On the long-running ABC daytime drama "General Hospital," Nancy Lee Grahn plays attorney Alexis Davis, mother of teenager Kristina (Lexi Ainsworth), whose father is the mobster Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard), who didn't know about his daughter for a long time.
In real life, Ainsworth is a mostly home-schooled teen taking online college courses, and Grahn is the single mother of a tween daughter, Katherine.
Over the course of this year, the two have been playing out a story line that's all too real for too many mothers and daughters. Kristina's charismatic boyfriend, Kiefer Bauer (Christian Alexander), while appealing and polite in front of adults, secretly beat his girlfriend.
At first, fearing her mobster father's wrath, Kristina lied about the assault, saying it was (slightly) older man Ethan Lovett (Nathan Parsons). But after a second beating from Kiefer, the truth came out. In an episode that aired in early April, Alexis, who witnessed the second assault, struck and killed Kiefer with her car.
While that last bit may not happen to all families, the fears mothers have for their daughters are very real.
"What I've done," Grahn says, "naturally, is research teen violence, because it now interests me, and also because I have a just-turned-12-year-old. I ended up talking to a few different organizations. I was curious about it in a general way and curious how Alexis, being an intelligent, seemingly devoted mother -- at least when I read my script, I'm devoted.
"But that being said, how can somebody like Alexis or any of you who are parents, how could this happen to you?"
While visiting an organization that deals with abusive teen relationships, Grahn ran into a "General Hospital" fan.
Grahn recalls, "She goes, 'This could happen to somebody like you, and it does, in fact happen a lot more than any of us would think.' … This does indeed happen, and parents don't see it. There's truth to it as well."
"I've gotten tweets," Ainsworth says, "from people who have shared their stories about being abused. It's scary that so many people can relate to this. I personally have never been in an abusive relationship."