he raped me. I didn't know what to do, and he kept telling me if I told anybody, it would be my fault. He just made me feel really bad, and I didn't tell anybody."

"My daughter told me that when the abuse began, she was approximately 8 years old. He was going to her in the middle of the night," Trisha says. "She won't give me details, so I don't know how much to push."

"I was afraid that he would come and find me. I never talked to my dad about it," the 13-year-old says.

"She begged me not to tell him because she was afraid he would be really angry," Trisha says.

"We don't let our children sit on stranger's laps, regardless if it's family friends or an uncle, and my wife defied that, so I feel anger and resentment on that side," Rafael says.

"I'm embarrassed to say we haven't talked about it because he's so non-emotional," Trisha says. "He doesn't have the skills to know how to deal with it."

"I don't know the complete facts of what happened," Rafael says. "It's something that we've swept under the rug, and it's an issue that we need to address."

"What has happened? Have you gotten her help? Have you gotten her counseling? Have you sat with her as mother and father and talked this through?" Dr. Phil asks the couple.

"When she told me initially, it was on the phone. She wouldn't tell me to my face," Trisha says.

"How long after it happened did she tell you?"

"About three years," she says. "And then she was at school " I think everybody's let her down " she was at school and told her best friend, ‘What would you do if you were raped?' That friend luckily recognized that it was her that she was talking about, but basically, it went to the counselor at school who called me. I'm like, ‘What do we do? Do we call the police?' And she was like, ‘Well, you guys can handle it.'"

"I assume you did call the police?" Dr. Phil asks.

"No. Nothing's been done. The school dropped it. We were in the middle of â€" "

"It's not their daughter; it's your daughter," Dr. Phil says. "You haven't gotten her counseling for it either?"


"Have you had any conversation with her about it at all?" Dr. Phil asks Rafael.


"The only conversation I was able to have with her, I let her know, fundamentally, I did something wrong because I wasn't there to protect her," Rafael says. "She didn't want to talk to me about it, so when my conversation ended with her, I said, ‘Look, I'm your father. I'm here for you if you ever want to sit down and talk about it.' But she just wouldn't even face me."

"You said that you would be devastated if she thought that you didn't love her," Dr. Phil says. He reads their daughter's diary entries. "She writes, ‘I'm the girl that no one cares about. I'm the one that tries to do her best but no one cares. I'm the girl whose dad treats me like trash. I'm the girl who cries at night because her dad is unequal to his children, especially me. I am that girl. This girl wants to run away from her dad. This girl is hurt inside and cries at night.' And then she drew this picture of now, where she is hanging from a tree in the park, and heaven, where she will be when it's over, and writes, ‘God will make this pain go away and never let anything like this happen. He is my protector.'"

Rafael says, "It's devastating."

"Children are supposed to be joyful," Dr. Phil tells Rafael, "and they're supposed to feel like home is their soft place to fall. It's the place they go where they feel safe and secure, and when they walk out that door each day, particularly a daughter, you want her to walk out that door feeling like the most powerful man in her life thinks she is so special, so she walks with dignity and respect and value of herself. And when daughters don't feel that connection with their father, they are vulnerable to the first ol' boy who comes along who whispers in her ear, ‘I love you, and I think you're special.' And I guarantee you, she will begin a pattern of relationships that allow her to be exploited by men because she thinks she deserves nothing better. You are setting her up for disaster. She has to feel loved, and accepted and valued ...


"Does she need rules and guidelines? No question about it. But they're not nearly as important as what she's saying about herself from the inside out. I'm pleading with you to take a different point of view, to take a different tact, to nurture this child, to love her. I mean, you say, ‘I want her to respect me.' You don't demand respect, you command it by the man you are. That's what I'm asking you to consider here," Dr. Phil says. 

"I think we took that first step a couple of weeks ago, when we sort of got into an argument, and I told Trisha, ‘Look, I know I'm doing something wrong. We need to find some professional help.' And I guess the first step was here. And I know a lot of it stems from within me. And I understand that, and there are changes I need to make within myself," Rafael says.

"Can I ask a question though? So if he's fundamentally who he is, and he didn't have any role models growing up, how do you teach a 40-year-old man how to all of a sudden be a good, nurturing, loving father?" Trisha asks Dr. Phil.

"You learn. You adjust your compass. You adjust your goals and your objectives," Dr. Phil says. "My definition of success as a parent is not having my children march in a straight line. It is to prepare them to stand on their own with dignity and respect, to love themselves because they feel valued by others. I mean, those are things that I value. You know, they didn't always do what I wanted them to do, but they always knew they were loved every minute of every hour of every day, including right this minute. Those two young men are somewhere in L.A., and I guarantee you, there's something in their hearts saying their parents love them. That's not what she's writing here."