Robin McGraw Shines a Spotlight on Domestic Violence

One terrible night, her mother’s fierce protective instinct taught Robin McGraw to stand strong.

As told to Liz Vaccariello
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine November 2013

Photos by Amanda FriedmanPhotos by Amanda Friedman

I’ll never forget the night that changed my life. I was 13 years old and asleep in bed when I heard a loud noise. I came out of my bedroom, and my mother was standing in the front door. There were drunk men on the porch. I heard them say, “We’ve come to get what’s ours.”

My mother, Georgia, said, “What are you talking about?” She was fumbling to tie her bathrobe, and I could hear her voice shake. They said, “We’ve come to get our furniture. We won it in a game of poker.”

I’ll never forget what she said next: “Where’s Jim?”

They said, “He’s not here.”Imagine what she must have been thinking: My husband just gave you our address and let you come.

I couldn’t see how many men were out there, but they sounded like big old monsters. Our family had already endured poverty and uncertainty because of my father’s drinking and gambling. I was picturing 50 men bursting through the door and coming into my room to carry out my bed. But then my mother said, “Well, you’re not coming into this house.” Her voice was strong, and suddenly she grew to ten feet tall and 500 pounds in my eyes.

“You’re not coming in,” she said again. “Have your wives call me in the morning, and then we’ll discuss what you think is yours.” I watched as she closed the door and turned the lock. Then she looked at me, smiled, and said, “You can go to bed now.”

I must have stood there for … an hour? Two hours? Leaning against the wall, staring at that front door, replaying that scene over and over. I made two life decisions that night. One, I would never marry a man who drank or gambled. And two, I would be a powerful woman who protects her home and family. My mother stood in the door against all those men who wanted to take the little bit she had. If my mother could grow to ten feet tall and 500 pounds, then I could too.

Right then, I vowed that no one would ever threaten my family, scare my family, or cross the threshold of my home without an invitation. My children would never live in fear of their father’s alcoholic drinking. And I, as a child, would become an island in a sea of chaos.

On that pivotal night, I decided who I wanted to be.

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  • Your Comments

    • Joy Bitterman

      I think it’s wonderful how this woman does so much for the people. More and more I see her on his show and when she speaks, I’m amazed by her force to make sure she’s heard by the guest she’s relating to. When the guest is a total jerk, as they have had in the past, she vents out exactly how she feels about that person and in response, her husband, Dr. Phil, will remind that guest never interrupt her while she’s speaking and to listen to what she has to say. She is a very powerful ally to all those who are in need and she will bend over backwards to be certain that they are helped. It’s not always the Doctor that chooses cases to help, but she has her input and he respects her on all of it as well. Thank you Robin for being you. I still can’t believe you’re going to be 60.

    • words

      “Even though my mother was never the victim of domestic abuse…” What??? Drinking, gambling away the family’s meager income, staying gone for three days at a time, sending men to your door to terrorize your family is not domestic abuse??? Time to check yourself on that denial, Robin McGraw! That is definitely domestic abuse.

    • ada

      I grew up in a same situation as well and cause of so many problems i grew up in… a not very stable family until my mom said enough thats when i was proud of her and now everything has change in her life…and i learn a lot and now i have my own family that i love and well take care for the rest of life.



    • laura

      todays show hit home so much my parents drank ,I drank,my whle family.i was in a ten year relationship that I as abuse he die and I till love and miss him he messed me up so bad I never got help I hope and pray one day I will be as stronge as robin

    • Laura Rogers

      What do I do now? After I ended up in the ER, my fiance is in jail following CDV 2nd offence, CDV HAN, Kidnapping, using a weapon during a violent crime and intemidating a witness..along with several previous charges with no chance of bond.
      I’m alone, no income, failing transportation and so mentally and emotionally damaged, its become impossible to leave my apartment that I will soon lose..
      So ashamed so embarrassed so confused so heartbroken …all I want is my abuser to come and save me … which is exactly how this nightmare started

    • Bright Light

      I lived for 5 years in a verbal abusive relationship. Only by the grace of God was I able to gain the strength to leave that marriage. I now have a loving husband of over 40 years.
      My son came from an abusive marriage and has been divorced from that relationship for about 5 years. He has just now realized that he was an abused husband.
      Robin, thank you for all of your work. Your information, along with counseling, may help my son as well as men and women living with verbal and or physical abuse.

    • janette limon

      Reading the story was like reading my own life story. I was abused for 28 years and hid it well. Was always a believer that things would change but of coarse they never did. Finally walked out and was sure I would be shot before I got to the door. I made it….remarried years later to a man that never raised his voice to me….the man of my dreams….that died of cancer 1 year ago dec 21st.