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Extreme Parenting Controversy; Abuse Survivor`s Story

Aired November 23, 2011 - 21:00   ET


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.

Extreme parenting. Are some moms and dads pushing their kids toward success or just being pushy?

Then, we are confronting child sex abuse with a woman who did something to stop it.

And later, my own wife, Susan, will be here as we talk through the stresses and the strains of the holiday. And trust me, we know a thing or two about that.

Let`s get started.

No TV, no sleepover, no birthday cake, for any of you. Oh, no, wait a minute. That`s the parents, what they`re saying. They`re giving tennis lessons four days a week, and only collared shirts are to be worn.

Will these strict rules help parents raise healthy, successful children, or is a household with no schooling, no bedtime, and no chores and no structure the answer?

Extreme parenting is the controversial topic on "Our America with Lisa Ling." Watch this and see what you think.


LISA LING, HOST, "OUR AMERICA WITH LISA LING" (voice-over): It`s 7:30 A.M. and the twins are getting ready for school. To be followed by tennis lessons for Drake and chess for Dominic. All this in the middle of summer.

DEBORAH PISCIONE, BELIEVES IN STRICT PARENTING: This is not just about academics. We`re preparing them for a very different economy that they`re going to live in, but that they still have the social skills that go along with it.

LING: While the school year never ends for the Pisciones, for the Shermans (ph) it never begins. They`re unschoolers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me unschooling is life learning, learning through life experiences, and natural learning where if something piques the kids` curiosity or they have a passion they can immerse themselves into that. And not have to have restrictions on it.


PINSKY: With me tonight, pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, author of "The Happiest Toddler on the Block"; Dino and Debra Piscione, the couple featured in the documentary. They practice what they call tiger parenting with their three children. And thankfully, Lisa Ling is here to help me make sense of all of this. She is the host of "Our America with Lisa Ling" on the OWN Network.

Lisa, the idea of tiger parenting is something hotly debated. You`ve done a documentary about this. What did you learn?

LING: Well, the Pisciones would actually say that they maintain a very regimented schedule with their kids. They just have tiger tendencies.

PINSKY: Tiger tendencies? Is there some criteria that makes somebody a tiger parent?

LING: Well, they believe that having a regimented schedule allows the kids to in a way stick to some kind of - some regimen. You know, by not having something like that the kid would just be out of control, they think.

PINSKY: So they`re saying I`m just giving kids - kids structure they need, they`re anticipating a new economy that they`ve got to be ready for, it would be irresponsible not to give them -

LING: In a way they`ve taken a page from what`s happening throughout Asia. In fact, the school that their kids attend is filled with lots of kids from Asia. It`s in Silicon Valley, so lots of engineers, children of engineers, and it`s not too dissimilar.

PINSKY: So are they just adopting the cultural attitudes of that community? Is everyone kind of in that same school?

LING: Not everyone, but certainly a lot of people in that community. It`s wake up at a certain time. It`s eat breakfast at a certain time. It`s go to school until this hour, study these things, have tennis practice for three hours a day. So it`s just a very structured method.

PINSKY: I`m just flashing on the fact that I was at the Octomom`s house the other day and that`s how she survives is by having that kind of structure. How were you parented?

LING: My parents were very strict. I was never allowed to stay overnight at people`s houses. I got one "C" my entire life, and it was in P.E., and I got grounded for a month.

PINSKY: A month for a "C"?

LING: I was a little rebellious, but I actually think that structure helped me as well.

PINSKY: Now, the Pisciones say taking a hard line is the only way to lay this groundwork for successful children. They don`t collar their children, they push them to strive for excellence and they say it is paying off. Watch.


DE. PISCIONE: We do mandate that they have to wear collared shirts. And we with make them chew with their mouth closed. We make them say please and thank you. We make them look you in the eyes. I mean, the foundation that we feel that we`re setting right now -


DE. PISCIONE: -- is going to dictate their lives. And there`s nothing more important than that.

LING: I totally hear what you`re saying. But there are some people who are going to be watching this who will say, "But they`re 6 years old." Are we really thinking graduate school and -

DE. PISCIONE: We are. Yes.

LING: -- competition at 6 years old?


DI. PISCIONE: What are you guys going to do today?




PINSKY: Dino and Deborah with us, as I said. And I guess the question is, do you think it`s working? Number one. And number two, is there a point where it does become too much?

DE. PISCIONE: Well, you know, Dr. Drew, I think we`re at a point, we have to take a step backwards and recognize the fact that we even had multiples to begin with, twins, we were sort of forced to be very engaged and very mindful in each of our children and what makes them tick -

PINSKY: Deborah - Deborah, I want to interrupt you, if you don`t mind right at this point and say that - the first thing I said saw when I saw the video is, I said, "Oh, my goodness. They`re twins." And that`s the first thing. I have triplets. And as I said, the Octomom came to mind for me. It`s the first thing you`re told as a multiple parent is structure, structure, structure.

But even so -

DE. PISCIONE: Oh, absolutely. Yes. No question about it. I mean, I think, you know, look, part of it is we did come to Silicon Valley five years ago, and it really made us reevaluate, you know, what our children were going to need for their future. And we know that structure and discipline - and I have to give Dino a tremendous amount of credit because that came really early on when these guys were just infants and we`ve recognized that by providing the boundaries and the structure for our kids it was working for them.

So we don`t keep them out of the house past 7:30. They do have a structured bedtime and a meal-time. And it really - kids need boundaries. And you look around what`s going on in today, and we want to debate so quickly about our education system. But I think the more difficult conversation is our parenting styles or a lack thereof, which is going to prepare the next generation.

PINSKY: All right, Dr. Karp. You`re the expert. I`m going to go to you. I think you know what I`m getting at here, which is - I`m actually very sympathetic to what they`re trying to do. I think it is a new economy our kids are entering. You hear that conversation in the public discourse all the time. But at what point is it too much?

DR. HARVEY KARP, PEDIATRICIAN: Well, but you`re not training them for graduate school when they`re 4 and 5 years old -

PINSKY: Just so you know, I was. I had that in mind.

No, I tried to - I tried to keep that within my own skull and not impose that on them. That`s the kind of (INAUDIBLE).

KARP: We look to the future, absolutely. And that`s appropriate. We want our kids to grow up and be strong and be successful and to be confident. I want every child to learn table manners. But I`m not going to teach it to a 6-month-old.

To everything there`s a season. And in the beginning of life we have to have boundaries. We have to be able to show - we have to have routines. So I like what the Pisciones are doing with predictability and routines. That`s really important.

But you also have to have some free zone. You also have to have some - some play time, some empty time. One of the things I loved about growing up in the East Coast is that there are rainy days. You know? And those days you`re home, you`re bored, and you imagine things and you figure out things to do.

So it`s important for the growth of the mind to also have these opportunities to conjure up things, to be creative.

PINSKY: Rainy day scenario. It sounds like the cat in the hat, sounds like a Dr. Seuss book.

But Dino - I want to go back out to you. What about that play time? What about that zone to be creative? I haven`t heard from you yet.

DI. PISCIONE: Well, you know what? I agree. I`m fortunate. I`ve lived on the East Coast. Born in the Midwest. Spent a lot of time on the West Coast. So I`m bringing the best of all worlds to our children right now.

And we - you can`t just have discipline and structure and boundaries without a lot of fun, motivation, inspiration, challenging support. So discipline and structure by itself can be destructive. But when you combine it with all these other ingredients it`s a necessary and wonderful combination.

DE. PISCIONE: And we moved to our current house recognizing that our kids needed to explore and have trees to climb and be able to pick things in the yard and bring them into the house. And when we did move to this new house we threw out every plastic toy we ever had and we just left books and blocks and - and quite frankly our boys I think still to this day and age would prefer to play with a stick rather than anything else.

And I think as parents, we`re so caught up with American cupidity that we`ve got to buy, buy, buy or for our kids when we are raising the next generation where they can`t think for themselves and there is a real lack of creativity.

So we`re trying to get back to basics and allowing our kids to have that free and down time and recognize that there`s a lot of hours in the day for structure and there`s a lot of time in the day for free play as well.

KARP: Yes. Because the kids go to school -

PINSKY: So I`m going to go to Lisa. Lisa, you`re the one that have seen - who`s these various parenting styles.

LING: Yes.

PINSKY: So I`m going to go to you for the last word on this. It`s not black and white.

LING: It`s not. It`s not.

PINSKY: And my question would be this, though. And I kind of brought this up about my own anxiety about where my kids ended up, is how do we not impose our biases, our anxieties? How do we just be the parent and create the boundaries and give these kids what they need?

LING: Well, ultimately, what we observe with all the parents we profiled is they want the best for their children. And in many ways they see the best as something different from how they were raised. And so they inject that into their parenting styles.

PINSKY: But that`s - if we are compensating for something in our own life, that`s again about us.

LING: It`s true. It`s true.

PINSKY: It`s all about us.

LING: But nevertheless, the intention is there. The one thing I will say about the Pisciones that I appreciate is that they are parents to their children and not friends to their parents -

PINSKY: Friends to their kids.

LING: Friends to their kids - excuse me. And at a certain point that`s - that`s important. With the unschoolers, it was up to the kids to dictate what they wanted to learn and when they wanted to learn it and when they even wanted to wake up. And I just don`t know that kids at that age are ready to make those decisions.

PINSKY: There`s a difference between identifying something real and spontaneous in a kid and supporting that as opposed to having kids in charge. Would you say? Last word.

KARP: Yes, absolutely. Well, in the beginning you start to - you expose your kids to so many different things. You see what they respond to, what they`re interested in. And then you encourage that, but with certain goals and expectations. It`s not just a free-for-all. And they either live up to those expectations or they fail. And failure`s not such a bad thing either. We learn from that, too.

PINSKY: Tiger parents push their kids hard. What about parents who go to the opposite extreme? We`re going to talk about where anything goes.

Lisa, thanks for joining us.

We`re going to take a look at what is called "unschooling" when we come back.


PINSKY: As the so-called tiger parents push their kids with regimented schedules and drive for perfection, there are parents who believe that learning from more natural experiences, not in a classroom, is best for education.

Unschooling, as it is called, is apparently not new. It`s a philosophy that children are potentially natural learners and that not all - not all kids learn in the same way. True. But it`s about letting these kids explore life without a formal education. They think that`s the best way to prepare them for adulthood.

Take a look at this clip from Lisa Ling`s upcoming documentary "Extreme Parenting," which airs on the OWN Network.


LING (voice-over): As far as Button and Jimmy Sherman (ph) are concerned, success is one of many things you can`t learn in school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you curious about the world around you?

LING: Well, over a million students across the United States are home-schooled. Unschooling can be described as the radical vanguard of the growing home school movement. While home schoolers generally work with a curriculum provided by a church, a charter school, or the state, unschoolers reject the very idea of an organized approach to education.


PINSKY: Joining me now, Patrick Farenga, a leading advocate for the unschooling movement. Patrick and his wife raised two of their three daughters in an unschooled environment. Patrick, explain this method.

PATRICK FARENGA, "UNSCHOOLING PARENT": Unschooling essentially is allowing your child, your children as much freedom to learn and explore in the world as you can comfortably bear as their parent. It`s pretty much how they learn from the minute they were born.

PINSKY: But are you saying that you, for instance, don`t teach your kids how to read or don`t teach them basic - basic mathematical skills?

FARENGA: Absolutely not. When they have questions, we answer them. When they ask to learn to read, we teach them how to learn to read. But it`s not because they suddenly turned eight that we decide on now you must learn multiplication. That`s why some -

PINSKY: Aren`t you concerned -

FARENGA: About what?

PINSKY: -- aren`t you concerned there are people out there that will adopt your strategy and just do nothing?

FARENGA: You know, I can`t - have no control of that, any more than I have - you know, the tiger moms have control over who`s, you know, the overly authoritarian parent. You know, every family has to figure this out. And every child is different in the family.

So everybody just - you have to be aware and mindful of what`s going on in your family in order for unschooling to work successfully. And you have to be sensitive to each other`s needs. It`s learner-centered democratic education, I guess you could term it that way.

PINSKY: And as I - as I understand, two of your daughters end up going to community college. Is that correct?

FARENGA: Yes. Well, all three of my daughters were unschooled. My middle daughter, though, stopped at seventh grade. But, yes, my - both my daughters are now in four-year - well, my oldest graduated a four-year college and my youngest is in it. But when they were high school age, instead of going to high school, they took community college courses.

PINSKY: Dino and Deborah, I`ll -

FARENGA: In addition to a lot of home schooling stuff.

PINSKY: I get it. I get it.

Dino and Deborah, you`re still with us. Do you guys have a take on this? It makes me anxious.

DE. PISCIONE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I guess I wonder if the kids are not expected to unwork eventually. I mean, this is just not a reality in our world. And when I first heard about it, I was not familiar with this movement. It sounded incredibly abusive to me in a lot of ways.

I don`t think kids have the tools to be able to ask and say, "Hey, I just decided I want to do multiplication and learn how to read." Kids need direction. They need guidance. They need structure -

PINSKY: But I`m going to interrupt you, Deborah, and just say that it worked for -for our guest. Right? It worked for you in your case.

DE. PISCIONE: You know, I guess at the end of the day it depends what you want for your kids. There`s no question. Everybody has that right. But I think the bottom line is, you know, we`re living in a very global, competitive environment where the achievement gap between us and industrialized nations is getting larger and larger and larger. And it`s all how you want your kids to be prepared at the end of the day. I think the foundation -

PINSKY: All right. Deborah, I`m going to interrupt you again.

Let me go to my expert here in the studio and see if we can settle this from someone who`s supposed to know the difference. Help me resolve this.

I mean, it worked for Patrick. He has kids that are successful in the world.

KARP: Sure, sure, sure.

PINSKY: I`m not so worried about the Patrick families in the world. I`m worried about people who adopt his strategy and it becomes abusive, as Deborah was saying -

KARP: This is what`s so hard on parents, because everyone now is having to design it themselves. Parenting is much harder today than it was 100 years ago in a certain way. I mean, we`re not going down to the river and washing our clothes.

But you don`t have your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your next-door neighbors, older daughter, all this support helping you. So there`s so much on a parent`s shoulders.

So first of all, kudos to both these families for figuring out ways and for putting the effort in to take care of their kids.

PINSKY: It worked for them.

KARP: That worked for them. But families are not democracies. A 3- year-old doesn`t get an equal vote in a family. That`s just not real. And they`re also not armies. You`re not the - you`re not the general. And your child has to, you know, say yes, sir, no, sir, and salute you in the morning. And every family has to find their balance between those two.

PINSKY: Patrick, you wanted in on this conversation. Go.

FARENGA: Yes. First of all, there`s a lot of alternative schools that run exactly the way unschooling works. Starting in the 1920s with Summer Hill and even before then. But, you know - and there are some schools that actually bill themselves as schools for unschoolers. So this is - so this not a new idea.

And also, there are many countries - like we`re chasing Finland for test scores. But Finland doesn`t even have standardized tests. You know, there are many, many different ways to learn and to grow and to enter adult society. And in a global society, you know, a lot of employers are complaining about the level of education in the employees that they`re getting who are graduating from college and from our high schools.

Let`s not forget, only 75 percent, 75 percent of Americans don`t have four-year college degrees. So -

PINSKY: And it sounds very similar to the old transcendental movement back in the 18th Century, Dr. Karp.

KARP: Well, you know something? I`ll tell you one thing that viewers can do. One simple thing you can do that will help your kids be more successful, healthier, and do better in school. And that`s have family dinner every night or at least five nights a week with your kids.

PINSKY: Well, that - that certainly is a - a thing. The only - that goes without saying. I`m completely - I think we - everyone on this panel agrees with that one, for sure, more time with your kids. More -

And my thing is, though, I`ve got to tell you something, this is what I want our viewers to understand, is when you are acting out your own issues on your kids, it`s to the detriment of your kids. In other words, give - support what your kids need, not because it`s what you got or you didn`t get. Don`t - leave those ghosts behind. Support what`s real about your kids and be present as they maneuver through.

Thank you, guys. Thank you to the Pisciones; thank you to Dr. Karp; and, of course, thank you to Patrick Farenga for joining us.

Lisa`s special, "Extreme Parenting," airs this Sunday at 10:00 P.M. Eastern time on the OWN Network.

Up next, Lisa is back, and she and I will take your calls. Don`t go away.


PINSKY: Welcome back. Lisa Ling rejoins me for our "On Call" segment tonight, and we`ve been talking about controversial parenting styles and we`ve been bombarded with your comments and questions on this subject.

So let`s get right to the phones. Shawn in Florida. Shawn, go right ahead.


PINSKY: Hi, Shawn.

SHAWN: Regarding your discussion on extreme parenting, what do you think the parents` reaction will be when they find out that their child is a bully? What do they do or say to their child? Shouldn`t parents be held responsible for their child`s actions?

PINSKY: I think she`s making a connection there between parenting styles and becoming bullying, and I`m not seeing anything about what we`ve documented today that would make that link for these kinds of parents.

LING: Right. But what happens if you find out that your kid is a bully?

PINSKY: What do you do?

LING: Yes. What - what should you do?

PINSKY: Well, personally, I - I would get that kid help, because that, to me, is a kid that`s in trouble, and is just about as likely to become bullied then and not do well in life if he has that kind of a lack of empathy for others. So, my thing, I`d - I`d want the whole family evaluated, frankly, and try to figure out what went wrong.

LING: Generally I do think that kids who become bullies have - have issues.

PINSKY: Yes. They`re in pain. They`re in pain. Make no mistake about it. It doesn`t make the bullying OK, but I would - I`d get those kids evaluated.

Let`s go back to the phones. I`ve got Nancy in New Jersey. Go ahead, Nancy.


PINSKY: Hi, Nancy.

NANCY: I just want to make a comment. I think parents who push their kids too much really aren`t doing them any favors. Children today, I think, are growing up way too fast and are stressed way too early in life. I think we should let kids be kids.

PINSKY: I hear -

NANCY: I think, of course, pushing them to do their best is always the key, but too much pressure will do a child more harm than good.

PINSKY: That is a conversation I`ve heard a lot more of during the course of parenting that I`ve done, is it, are we getting too involved?

LING: Yes.

PINSKY: Are we pushing too hard? Are we worrying too much about the international scene and the workforce?

LING: It`s interesting, because I actually spend a lot of time in schools, and I have noticed progressively that kids are becoming increasingly less disciplined and less respectful to teachers. So I - I hear so much about - about putting too much pressure on kids, but in some ways that contradicts what I experience in the classroom, because a lot of the kids are - are deriding their teachers and just not being as respectful as I think they should be.

PINSKY: Well, that`s funny because what I`ve seen - I thought I was seeing - again, I wasn`t so much in the classroom, but for my own kids, it felt like that this is a generation of kids that are, say, in high school and college now, that see adults more as an asset than previous generations and turn to adults for help rather than repel and reject and rebel from them.

LING: Right. My parents spanked me when I was a kid and now -

PINSKY: That explains so much, Lisa. Now we know what went wrong.

LING: But now it`s - you know, you could be reported for spanking your kids.


LING: But I actually think it`s a form of discipline that might not be so bad.

My parents taught me that - that they are the - they`re - they`re the parents, and if they pointed to the little chopstick or the fly swatter that was hanging on the wall, I knew that I need to get - needed to get myself in shape. And there was something about that level of discipline that I think was important for me.

PINSKY: All right. We`ve got a final Facebook here from Danielle. She writes, "Don`t you think there`s a bigger issue here? Children will be suffering the emotional effects of emotional abuse if their parents are constantly on them to be perfect."

I think that`s the same thing as that last call. Is it - and this is all about balance. Let`s face it. This whole conversation is about, you know, how much is too much in either direction, isn`t it?

LING: It is. And that`s why I wanted to take myself out of that conversation between the unschoolers and the tiger parents, because ultimately they`re doing what they`re doing because they want the best for their children.

PINSKY: Of course.

LING: But I do think that a combination of both of those things is probably the best route to go.

PINSKY: There you go. Now, when we come - thank you, Lisa, for joining me tonight.

When we come back, we`re going to meet a woman who survived serious childhood trauma. She is telling us about it in order to help herself and help others out there. Don`t go away.



PINSKY (voice-over): The Penn State child sex abuse scandal has opened the eyes of many who did not know that such crimes against children occur, and, that sadly, they are much more prevalent than we care to believe. The allegations against former coach, Jerry Sandusky, are shocking.

That a child might have been violated in any way by a person in power is hard to fathom. And then, there are the secrets, kept for decades, in some cases, kept forever in others. What compels an adult male to force himself upon a child? What are the chances that the victimizer was once abused? And why is there shame and guilt when the victims are not to blame?

It`s a complicated subject. We understand it better when victims speak up and say it happened to me. Without these courageous individuals, we would never know the truth. Tonight, we`ll talk to a woman who is speaking up. She eventually confronted her molester and her own mother. It`s an incredible story of survival.


PINSKY (on-camera): These are always very difficult stories to tell, but, unfortunately, they are terribly, terribly common. And I do believe by telling these stories, we may help others. In 1986, George Washington Chaffy began sexually abusing his three-year-old step-daughter. In 1991, nearly five years later, his wife turned him in. He admitted to forcing himself on the child and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Hardly enough. End of story? Not even close. Sara Alvarez is with me now to talk about what happened. All right, Sara, we`re going to go through this step by step. What is your first memory of your step-dad?

SARA ALVAREZ, "I WAS MOLESTED BY MY STEP-FATHER": My first memory of my step-dad was when I was, you know, three or four years old. We were all living in a house in New Hampshire. And then, soon after we met him, he started abusing me.

DREW PINSKY: Just right -- and you were three years old or something?

ALVAREZ: Three years old.

DREW PINSKY: Right into sexual abuse?

ALVAREZ: Right into sexual abuse as far back as I can remember, yes.

DREW PINSKY: So, some of your first memories are of that?

ALVAREZ: Yes. Yes.

DREW PINSKY: And then, when your mother finally found out, how did she find out?

ALVAREZ: She found out because he was molesting me -- we would have sleepovers in each other`s room. So, I was sleeping over in my brother`s room, and he heard George came into the room at night and molested me one night.

DREW PINSKY: Your brother heard this?

ALVAREZ: My older brother. Yes. My older brother.

DREW PINSKY: Was he attacking the other kids as well?

ALVAREZ: He was, yes.

DREW PINSKY: How many other kids were there?

ALVAREZ: There was -- at the time, there was five. I think just one of my younger brothers was born at the time. Altogether, there are seven of us, six boys and me.

DREW PINSKY: And how many did he abuse?

ALVAREZ: He abused all -- the five older ones, including myself.

DREW PINSKY: So, I`m a little confused. So, the older brother who was also being victimized --


DREW PINSKY: -- saw him victimize you? And that helped him step forward?

ALVAREZ: Yes. I think that`s what helped him. I think he was telling for both of us, to be honest. I think he told for himself and he told for me. He pulled my mother aside in the kitchen and told her and --

DREW PINSKY: Was she immediately helpful or was she in denial?

ALVAREZ: Her first instinct I think was good. She immediately called the authorities and had him arrested. But then, about maybe a day and a half two, days later, she then bailed him out of jail. She said she didn`t like the way the authorities were handling it.

DREW PINSKY: How crazy is that?

ALVAREZ: I know. I know.

DREW PINSKY: How did -- and you were how old then? You were nine years old?

ALVAREZ: No. I was only -- I think I was like five or six then.

DREW PINSKY: Did you have -- could you manifest any feelings about that? Were you just confused?

ALVAREZ: At that time, I was just confused. I didn`t really know what was going on. I remember him sneaking back. He wasn`t allowed -- there was a restraining order, of course, against him on me, and he wasn`t allowed back in the house, but he was sneaking back into the house. So, we weren`t allowed to tell anyone.

DREW PINSKY: And abusing you?

ALVAREZ: Not abusing me at that time.

DREW PINSKY: When he did abuse you, would he threaten to harm you if you told anybody, that kind of usual thing?

ALVAREZ: He would. He would say things like, you know, your mother`s going to be upset with you. This is very bad, you know?

DREW PINSKY: Your fault.

ALVAREZ: Basically, yes. It was all my fault.

DREW PINSKY: Shattering. Shattering.


DREW PINSKY: Oh, my God. And then, he finally was put in jail, though.

ALVAREZ: He was put in jail. But not before -- he got scared -- he and my mother got scared when we were in New Hampshire. So, they packed everyone up in a U-haul, and they escaped -- like ran away to New York State. And we lived in a campground for about three months before the authorities caught up with them. And they arrested both of them at that time. And we went into foster care.

DREW PINSKY: So, mom was an accomplice?


DREW PINSKY: Was foster care worse?

ALVAREZ: Some of them.

DREW PINSKY: Or better?

ALVAREZ: The one -- I mean, I was with very nice people. So, it was OK. It was very nice

DREW PINSKY: So, mom was arrested as an accomplice?


DREW PINSKY: And then, dad ultimately went to jail, is that right?


DREW PINSKY: She did not?

ALVAREZ: She went to jail maybe for just a little bit, and then, she got out. While we were in foster care, she was in jail.

DREW PINSKY: And then, when he was in jail, did she continue to support him and sort of deny --

ALVAREZ: Oh, absolutely. She brought us -- Christmas time, she brought us to family visits at the prison. And she would drive us from New York where we were still living at the time all the way to New Hampshire. And there would be family visits at the prison every Christmas.

DREW PINSKY: Did she talk about her -- anything about what he had done or was there any discussion about it?

ALVAREZ: We were going through family therapy at the time, which was court ordered. And she -- you know, her continuous thing was that everyone needs a second chance and that he was sorry for what he did and --

DREW PINSKY: And he did eventually get out of jail, right?

ALVAREZ: He eventually got out of jail.

DREW PINSKY: And now, she was still fully engaged with him and supportive.

ALVAREZ: Oh, yes.

DREW PINSKY: He came back into the family?

ALVAREZ: Back into the home. Yes.

DREW PINSKY: And then what happened?

ALVAREZ: And then, when I was about 16 years old, he physically assaulted me and raped me on three separate occasions.

DREW PINSKY: Oh, my God. After having been so severely sexually abused, I imagine you had what`s called a freeze response where you really have trouble coming to your defense, physically or could you fight him off?

ALVAREZ: The first time when I was 16, I did actually. I did put up a fight. And he did -- he punched me in the face --

DREW PINSKY: Oh, my God.

ALVAREZ: And after that I just -- I did kind of just lay there and let it happen.

DREW PINSKY: My understanding, though, the story has sort of an interesting outcome. You did eventually take some action against them.


DREW PINSKY: How did it get to that point where you were able to do that? Most victims of this kind of chronic abuse have trouble coming to their own defense.

ALVAREZ: I -- honestly, it took me a long time to come forward. It took me almost two years to come forward and to tell the authorities what happened.

DREW PINSKY: So, now you`re 18.

ALVAREZ: Now, I`m 18. I had had a child at this point.

DREW PINSKY: From him?

ALVAREZ: No, not from him. I did -- I did get pregnant by him, and I had my mother took me to have an abortion.

DREW PINSKY: Did -- I mean --

ALVAREZ: She knew.

DREW PINSKY: But your feelings about that. Were you still so numb at that point?

ALVAREZ: Honestly, you know, I felt like it was -- it was the thing I had to do. I didn`t know. My mother was pressuring me. And she -- she was --

DREW PINSKY: I`m actually feeling numbness in my body. Is that you? Would you have numbness? Would you have actually physical numbness from all this?

ALVAREZ: Yes. At this point, I`m so beyond it, but I did -- you know, I did have -- you know, at the time, I just kind of went through the motions. I wasn`t -- you know, I tried not to think about it as much as possible.

DREW PINSKY: And when you did come to your own defense, what did you do?

ALVAREZ: I told -- I called the state police. And I told them what had happened. And they actually -- they came to my home where I was renting a home, and they came there. And they made me -- they put on like headsets and talked me through and made me call him to get a confession on the phone.

DREW PINSKY: Wow. All right. We`re going to stop here. There`s more to the story. There`s a happy ending somewhere kind of. That`s why you`re able to be so present with us today, really. You seem -- things are good today?

ALVAREZ: Mm-hmm.

DREW PINSKY: For the most part?

ALVAREZ: Things are great today.

DREW PINSKY: OK. Well, I`m going to tell more of that story when we come back about her incredible story of survival, how she thrives today, and what she did to support herself and take a little action against these screwballs. That`s the kindest word I can use about them. Back after this.


DREW PINSKY: Sara Alvarez is telling her story of survival through her childhood. It was marred by molestation. All seven kids in Sara`s family suffered greatly.


DREW PINSKY: Now, Sara, just before the camera heated up here, I said, I bet your mother is the central figure that you have a lot of anger towards. You said yes. Tell me why.

ALVAREZ: Yes, I do, because I feel that she is -- she -- she`s more to blame than in a lot of ways my step-father. He was sick, but she continued to let this go on, and she helped him. And, she -- you know, she wouldn`t stand up, even in court, she didn`t stand up against me. I mean, she didn`t stand up for me. She was against me.

DREW PINSKY: Now, usually, those sorts of women that bring in these abusers into their household and particularly ones that stay with them have themselves been sexually abused. Do we know that about your mom?

ALVAREZ: She said actually -- she did tell me at one point that when she was younger living in Brooklyn, that a man who was working on her father`s house did sexually abuse her.

DREW PINSKY: OK. And there may have been -- the story may be even more than that with her history. So, let`s go back to finding your way out of this. You`re 18. You`ve now brought in the authorities. They`ve caught him, and eventually, do you take action?

ALVAREZ: Yes, I did. I, you know, went to -- obviously, I went to the police. I did all that. I took it to the -- the authorities took it to trial.

DREW PINSKY: Against him.

ALVAREZ: Against him and my mother.

DREW PINSKY: Did you resist that at first or did you welcome it?

ALVAREZ: No. I was OK with that, because I actually went to her before we went to trial and before I even went to the authorities. I went to her to try to help me. And I begged her and pleaded with her to help me. And she said that, you know, I was 18. I was out of the house. That I shouldn`t -- you know, I shouldn`t have the need to even bring this to the authorities.

DREW PINSKY: Were you in treatment at that point?

ALVAREZ: No, I was not.

DREW PINSKY: How did you feel when she said that?

ALVAREZ: Just basically rejected and --


ALVAREZ: Furious, yes.

DREW PINSKY: Like furious, furious.

ALVAREZ: Mm-hmm.

DREW PINSKY: Did you let her have it, at that point?

ALVAREZ: Yes, I did, actually. I attacked her. So, --

DREW PINSKY: Verbally or physically?

ALVAREZ: Physically attacked her.

DREW PINSKY: Right at that point?


DREW PINSKY: Again, I was telling Sara during the break that I`m sort of used to working with patients like Sara, and I physically feel what`s going on, and the whole left side of my body was reacting. I guess, your dad bead up that side of your body.

ALVAREZ: Yes. Mm-hmm.

DREW PINSKY: And I also feel the violence that must have come out of you towards your mom.

ALVAREZ: Oh, it was horrible.

DREW PINSKY: How come they didn`t come after you?

ALVAREZ: Nobody came after me --

DREW PINSKY: No, as far as -- you know, there`s violence. How come domestic violence charges were never made against you?

ALVAREZ: I don`t know why, honestly.


ALVAREZ: Yes. I guess, it is just lucky.

DREW PINSKY: And so, you took this to court.


DREW PINSKY: And what happened?

ALVAREZ: Well, he was -- he was convicted on three separate counts. And my mother was convicted on child endangering -- or endangering the welfare of a child. Her nursing license was --

DREW PINSKY: She`s a nurse?

ALVAREZ: Yes, she was a nurse.




ALVAREZ: And her nursing license was suspended. And she got charges brought up because she`s a mandated reporter. So, she got charges brought up with her professional life.

DREW PINSKY: Because she didn`t report --

ALVAREZ: Right, she didn`t report what was going on in her own home.

DREW PINSKY: Right. So, she`s mandated to report even if it`s in her own home.


DREW PINSKY: Wow. This story smacks of drug abuse and addiction, too. That must have been in here somewhere.

ALVAREZ: Oh, absolutely.


ALVAREZ: Basically, my mother was -- my mother did some. My stepfather did a lot. I did a lot. So --

DREW PINSKY: Are you in recovery now?

ALVAREZ: I don`t know if --

DREW PINSKY: Or are you abuser (ph)?

ALVAREZ: I don`t know if I`m in recovery --

DREW PINSKY: You`re not an addict?

ALVAREZ: No, I`m not an addict. I was never an addict.

DREW PINSKY: Was one of them an addict?

ALVAREZ: I think my step-father was an addict. Yes. Yes, my mother had her bouts with it as well. So, she did some stuff as well. But yes, I mean, I did a lot of drugs just to get through what I was going through and to get through the day. And, it was horrible.

DREW PINSKY: It`s horrible.


DREW PINSKY: How do you survive now?

ALVAREZ: I have a great support system. I have a great family. My husband`s family takes very good care of me.

DREW PINSKY: You have a child now?

ALVAREZ: I do. I have a nine-year-old.

DREW PINSKY: A nine-year-old. That`s great. So, you made it through that period when you`re looking at a baby that was the same age as when you were so badly abused. Was that an evocative experience for you?

ALVAREZ: Oh, absolutely. Like, it brought back so many memories of when I was little and what I went through and how could -- basically, how could a mother ever --


ALVAREZ: -- ever let her child go through that.

DREW PINSKY: Did you get your head around that at all?

ALVAREZ: No. I still can`t wrap my head around that. Like, it`s still -- it`s still something I struggle with every day.

DREW PINSKY: Yes. Yes. Well, it`s very fortunate that you found a proper support and good people. You know, not repeated the cycle as your mom did and as people are so prone to do.

ALVAREZ: Right. Right.

DREW PINSKY: Did you break the cycle by getting formal psychiatric treatment?

ALVAREZ: I did get formal psychiatric treatment. I was -- you know and I still actually am. I do have a very good therapist right now who works with me on all of -- all of what I`m going through. I still am going through things.

DREW PINSKY: Did you do specific trauma therapies like EMDR and all that kind of stuff or bodily based therapy?

ALVAREZ: I don`t know what it was called. It was very intensive.

DREW PINSKY: It worked.

ALVAREZ: Yes. Whatever it was, it worked. They said I had posttraumatic stress disorder.

DREW PINSKY: Sure. You had to have. And maybe some dissociation, too

ALVAREZ: Absolutely.

DREW PINSKY: Did you have dissociative identity too or just dissociative features?

ALVAREZ: There was something where I was -- whenever I would look back and when I would speak about it, it was I was talking about someone else, and they said there`s a name for that, but I just can`t remember the name of it.

DREW PINSKY: And now, you`re sort of back in your body and connected to things?

ALVAREZ: Absolutely. I`m more connected now, yes, than I was.

DREW PINSKY: Wow. Do you have any message for people out there that might be hearing this story that either themselves might be victims or might know someone who`s struggling?

ALVAREZ: Absolutely. You need to say something. It`s hard to say something because there`s a lot of shame associated with it.

DREW PINSKY: You feel responsible.

ALVAREZ: Absolutely. You feel responsible. You feel like you did something wrong. But you didn`t do anything wrong. This is something, you know, that just -- it happens. It happens to millions of women. So --

DREW PINSKY: Millions and millions. It`s so common.

ALVAREZ: Absolutely. Yes. So, it`s -- I mean, I definitely just -- at least tell someone. Tell someone you trust or go, you know, just find someone to confide in and tell the authorities, because they can`t turn a blind eye. They have to do something about it.


ALVAREZ: And they do.

DREW PINSKY: Sara, thank you. It`s a very courageous story you tell.

ALVAREZ: Absolutely.

DREW PINSKY: Of survival. And let`s sort of add up the score here. It is tell the authorities, it`s not your fault, treatment works, get treatment.

ALVAREZ: Mm-hmm.

DREW PINSKY: And, I think the biggest thing is, you`re not alone. This is a common thing.


DREW PINSKY: Thanks, Sara.


DREW PINSKY: I want to thank Sara again for being brave enough to come forward and share her story with us here.

Surviving and overcoming adversity permeate our lives at an increasing rate, so it seems. There are traps, pitfalls. There are bad people out there, but more and more, I`m finding that there are those among us, like Sara, who have the resilience to rise above. It`s an encouraging thing to think about as you sit around with your loved ones during the holiday season.

And a strong family, of course, goes a long way in helping to avoid those pitfalls. And along those lines, we`d like to remind you that tomorrow is our Thanksgiving Day special. We are giving a spotlight to those who have overcome obstacles of all kinds to do some good in this world ultimately.

First up, James Durbin, the "American Idol" sensation bullied throughout school due to a debilitating condition, but he did not let this destroy him. Take a look.


JAMES DURBIN, SINGER/AMERICAN IDOL STAR: I`ve gotten to see the effect that I`m having on people and on people`s lives, how I`m, you know, making them happier or making them cry when I did this or, you know, giving them -- you know, conveying all this emotion through these songs. And having Tourette`s and Asperger`s and being open about it has really, you know, allowed people to be themselves.


DREW PINSKY: From one inspirational figure to another. Chris Herren was a basketball star. He was highly touted coming out of Fresno State. He went on to play for the Boston Celtics, but heron`s hoop dreams were dashed when he was busted for heroin possession. Watch this.


DREW PINSKY: And were you playing ball on heroin?

CHRIS HERREN, FMR. NBA PLAYER: I was -- oh, yes. Absolutely. Overseas. You know, I went to go play in seven different countries. And I was able to score heroin in every country.

DREW PINSKY: Is that when you graduated heroin, was overseas?

HERREN: No. Right before I took off to overseas.

DREW PINSKY: Was that the latter part of your career?

HERREN: Definitely.

DREW PINSKY: So, I`ve seen this happen, when guys get screwed up and can`t manage themselves in the NBA because they have drug problems, they get hired overseas. That happens a lot, doesn`t it?

HERREN: Yes. Of course.


DREW PINSKY: Chris received extensive treatment, and he has established a company that mentors and rehabilitates basketball players on and off the court. You`ll want to see his whole story.

And then, Drew Manning. He deliberately gained 70 pounds over the past five months. There was a selfless motive behind his dangerous diet. He`s a fitness instructor who wanted to understand firsthand the struggles faced by his overweight clients. Watch this.


DREW MANNING, FITNESS INSTRUCTOR: I knew the risk going into it, but for me, it was worth it.

DREW PINSKY: Is a doctor monitoring you?

MANNING: Yes. I have a couple doctors --

DREW PINSKY: Are your labs out of whack?

MANNING: You know, my cholesterol`s OK. My liver, he said I do have a fatty liver. My kidneys, he said, are those of an alcoholic. And my blood pressure`s like 161/113.


DREW PINSKY: See more of Drew`s, James`, and Chris` stories on our Thanksgiving special tomorrow at a special time, 1:00 p.m. eastern, 10:00 a.m. pacific.

Coming up next, without a doubt one of the most inspiring figures in my life. You`ll want to stay tuned for that. We`re back after this.



JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Thanksgiving is the day on which we give thanks for all the cool stuff we have and own, right? At least that`s how I do it. But you know, in the olden times when pilgrims wore belts on their hats, Thanksgiving used to be the one day a year people in the country overate. And, now, we do it all 365 days.



DREW PINSKY: And that was Jimmy Kimmel, the great Jimmy Kimmel from "jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC having a little fun. I was just with him on Saturday night, and he seemed very thankful on Saturday night. Of course, it`s good to laugh about these things because holidays can be tough for some people.

So, as you prepare your Thanksgiving feast and wait for family members to come around, keep things in check, especially why we`re celebrating. We`re really supposed to be thinking about gratitude. And gratitude is a very healthy feeling to have. And I personally am thankful for my triplets and, of course, my wife, Susan.

We`ve been married for over 20 years, and she is sitting right next to me. Honey, you are everything I am, and thank you for being my wife and being such a great wife. So, here she is, everybody. So, what are you thankful for? Not me certainly.

SUSAN PINSKY, DR. DREW`S WIFE: I am. I`m thankful for having you in my life every single day.


SUSAN PINSKY: And well, when you`re home.

DREW PINSKY: Did you guys hear that? Because I`m working too hard. What she means is I`m working too hard.

SUSAN PINSKY: And I`m thankful for the family that you helped me be a part of.

DREW PINSKY: The kids.


DREW PINSKY: It`s been quite a journey. People don`t know we have two boys and a girl. They`re triplets. And, there they are as little kids right alongside of Susan there. And, it has been quite an intense journey that you and I have shared, hasn`t it?

SUSAN PINSKY: Yes, it has, but we`re very lucky. And things have turned out very well. And I`m thankful for your fans.

DREW PINSKY: There they are getting a little older.

SUSAN PINSKY: And that everybody`s so nice to us when we see them on the street. And you know, I`m just really proud of you. And I think that -- I think that the whole reason that everybody`s so happy in our family is because of you.

DREW PINSKY: Oh, that`s very sweet. The kids are away now at college. And they live all over the country, and they came back, two of them. Our daughter`s come back. Well, she`s back by the time this airs, frankly.

SUSAN PINSKY: Yes. She`s coming home tonight. She`s very excited, too.



DREW PINSKY: And it`s good that we can -- I`m appreciative. I`m thankful that we can actually get them back. You know what I mean? They want to come back.


DREW PINSKY: That`s kind of nice.

SUSAN PINSKY: And they`re coming back together, and they`re appreciating each other so much more.

DREW PINSKY: Favorite Thanksgiving memory. Uh-oh.

SUSAN PINSKY: Well, I think inviting a liberal to our dinner table was probably the whole family`s --

DREW PINSKY: That`s because -- let me reframe that. We had someone take issue with her dad, who runs a hardware store -- hi, Dennis, a hardware store in Costa Mesa, California. He`s 89 years old now. He goes to work every single day. And he`s very, very conservative and had a little issue with one of our liberal friends and spouted off at the table.

There are my kids alongside of us when they started young and you saw them getting older now. And, yes, indeed. That was quite a night to remember. I`m also thankful, by the way, you had the opportunity to reconnect with family that have been lost for over 50 years, since World War II, through various kinds of internet ancestry kinds of --

SUSAN PINSKY: It was really exciting to see my extended family in Prague. It was very exciting. And you know, we`ve had a lot of exciting things this year. So, you know, it`s going to be hard to top.

DREW PINSKY: Well, no, I think it`s going to be up to our kids to top it. They`re the ones that have to carry on. And we`ve had a lot of discussion about parenting tonight. And I just feel so grateful that our kids have turned out the way they have.

SUSAN PINSKY: And they`re happy in school.

DREW PINSKY: And again --

SUSAN PINSKY: I`m very thankful for the schools that admitted them, too. That was a tough process, and we really appreciate it. We can`t tell you how happy they are.

DREW PINSKY: Yes. But again, I`m most grateful for you, and thank you for being who you are.

SUSAN PINSKY: Thank you. I love you.

DREW PINSKY: All right, guys. I`m also thankful to our viewers and thankful for being part of this experience we have here. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And we`ll see you on the other side of the holiday. Stay well.