Mackenzie Phillips Reveals Why She Forgave Dad for Abusive Relationship

She revealed in her memoir that she and musician father John Phillips had an incestuous relationship.

The story of Mackenzie Phillips and her father John Phillips is a very dark one, and it's something she has continued to open up about since first coming forward with her claims of abuse in 2009. In a recent conversation with her sister Chynna Phillips posted on Chynna's YouTube channel, 64-year-old Mackenzie shared more about the incestuous relationship she had with the Mamas & the Papas musician and revealed why she forgave her late father even though she has been criticized for doing so.

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Mackenzie shocked fans as well as other members of her show business family when she accused her father of incest and abuse in her memoir, High on Arrival. She said that John first raped her in 1979 when she was 19 years old and had passed out from doing drugs; she has had issues with substance abuse for much of her life.

During an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show (as reported by Good Morning America), Mackenzie said that when she confronted her father about raping her, he replied, "Raped you? Don't you mean made love?" She also told the host that using drugs affected her ability to understand what was happening and make the right choices. "Over time your perception of things as they should be, the world as it is, the rules of society, becomes warped and twisted," she said.

From that point, Mackenzie and her father had a sexual relationship over the next 10 years.

"It became a consensual relationship over time," she said on the show. "I can't believe I'm the only one this happened to." But, while she described their physical relationship as "consensual," Mackenzie also said, "No matter what kind of incest, it is an abuse of power … a betrayal of trust."

Mackenzie Phillips and John Phillips in 1981
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

The actor said she put a stop to the relationship when she found out she was pregnant and didn't know if John or her then-husband Shane Fontayne was the father. "The implications, the reality of that, I had an abortion," Mackenzie said. "And I never let him touch me again."

In her new interview with sister Chynna, Mackenzie shared why she forgave John, who died in 2001 at the age of 65.

"Dad was something else," she said, as reported by Us Weekly. "And I get a lot of criticism and a lot of trolling online for having forgiveness in my heart. Forgiveness, because forgiving is for me, not for the other person. And forgiving doesn't mean I cosign or agree with what I'm forgiving him for. It's very complicated … and yet I am at peace."

Chynna told Mackenzie that John had "so many different levels" to him. "Obviously he's an amazing songwriter and, you know I loved his laugh, and yet there was this whole other side to Dad that was, I mean, kind of, like a monster," the Wilson Phillips singer said. Mackenzie responded that he had a "very, very dark, dark side."

Mackenzie is the daughter of John and his first wife, Susan Adams. They also welcomed a son, Jeffrey Phillips. Chynna is John's daughter with his second wife, Michelle Phillips. He also has two more children, Bijou and Tamerlane Phillips with third wife Genevieve Waite. After Mackenzie came forward with her story, Michelle and Waite publicly accused her of lying about John.

Chynna has said she believes Mackenzie, and she reiterated this during the YouTube video. "When I stood by you I meant it with all my heart," she said, "and I believed you and I want you to know I was proud of you for coming out."

If you have experienced sexual assault or abuse and are in need of crisis support, you can call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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