Violent Love Intervention: Parental Legacy

Like Father, Like Son?

Ryan's mom, Leslie, admits to having been abused by her own husband. "Bill and I used to be a lot like Michelle and Ryan. Bill has been physically abusive to me in front of our children, but we've been going to counseling, and now we're on a united team," she says.

Ryan doesn't think his father will ever change. "I think that my dad is the biggest piece of crap, ever, because of all the crap he's done through my entire life," he seethes.

Bill expresses regret over his past behavior. "I was wrong. I screamed at them a lot. I just don't know what way to handle [Ryan] because he's just so violent," he says. "At times, I do feel like a bad father because I haven't been able to turn this around."

Leslie feels trapped in a vicious cycle. "Bill abused our children, mostly verbally. Now I'm afraid Ryan's going to do it to his child. I want Ryan to get help. If he won't listen to us, maybe he'll listen to Dr. Phil," she says, voice breaking.

When the video clip ends, Ryan shares his feelings. "I feel stupid, you know?" he says. "I just don't know how to say it without the arguing."

Michelle says that the video was a wake-up call for her as well. "I didn't realize how bad Ryan really was, even when we were arguing," she tells Dr. Phil. "I didn't realize how forward and how angry he was, even at that time, until I see it on camera right now."

Ryan tries to defend his actions. "I don't feel as if anybody has the right to put their hands on anybody. I've gotten into fights with my dad, with my brother, and it just happens," he says. 

Dr. Phil turns to Ryan's father, Bill, in the audience. "Were you abusive with him?" he asks. 

"Verbally, I was," Bill admits. "I didn't strike him and beat him up to that extent, just when it became a fight where he was attacking me, and I'm hitting him to get him off of me."

Dr. Phil questions the logic of Bill's actions. "As a parent, doesn't it seem odd to you that you're on the floor rolling around with your son?" he asks.

"That's definitely wrong," Bill agrees.

"The verbal abuse, the demeaning talk, do you look back on that now and see how negative and destructive that is?" Dr. Phil asks Bill. 

"Absolutely," Bill replies.

"And your father did that with you?" Dr. Phil probes.

Bill clarifies. "We didn't get into fights, a lot of whippings and beatings and this sort of thing," he says. 

Dr. Phil turns to Ryan. "Do you feel hatred for your father?" he asks. 

"I really dislike him. I really do," he replies. "I don't want to fight with everybody."

"What's going to happen if this continues the way that it is?" Dr. Phil probes.

"I'm probably going to end up somewhere I don't want to be, in jail. Or Michelle is going to be gone," Ryan replies.

Dr. Phil says the repercussions could be much more serious than that. "One of two or three things is going to happen. Number one, you're going to alienate everybody around you, and you're going to be a very lonely person. Number two, you're going to tie into somebody who really doesn't want to hear it, and they're going to whup your ass!" he warns. "Or third, you're going to lose control, because you say sometimes you black out and you don't even remember what you did."


Ryan clarifies, "I don't remember how it starts and gets that out of control."

"I think that your view of things is so biased, and you're looking at it through such a filter, that you truly believe that she is to blame for this. But on the other hand, you know that's not true, right?" Dr. Phil asks. 

"It's not just Michelle," Ryan admits. "I think everybody's at fault."

Dr. Phil praises Ryan for coming on the show and for not being in denial about his abuse. Yet, he insists that Ryan's parental legacy has to change.


Dr. Phil stresses that Michelle's safety and the safety of her child should be the highest priority. "Bottom line, you need to get you and your baby away from him right now. It is not safe, he is out of control," he warns. "Physical abuse is a drop-dead deal-breaker. If you have to live in a shelter, then you do what you have to do to protect you and that baby."


Dr. Phil fixes his gaze on Ryan. "I know you don't like me telling her that, but you know it's true. You don't trust you, true?"

"True," Ryan says glumly.

"You're what I call the target patient. You have a dysfunctional system here, a dysfunctional family here, a dysfunctional history here, but you're the one who's been singled out to focus on, and that is not fair," Dr. Phil notes. "That doesn't lessen your accountability, it doesn't lessen the gravity of what you do, but to single you out, you're not the problem. You are a part of the problem."

Dr. Phil wants Ryan to understand that his anger and frustration have little to do with Michelle. "Everything you're feeling " all the hurt, all the fear, all the frustration " is coming from the inside out. If it wasn't her, it would be somebody else," he says.


Despite Ryan's hostility, Dr. Phil stresses that he doesn't think Ryan is a bad person. "It does not mean you're not a quality human being. What you're doing is absolutely unacceptable, but you are not what you do," he tells the young man. "You have got to get some help. If you will allow me, I want to get you some very specialized help in this regard."


Dr. Phil offers Michelle therapy as well. "You're going to have to have some help as well because you've been in an abusive relationship. I will make that happen for you," he promises.

Dr. Phil is optimistic that with counseling, the couple will be able to function in a nonviolent way. "You will look back on this and go, 'Oh, my God. What was I thinking?'" he tells them.

Ryan reluctantly accepts the help. "I guess I don't have a choice. I need the help, and I'm going to have to sacrifice," he says. "I don't like it. I really don't."