Revenge stories are making headlines. Three women in Wisconsin learned they were all romantically linked to the same man, and they sought to humiliate him. They allegedly tied him up in a motel room and applied superglue to his genitals.
Clara Harris used her Mercedes Benz to get back at her husband who was allegedly having an extra-marital affair.
One of the more horrific stories is that of 15-year-old Michael Brewer, who was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze. It was reportedly retaliation because he said that the assailants had stolen his dad's bike. The five accused have been charged, while Michael fights for his life.
In the studio, Dr. Phil is joined by defense attorney, Anthony Pope, and Dr. Gina Barreca, a revenge expert and writer of a weekly blog for Psychology Today. She is also the author of the book It's Not That I'm Bitterâ€¦ They comment on Michael's story.
[AD]"This is something that sort of transcends the boundaries of civilization. I mean, civilization is sort of based on the idea that we don't take individual revenge on this kind of scale. You don't destroy the life of somebody the way that this child's life was destroyed," Gina says. "You don't have children doing this. This was a bunch of kids who were acting sort of like a gang, like a tribe. We want to get to revenge, let something go, so you can get over it and get on with your life."
"If I had a chance between talking to these boys or talking to the boys' parents, I have to tell you, I would opt for the parents," Dr. Phil says. "What was the history here? What was going on?"
Joining the conversation via phone is Sergeant Steve Feeley of the Broward County Sheriff's office, who was on the scene in Florida after Michael Brewer was burned. He sheds light on the case.
"It was very difficult. It's probably the most horrific case I've seen since I've been involved in law enforcement," he says.
"Was there any indication about what the thinking was?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Two of the suspects that we interviewed were not really sorry for what happened, and then they were joking in the interview room afterward," Sergeant Feeley says.
Michael is still in critical condition. "He is in for a very, very long road of recovery, if he recovers at all," Sergeant Feeley adds.
"Do you know if he knew these boys?" Dr. Phil asks.
[AD]"Every single one of them knew each other, and they all went to school together, and this incident stemmed over the victim owed one of this suspects $40 for a video game. When the suspect came the day earlier and tried to get his $40 and Michael didn't have it, he tried to steal the bike. When Michael cooperated with police in order to have that suspect arrested, they were not very happy about it, and they felt that he snitched on them," Sergeant Feeley explains. "The following day when they came across Michael in an apartment complex, they wound up pouring alcohol on him and setting him on fire."
"What do you say to parents to keep their kids from becoming a victim like this or even on the perpetrator side?" Dr. Phil asks.
"I think it comes back to the parents being asleep at the wheel and not really paying attention to what their kids are doing, and I suspect that if you look deep into these families, that you'll find that that's the case," he says.
Gina shares her thoughts. "That's the worst part of revenge, when people act on their own, and they don't feel like there's a sense of community," she says.
"That's the problem; to condone revenge on any level allows people to take it to this type of conclusion, and that's why it's wrong. Revenge is wrong," Anthony says. "We have authorities, we have police, we have a system of justice that has to answer the transgressions or the wrongs that are visited upon people. And we can't teach people, on any level, that revenge is OK, even if it's a small revenge, a minor revenge, because people will take it to an extreme level as they did in this case."
"But you also deny that everybody feels a need for vindication. Vindication comes from the lacking," Gina says.
[AD]"When it goes this far, it's just out of control," Dr. Phil says.
"I can't tell you how many times that the word snitch was used by the suspects, by the witnesses in the case. This comes down to that they thought Michael snitched, when he cooperated on Sunday to help bring to justice someone who committed a theft and stole his bicycle," Sergeant Feeley says. "We could never have imagined that it would get to this point."
Dr. Phil, Anthony and Gina discuss the case of the woman who ran over her husband after she learned he was cheating on her.
"It triggers an emotion in you that's just uncontrollable," Anthony says. "I think that's why the jury gave her a manslaughter conviction rather than murder."
"Psychologically speaking, there's a difference between the irresistible impulse and the impulse not resisted. This was an impulse not resisted," Dr. Phil says. "You've got to think your way through this to do what she did."
"I actually sort of see her as the woman who resisted the impulse," Gina says.
"Resisted the impulse?" Dr. Phil questions. "She ran over him twice!"
"She could've run over him a dozen times!" Gina says animatedly. "He told her not only that he was going to change, but that she had to lose weight and get a boob job, and then he would stop sleeping with the receptionist."
"Hold on. You can't condone that sort of thing," Dr. Phil says. "I've got one word for you: divorce. If you don't like him, get a divorce, but you don't run over him and then back up over him."
Anthony comments on the three women who tied a man down and superglued his genitals. "That, to me, is a completely different level. Here, you have women who decided in a very premeditated manner that they were going to exert some type of revenge on this man," he says. "This situation is much different. This is premeditated. This should be dealt with in a different manner, and the sentence should be more severe."
[AD]"You notice that the items that you had out at the beginning of the show, they're all domestic. Poor women are using domestic appliances, because revenge is about the powerless," Gina says.
"You have to be able to get back, take counsel with yourself and realize who you are. If they're cheaters and they're not good people, that's a reflection of who they are. It's not a reflection of who you are," Anthony says. "If we start telling people that you can exert revenge to this level, we're going down, as Dr. Phil said, a very slippery slope."