Runaways Gone Wild: Tiffany


Note: The names of Dr. Phil's guests in this segment have been changed for their protection.


"I'm very, very concerned about my 16-year-old daughter, Tiffany," says Amy. "My daughter's a runaway. She's been on the street. Tiffany has gotten into prostitution. She hangs around with gang members, pimps, prostitutes. Very dangerous people. She's using marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine. I'm scared for her life."

When Tiffany reached seventh grade, Amy started seeing a change in her. "She wanted to hang out with thuggy, ghetto people," she says. "Tiffany is like a chameleon. She is a con artist. She's very manipulative. Tiffany has run away numerous times. The first time, she was 13, and that's when she was with the first set of pimps. The second time, she was 15. The boyfriend she was with broke her nose, beat her. He could have killed her. The third time she ran away was this most recent one where I had to face the fact that my daughter was part of a prostitution ring. The police, law enforcement, nobody would help me. But my friend, Jessica, helped me a lot. We started on our own investigation, put the word out about my daughter being on the street."

One day Amy got a call from Jessica, who said, "Are you sitting down?" She told Amy that she had received a tip that her daughter could be found on Craigslist.

"I'd been on Craigslist to buy a washer and dryer, not a prostitute, let alone a kid," says Jessica.

They found Tiffany by matching her cell phone number up with the number listed in the ad.

Jessica says, "My daughter's boyfriend called it, and Tiffany answered. He asked her how much. Two fifty. Two hundred fifty dollars! My heart broke for Amy."


"I had every emotion there was," Amy recalls. "I was pissed, hurt, scared. I would stay up until 3:00 in the morning trying to find out what kind of ads they were putting up. Tiffany wasn't making them. Somebody was making them for her. I found her pimp and madam's phone number. I called and let them know that she was 16 years old and, 'You'd better give me my daughter back.' Tiffany got sick. The people she was with dropped her off at a hospital. The hospital called me, so I rushed to the hospital. They red-dotted her file so if her pimp or madam called they wouldn't be able to find her.

"While Tiffany was in the hospital, she told her father and her sisters she had been sleeping with about three men a day, and her pimp had told her that if she didn't come back, he would hurt her. I had to make sure that wasn't going to happen. On the third day she was in the hospital, the staff helped me sneak her out. She was home about two days from the hospital. I knew that Tiffany was feeling better and that she was going to be running at any moment, so I made the choice to call the police."

Amy continues, "The people my daughter, Tiffany, was hanging around with are extremely dangerous. I fear my family could be killed."

Dr. Phil begins by asking Amy about her daughter. "You believe that she could be in danger of her life actually, true?"

"Yes," she says. "Tiffany chooses people who " when you normally would walk down the street you'd kind of be scared of them. You'd drive down the street and lock the door because they're intimidating, and that's what Tiffany's drawn to."

"OK, what have you done along the way to stop that?" asks Dr. Phil.

"I've had her go to family members to try to get her out of the situation so she's in a different place to try to give her a fresh start," says Amy. "It seems like nothing I do helps her. She's still attracted to those people."

"OK, but, have you stepped up and dealt with this from the very beginning?" asks Dr. Phil. "When they hit puberty and after, they're older, they're bigger, they're smarter, they're more resourceful, and it's just that much tougher for you to fight at that point, right?"

Amy agrees.

"To hold off the onslaught of bad decisions, bad behavior, rebellion and all of that " and there have been a lot of times that you've kind of let some things go, when in retrospect you wish you would have drawn a line in the sand then, true?"

"Absolutely. Yeah," says Amy.

"And you've seen that," he says to Amy's friend, Jessica, who sits beside her. "And I'm telling you it's going to get worse, not better. So if we're going to make a stand, we're going to fight this, we're going to have to do it now."

"I agree," says Amy.

Dr. Phil turns to Jessica. "You found this on Craigslist, right?"

"Yes," she says. "I had put the word out on the street that Tiffany was a runaway and my daughter called me and said, 'Mom, I just heard. Go on Craigslist.' And you click on Erotic. I called Amy, and I told her, 'Sit down. Get on your computer, and Tiffany's on.'"

Dr. Phil asks Amy, "Did you have any idea she was doing this?"

"I had an idea only because of what she had done in the past, and I just had a gut feeling something " it wasn't right. It wasn't right, how she was acting, and the people she was with just didn't add up," says Amy.

"Do you believe that if this continues that she is going to be at risk in her life?" asks Dr. Phil.

"I think if this continues, I think I'm going to end up burying my daughter," says Amy.

"And do you realize that at this point you may be in over your head?" he asks.

"I believe that I'm over my head," she tells him, "but I'm not going to stop trying to help her."

"You knew where she was staying," Dr. Phil ventures. "Why didn't you go get her?"

"I tried," Amy says. "I tried to go get her and she was " with Tiffany, she would run away, and she would make it so difficult for you to get her back, but she would call me to let me know she was OK so I wouldn't kind of freak out."

Dr. Phil attempts to get at the reasons why Amy didn't take action sooner in Tiffany's life to redirect her on the right path. Why didn't she punish her? Why didn't she put her in counseling?

"We tried to go to counseling and she refused to go," says Amy.

"But see, that's not her option," Dr. Phil proclaims. "The reason I'm making this point is, there have been things along the way " even things that she says to you: 'I hate you,' 'I wish you were dead,' 'I wish " ' and you just kind of let some of those things go by because you don't want to make trouble."

"I don't want her to run," says Amy.

"Yeah, but you can't be held hostage to that sort of thing," Dr. Phil explains. "If we're going to save this girl's life, she's going to have to lose the ability to make bad decisions, and that means you're going to have to cross the line where you say, 'I don't care whether she likes me or she doesn't. I don't care whether she loves me or she doesn't. My job is not to be loved by my daughter. My job is to get her to adulthood alive and intact. If that means I've got to take her out of the game, remove her freedom, then that's what I have got to be prepared to do.' If you don't, she could get a life-threatening disease. She could get her throat cut. I mean, somebody could pick her up and cut her throat for 20 bucks."


Amy says she knows.

"Did you tell your other daughter not to say anything to me, if I talked to her, that would paint you in a bad light?" Dr. Phil asks Amy.

"No, I didn't," she replies.

"Yes, she did," Jessica reveals.

Amy says, "Well, I told her I wanted her to be honest with you."

"Well, we must have missed that, but what my staff heard you say is, 'Don't you tell him everything. Don't you tell him anything that will paint me in a bad light. And don't you tell him everything that's going on.'"

"Well, this is what happened," says Amy. "She was upset because she couldn't be out here, and so she was going to say, 'I'm going to tell him that you won't let me have a boyfriend, and you're being mean to me,' and I'm like, 'Just be honest about " '"

"That's music to my ears! Are you kidding me?" says Dr. Phil. "Telling me that you're telling her, 'No, no and no'? Are you kidding? But my point is, if we're going to do this, I don't play games."

"Right," says Amy.

Dr. Phil continues, "Don't go behind me. Don't do that to me. Don't go behind me and tell somebody. I've got your letter that you wrote to me here. You said, 'Please, will you help me save my little girl's life? If I don't get help, I fear she will really get hurt and maybe get killed. Please, please help her. She just turned 16. She is worth saving. This is my last hope.'" Amy wipes a tear from her eye. "Did I read that right?" She nods, eyes brimming with tears.

"Don't blow it," says Dr. Phil. "Don't blow it. You're going to have to take a hard look at yourself here, and we're going to have to do some things with her that she is going to hate you for. Do you get that?"

"I get it. I know that," says Amy.

"But would you rather her hate you and be alive to do it?"

"Absolutely," she says.