Family Cult

Break Down on Stage

Jeanne reassures her sisters that she understands the pain she caused them. "Sarah Grace, I get it. I get it, Miriam. I really do," she says, facing them.

"We hate this for you," Sarah says, dabbing at her damp cheeks with a handkerchief. "But I'm really hurting inside, and I'm going through a lot."

"The thing that's really gotten me, that's really hurt me, is that since we've been taken away, you've kept yourself at a distance. I felt like somehow you still blamed us for something we didn't even do," Miriam says, her voice cracking. "Why can't you just accept that you beat us, that you abused us, and just be sorry?"

"I am sorry. I am very sorry," Jeanne says. "Every day, I wish I were dead. I couldn't even face looking at you for the pain that I carry for something I didn't want to do in my own heart."

"I know, and I feel so bad," Sarah says.

"I didn't want to do it," Jeanne says.

"It didn't feel that way," Miriam says, unmoved by her sister's tears. "Many times when Dad wasn't around, you dragged me into the room, and you just humiliated me."

"Because I was repeating what was done to me!" Jeanne says, voice rising in pain.

"Every time I get naked, I just feel humiliated," Miriam says.

"Do you think I don't feel the same way? I haven't looked at my mirror for 20 years. I won't even go by a mirror!" Jeanne shrieks, tears streaming down her face. "I can't stand to see myself, because I'm such an incredibly horrible human being. I know that's not true today, but I feel that way, and I won't look in the mirror. The reason I can't and I can't be near you, is because of the guilt that I carry, because I feel that you hate my guts."

"I don't hate you. I just don't look at you as my sister. I look at you as an animal, as someone who destroyed me," Miriam says.

"I was an animal. I was a robot. I was without a soul," Jeanne says, voice clotted with pain. "I was a body, a carcass."

"Sometimes, even when I saw you at the family reunion, I thought you were going to beat me still. I didn't even know what to think of you. I didn't even want to get near you," Miriam says.

"I live with the pain every day and the loneliness. I want to be with you so bad, I want to be around you. I just want you near me," Jeanne says. "I hate him. I hate what he's done to the relationship that we could have had."

Dr. Phil addresses Miriam. "What do you need from her?" he asks.

Miriam faces Jeanne. "I never even knew you were sorry," she says. 

"I didn't either," Sarah chimes in.

"I am sorry," Jeanne tells her sisters. She apologizes to Nathan and Dawn as well.

"Jeanne, I was even jealous of your kids, because they weren't abused, from what I could see looking at them and talking to them," Miriam says. "They had a normal life."

"Our whole life was taken away. Our whole childhood," Sarah says.

"She's not the criminal. [Our father] is," Nathan says. "I love her. I forgive her."


"We love her. We just don't love what she did," Miriam says.

"I think it is very, very important for y'all to have heard what she's saying," Dr. Phil tells the siblings. "Everybody here in this family is a victim, but there's a point at which it has to stop."

"I've even gone to the extreme " as their brother who does love them, who has not hurt them " to apologize to Jeanne, Ester [Sarah], Miriam and Dawn for the gross, heinous things this man has done to these girls, and I haven't done anything to them," Nathan says.

"There has clearly been a huge wall and barrier here. There is no question that the only way that you escape this is by finding the strength to forgive," Dr. Phil says.

On videotape, the siblings explain their struggle to escape the wounds of childhood.

"My worst fear is dying alone and not being able to find a relationship with a man, because of what my dad did, a relationship with a man that was clean and that didn't have any kind of abuse in it," Jeanne says.

"The thing that I'm so angry about is I never got to go to school. Having a third and fourth grade education, it opens me up to so many people making fun of me," Sarah says. "That hurts more than you can even imagine."

"We weren't meant to survive in the real world, and I think that's really made it hard for me and my daughters," Miriam says. "It's been really hard to know how to be a really good mom, because we never had good parents."

Sarah says she suffers from recurring nightmares. "I will wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air," she says.

"The pain and the torment is so bad, that I've literally murdered [my father] in every way possible," Jeanne says wiping tears.

When the videotape ends, Dr. Phil addresses the sisters. "You've all had your psychological skin burned really badly, and the pain continues, the scars continue," he observes. "If you continue to experience this pain, if you continue to have the shame, the guilt, the anger, the bitterness, then that man is controlling you from prison right now."

The sisters nod in tearful assent.

"The only way to be free of that is to not let him fracture your family, but to close ranks, and that's what I meant when I said you have to be willing to forgive each other," Dr. Phil explains. He turns to Miriam and Sarah. "If you forgive your sister for what she has brought into your lives, that's not saying, ‘Oh, it was OK. We'll just sweep it under the rug.' What it means is, ‘I choose to no longer have pain, and hatred and bitterness in my heart. I choose not to be controlled by this maniacal human being. I choose not to be locked in that bond of hatred.' What you have to do is say, ‘I am going to walk as a whole human being with dignity and respect.'"

Dr. Phil says he will provide ongoing professional help for the family, and praises their tenacity. He turns to Miriam. "Are you willing to define a new relationship with your sister with help?" he asks. 

"Yes," she replies, facing Jeanne. Sarah says she is willing to reconcile with Jeanne as well.