Stephanie Hayden Ford took a seat on Dr. Phil’s couch, appearing on a national television broadcast Thursday to describe how her father groped her when she was 12 and explain why she publicly defended him when he was first arrested last month for allegedly molesting a young girl.
For three years now, Ford and her father, Will Hayden, have appeared together on the reality television show “Sons of Guns,” centered on the family’s custom gun business in Baton Rouge. She alluded to their entangled lives in her interview with Phil McGraw, better known as Dr. Phil, while also detailing various allegations against her father.
“I’m very afraid of him. I think that he has spent his life manipulating people and hurting people,” she said during the pretaped interview. “He controlled my entire world.”
Hayden faces allegations he raped or molested young girls in 2013 in both East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes. In two of the cases, one in each parish, Hayden has been booked with rape, accused in each instance of assaulting an 11-year-old girl. It is unclear whether the cases involve the same child, as the sheriff’s offices have said they can’t publicly identify victims of sexual abuse.
Hayden also has been arrested in cases brought by adult women who said they were abused by him as children. A 34-year-old woman told East Baton Rouge sheriff’s detectives that Hayden raped her when she was 12 years old, while a different woman told Livingston detectives that he inappropriately kissed her in 1995.
Since his rape arrest in late August, the former reality star has remained held at the East Baton Rouge Parish jail in lieu of bail of at least $350,000.
Hayden’s attorney has defended his client, pointing to other cases involving men falsely accused of sex crimes.
“People get destroyed by accusations alone,” said Hayden’s attorney C. Frank Holthaus, who referenced notorious cases such as the 2006 Duke lacrosse team scandal and accusations by Tawana Brawley in the late ’80s, both involving men falsely accused of sexual assaults.
On Thursday’s broadcast, Ford said that about 20 years ago, when she was 12, an intoxicated Hayden came into her room and asked her to hug him, and began kissing and pinching her while pulling her clothes off. She was able to break free of his embrace and said he never touched her inappropriately again.
But she became depressed and started to fear him and started carrying knives, Ford added. She said she never publicly discussed the incident until her appearance on the “Dr. Phil” show.
Ford went into detail about some of the accusations lodged against her father by other alleged victims, particularly the rape of the 11-year-old girl.
Ford said her father raped the girl “almost daily” for a year beginning when the girl was 11 and that a close family friend at least once saw him naked standing over the girl and kissing her while she lay clothed on a couch.
The incidents emerged when the girl told her grandfather, who immediately took her to the hospital, Ford said. The girl then went into hiding because she received multiple death threats from Hayden, Ford said.
“She felt like the world was against her,” Ford said of the girl.
Since the girl’s allegations emerged, Ford said a family member broke down crying and revealed that Hayden had sexually assaulted her twice when she was 12.
Another friend told her that Hayden grabbed her by the throat, threw her against a wall and kissed her.
Ford said most of these women would be filing reports with authorities.
Kris Ford, Hayden Ford’s husband, said he had never heard of the allegations until his father-in-law was in jail and called the alleged events “incredibly vile, disgusting and shameful.”
Ford stood by her father when the allegations first surfaced. “There was never any impropriety in our home,” Ford said in a written statement at the time. “He was and is a good father.” She later took to Facebook to express similar feelings.
But on Thursday she said Hayden asked her to make the statement and added, “That’s how I felt at the time.”
On Tuesday, Ford’s publicist, Jill Trammell, posted to her talent agency’s website a message in which she defended Ford’s decision to appear on “Dr. Phil.”
“She has gone public with her story for one reason only,” a portion of the post reads, “to help others find the strength and support to do the same.”
In a prepared statement included below Trammell’s post, Ford said she has nothing to gain from her interview on “Dr. Phil.”
“I just pray that our story will somehow prevent another victim from staying silent,” Ford said.
After the interview, the “Dr. Phil” show reported that Ford collapsed from exhaustion on the couch after discussing the allegations.
Following Hayden’s rape arrest in late August, the Discover Channel canceled the “Sons of Guns” show that followed Red Jacket Firearms, where both Hayden and his daughter worked. The gun shop around the same time announced it had cut ties with Hayden.
Ben Wallace contributed to this report.