Scary Trends: Brittany

Traumatized by Sexting

"I do wish that I would have known about sexting. If I would have known, I'm pretty sure that I would never have done it," says Brittany, 13. "This whole incident has affected my life very much. It's been so hard, and it's caused a lot of damage. It's caused damage to me, it's caused damage to my mom and dad, and I think even my sister. I feel that I've let myself down very much, and I wish I would have never done it."

 

The teen says her mother has raised her to be a good person. "She brought me up in a Christian home, and I think she expected more. She never knew that I would ever do this, and neither did I," Brittany says. "I think she feels ashamed of me and stuff."

 

Dr. Phil meets with Brittany. "Tell me what you're thinking and feeling about all of this right now," he says.

"It's very scary," she says, wiping away tears.

"You made a decision to take a picture of yourself partially clad and send it to a boy. Why did you do it?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]"I thought I really liked this boy, and I thought I needed to do it," she says.

"So he would like you?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yes."

"Why was it a bad decision even if he didn't send it around?"

"Because I should have never done it to myself and put myself in that position."

 

"Exactly," Dr. Phil says.

"The second decision you made that I have a problem with " there's no delicate way to put it " you tried to kill yourself," Dr. Phil says. 

"Yes," Brittany says. "After this all happened, I just did not want to live anymore, and I did not want to go to school and face everyone. I thought that was the only option. I was afraid that they were going to call me names and just talk about me, and they have."

"How do you feel about killing yourself now?"

"I know that it was a bad decision, and I wish that I would have never tried," Brittany says, adding that she no longer wants to die.

"How about getting your mom's help?"

"My mom was very good about all of this."

 

"You have her to lean on, right?"

"Yes."

 

[AD]"This was a bad decision, but that does not make you a bad person. All the days you lived, the weeks, the months, the years up until you did this, you were a delightful child, you were a delightful young woman," Dr. Phil tells Brittany. "After the moment you did this, you were still a delightful child, you were still a delightful daughter, you are a delightful young woman as you sit here now. This doesn't make you a bad person. They can use words like slut, or this, or that, to be mean, but that is not who you are, and you can't give people the power to make you feel that way. Anybody who would call you a name like that would only do that because they feel bad about themselves. People like to feel better than other people, so if they can find something to pick at, to criticize, to judge, they'll do that because of their own insecurity." 

Dr. Phil shares a lesson his father taught him. "He said, ‘Phil, you wouldn't worry so much what people thought of you, if you knew how seldom they did.' They're not thinking about you all the time." He asks Brittany, "If this happened to your best friend, what would you say to her?"

"It's not the end of the world, and I'm there for her," she says.

"Don't you think it's time to be your own best friend? Don't you think it's time, seriously, to forgive yourself and focus on all of the good things about you and your family, and move on from this?" Dr. Phil asks. "It's not something worth dying over. It's not something worth feeling guilty and shameful about." He assures her that her mother and God forgive her. "You've got to forgive yourself."

 

Brittany asks Dr. Phil, "How am I going to go to school next year and deal with this?"

[AD]"The thing you don't want to do is be isolated and alone," Dr. Phil tells her. "You need to cultivate a friendship over the summer, and you need to walk in that door, not alone, but with your friend, somebody to fall back on, somebody you can share with, somebody you can talk to, and that's going to happen. You are not going to walk through that school door alone, and I'm not kidding. There is nothing I won't do to have you befriended by people in that school. You have to accept yourself, and forgive yourself, and know that you are walking through that door just as good, just as sound, just as moral, just as worthy as any other kid who walks through that door."

"I feel better," Brittany says.

Dr. Phil returns to the stage and asks Julia, "How'd we do?"

"You're absolutely wonderful," she says. "You said things to her that I wish I, as a parent " I would have responded differently than how I did."

"I can imagine how shocked a parent would be," Dr. Phil says. "At this point, she needs to understand that this is over and start celebrating her life."

In an effort to move forward, Brittany's family decided to home school her for the remainder of the school year. The teen also meets with a church pastor and a counselor. "We're slowly incorporating her so she can meet her peers again, so she can feel comfortable," Julia says. Recently, they went to a city talent show, and it was the first time she was able to face her peers.

"She said a lot of those peers were waving at her and being kind," Dr. Phil adds. "That's encouraging."

"They had empathy for her," Julia says. "Their heart is to bring her back in with them."

[AD]"Children live to their labels. If they're labeled by you, or their peers, or themselves as the bad kid, if they decide that's just who I am, I'm going to live to that label'," Dr. Phil tells Julia. "You've got to be really careful how she's labeling herself. She will phase back in, and this will be old news soon and probably already is."

Dr. Phil suggests Brittany have more interaction with her peers during the summer, and if they bring up the incident, Brittany should own it and not shy away from it. "You've got to meet it head on, and she's got the strength and the courage to do that," he says. "She needs to know you're 100 percent behind her."