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.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

Sending Message
how we use your e-mail

  • Your Comments

    • Rosie Demarest

      Your article and support is so moving. May the Grace of God be with you and your cause.

    • COwen

      I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I was tortured for 11 years “trying to keep my family together.” I didn’t tell my parents because I didn’t want them to think bad of him. I finally confided in my best-friend and through her she gave me the strength to tell my parents and leave this horrible man. My children was witness to this and it had a profound effect on their life, especially my 19 year old daughter, they were abused by him too verbally and physically and I have much guilt for not being able to fully protect them. I left him went into a deep dark depression over memories of having guns pointed at me and my children, him trying to burn us alive in our home at night, the threats on my life, and the broken bones I endured. I turned to drugs and until I meet a man that changed my life around and help me get through this I was lost. I go to bed every night now and pray for him and his soul and his new wife that I am told is his new punching bag. Through forgiveness I have started slowly overcoming this and its been 10 years since I left him so its a long hard road but its so much nicer to be hugged and kissed instead of punched and kicked.

    • Elke

      The Hospital Visit……
      He visited me in the Hospital today
      Said he felt so bad that I had to be here on my birthday,
      Even brought me a card and flowers
      Spent only a few minutes but it felt like hours,
      His presence made me feel like a swine
      His kiss on my cheek sent shivers up and down my spine,
      So terrible how he acted like nothing was wrong
      How he was their for me all along…..
      To top it off he was so nice to all of the staff
      Told everyone how I was his better half,
      Really tricked them in to believing that he really cares
      Just neglected to tell them that he was the one who threw me down the stairs…

      Thanks for spreading the word Robin. With a celebrity like you it will be heard so much better.

    • sheryl19

      Recently I was extremely low on money and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money on the internet! I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills!! I’m so glad, I did this! – fceh

    • nanoo

      drinking is so popular and many people feel they can drink socially. One reason women don’t talk about violence is that it’s not what most people want to hear… they only want to talk about themselves and the good times. They’re shocked when they hear about someone’s bad behavior. You have to be careful who you open up. By all means find a way to leave an abuser, but it won’t be easy because lawyers are expensive and after all no one wants to be homeless. Many single women do end up homeless or poor enough to be in section 8 housing.

    • sls

      My dad was an alcoholic, told my husband, as well as any other guys I dated before him, that I would not get serious about somebody who drank. I was determined that I would not continue to live in that type of situation. He said he thought he was allergic also – so I said “God is good!” We have been married 36 yrs. We have 3 children and 3 grand-babies. The life I grew up in was all the terror I needed – life isn’t always ideal, but I have peace and feel safe in my home and in my life.

    • Sharon Brown

      From someone who’s been there all I can say is…. THANK YOU! :’) <3

    • Cinda Allinger Allen

      Truly an inspiration. I am the victim of domestic violence, having lived through it for 9 years and unfortunately my 3 daughters had to witness it. But I have been with a very loving and understanding and kind man for the past 29 years and while he wasn’t with my children from day one, he has been with them long enough that they know what is the right way to be and what isn’t. Thank you Robin for bringing this more out in the open.

    • Katrina

      This article resonated with me so much. My parents were both alcoholics and I too married a man who dosen’t drink and we don’t have alcohol in the house. My mother was also named Georgia. Thanks for sharing your story. Your mother was a strong lady and so are you.

    • slw

      Other people’s strength like hers helps me because I wasn’t told that kind of stuff. Thanks ROBIN. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE

      • Marian Markowski

        Todays show about ‘When Love Hurts’ is the exact same story I lived…Only I was stabbed along with everything that happened with the woman on stage. The next girl ‘he’ found, ‘he’ killed.