Yep. I’m going there today.
And yes, I’m just as surprised as you. But here we go.
Two weeks ago Tuesday, Dr. Phil’s daily TV program was titled, “I Swiped Right On My Quadriplegic Boyfriend.” The basic premise of the show was that the girlfriend had become her boyfriend’s full-time care giver because they couldn’t find proper caregivers for him.
And ever since the episode ended, the internet has lost their collective minds over some of the contents of the show. Specifically over two things that Dr. Phil said:
“You have a choice to make you’ll have to make it today. You can be his caregiver, or you can be his lover, you can’t be both.”
“100 out of 100 times, this won’t work”
Now, knowing what the episode was titled mixed with these statements, one could draw the conclusion that Dr. Phil was pissing on interabled relationships (where one partner is able-bodied while the other is disabled) and declaring that you can’t be a spouse/partner and a full-time caregiver simultaneously. Because “100 out of 100 times, this won’t work.”
Infuriating, right? Makes you want to take your wheelchair down to the TV lot where the show is filmed and “accidentally” run him down.
Except that both of these statements that I’ve seen posted on disability blogs (the first of which appeared on a prominent internet space where disabled writers have a voice but curiously are not paid, all while the site grows in popularity-and where I used to regularly contribute), are taken WILDLY out of context.
And I get it. As a person with a disability, I first saw those clips of the show and those words come out of his mouth and I lost my mind. How dare he say that! I decried him on Facebook, shared the article in several places and almost bought (in bulk) a tee-shirt that said, #100outof100.
Then I took a breath. And decided I needed to watch the episode in its entirety before making a take down response. Because, I reasoned, I like to be fully informed before I take someone down on the internet. 😛
So I decided to seek out and watch the entire episode.
And then I realized, after watching the episode, that instead of writing a take down piece, I would have to write this.
I understand difference of opinion but when the conversation in the disability community shifts away from the truth that those who abuse can be disabled, it takes away from the serious nature of the actual problem and therefore those who are in interabled abusive relationships can’t get the help they need.
Turns out the couple featured on the show were in the midst of a toxic relationship. The boyfriend had become a quadriplegic after a racing accident (he was a motorcycle racer) and was still so bitter that he refused to allow anyone in to take care of him full-time besides his girlfriend and would call her names and berate her when he was angry. At one point they mentioned he spit on her in anger.
Meanwhile, the girlfriend was so burnt out from taking care of him full-time on top of the verbal abuse he lobbed at her (she was also losing weight from stress) and THAT is why they were on the show. She would also lash out at him in response to his abuse.
Now back to those inflammatory comments:
After hearing both sides of the issue, Dr. Phil declared to the girlfriend that, “You can be his caregiver or you can be his girlfriend, but you can’t be both.” This only pertained to her situation. She was mentally drowning and needed to make that choice. Dr. Phil in no way implied that everyone in an interabled relationship as a full-time caregiver couldn’t also be a good lover. This advise was for her and her alone.
For the boyfriend, Dr. Phil brought on another interabled couple to help him understand that he can overcome his anger over the accident that landed him in a chair.
Now let’s talk about outrage culture. In this instance, the calls for Dr. Phil to be cancelled and the outrage that he disrespected the entire disability community takes away from the real issue of this couples pain and shedding light on interabled domestic abuse. Which for some reason not a lot of people want to talk about and statistics on abusers who are disabled seemingly don’t even exist.
However, stats on disabled domestic abuse DOES exist and according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “police are less likely to respond to reported violence against people with disabilities” (At 70% as opposed to responding to non disabled reporting at 90%)
Based on the above statistic (and the fact that March is domestic violence awareness month), articles and commentaries really missed the mark by not shedding more light on this topic after the Dr. Phil episode aired.
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship you can anonymously call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-799-7233 or go to https://www.thehotline.org/