“My daughter, Brittney, has been missing for about a month now. She took off one weekend and didn’t come back,” says Heidi of her 16-year-old daughter. “There was always hope, but after a week, I realized Brittney had run away, and she wasn’t coming home.”
Heidi believes Brittney is with Michael, a man she met online last summer. “Last year, Brittney had set up a Web page for herself. I always assumed that online predators went after younger children. I had no idea [about] the danger or what really went on,” she says. “Brittney had just turned 16, and I was under the impression that Michael was 24. When I did further research, I found out that he’s 34 years old.”
Heidi acknowledges that she should have grounded Brittney from the computer when she found out about Michael in December, but she didn’t. “I explained to her the dangers of older people and older men, and I assumed that everything had stopped,” she says. She didn’t know that they continued speaking and became very close.
“I’d known that Brittney had had sex in the past, but I did not suspect that they were having sex,” she says, tearfully. “When I found out that my daughter was pregnant, I was hurt for her, scared for her. I was mad and angry that this man did this to her. He totally ruined her life.”
Heidi has been extensively searching trying to find Michael. “I feel very frustrated in getting any kind of help from the police. I don’t know where else to go and what else to do,” she complains. “I’m terrified that he may hurt her.”
Dr. Phil addresses Heidi, who is sitting in the audience. “You weren’t paying attention to what she was doing on the Internet, right?”
“Correct,” Heidi says.
“You said that you thought predators were just after children,” Dr. Phil says.
“Younger children,” Heidi says. “Brittney was always very responsible. I never thought that this would happen to her.”
“But she’s a child,” Dr. Phil points out. “The predators are out there lying and going after anybody they can get their hands on.”