“The first guy I slept with was 19. He asked me my age, and I said I was 12. He said that he would pretend that he didn’t know my age. I kept it a secret from my mom. It was a mistake. I messed up. Now I feel like I can’t recover from it. It’s changed my whole perspective of life,” 14-year-old Stephanie shares. “The second guy I slept with was 14. The third guy was 18, the fourth guy was 16, the fifth guy was 16. The oldest guy I ever talked to online was 24. A couple of guys even offered plane tickets for me to come see them. I have sent pictures to boys of me in my bra and panties. Getting this male attention makes me feel pretty. I’m not really afraid of meeting people online. I don’t think it’s dangerous.”
In studio, Dr. Phil sits at the end of the stage and speaks with Stephanie. “We’re talking to you today down here and not up there because I’m not going to show your face, because I don’t want to put [your] face here as a target for predators,” he explains. “I’m not here to yell at you, I’m not here to judge you, but you can’t tell me that you want to demean yourself and allow yourself to be used in the way that Rosabella was used, and in the way that we’re talking about. Tell me that’s not true. You don’t want to do that, do you?”
“I don’t,” the teen says.
“How do you feel afterward?” Dr. Phil asks.
“Afterward, OK, and then later on, I feel used,” she says.
“Where have you met these five people?”
[AD]”Through friends, through the Internet.”
“Some of them you’ve talked to in chat rooms and online?”
“Do you still have a relationship with all five of them?” Dr. Phil asks.
“No, I don’t talk to any of them,” Stephanie says.
“So, it wasn’t the beginning of belonging to someone. It wasn’t the beginning of belonging in a relationship. True?”
“Will you take that help?” Dr. Phil asks Stephanie. “And you don’t want to lie to your mother. Let me tell you, look this woman in the eye. Do you see judgment from her, or do you see love in her eyes?”
“Love,” Stephanie replies.
“She is hurting for you. If she could trade places with you, she would. She can’t do that, but she reached out instead. She reached out to all of us here to try and help you and let me tell you, I’m stepping up to answer that call,” Dr. Phil says to Stephanie. “Do you hear me? It’s you and me, girl. We’re going to fight this together. All of us here, we’re going to do this. Will you let me help you?”
[AD]”Yes,” she says.
“I’m talking to everybody in this audience right now. If you think this child is a victim and not a bad person, if you think she deserves better, if you think she’s hurt long enough, stand up for her right now,” Dr. Phil says.
The audience rises.