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Oprah Winfrey Just Revealed She Was Physically Abused As A Child

Updated May 10, 2021

Oprah Winfrey might be the queen whose success so many of us aspire to, but like so many her life is one built from a road of trauma. Her latest book What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing speaks to these traumas and stressful experience and was written alongside child psychiatrist and neurologist Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph.D.

In her most recent appearance on the Dr. Oz Show, Winfrey revealed that part of her trauma which she touches on in the book, includes the abuse she experienced from both her parents and grandparents.

Speaking about her experience with child domestic and physical abuse, Winfrey revealed that one beating from her grandmother left her bloody while in her church dress.

“One of the welts on my back opened up and bloodied the dress,” she revealed through tears. She went onto recall a time in her life when she woke up while in bed with her grandmother to find her grandfather strangling his wife.

“My grandmother and I slept in the bed together. My grandfather was in a room on the other side of the wall and one night in the middle of the night, my grandfather gets out of bed and comes into the room,” Winfrey explained. “And I wake up and he has his hands around my grandmother’s neck and she is screaming.”

Winfrey shared that after her grandmother managed to push her grandfather away, they both slept in the room after that her grandmother put a chair underneath their bedroom’s doorknob with tin cans around the chair. “And that is how we slept every night. I’m sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans,” she explained. “Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves.”

In her new book, Winfrey revealed that after her grandmother died, she moved from Mississippi to Milwaukee to live with her mother.

There, she was forced to sleep on the front porch of the house where her mother resided. “The night I arrived in Milwaukee, the woman my mother was boarding with, Ms. Miller, took one look at me and said, ‘She’ll have to sleep on the porch,'” Winfrey recalled in her book. “My mother said, ‘All right.’ As I watched my mother close the house door to go to the bed where I thought I’d sleep, I was consumed with a terrified sense of loneliness that brought me to tears.”

Winfrey went onto recall that the incident with the bloody dress happened after her grandmother caught her playing with water.

Speaking to Dr. Oz, she recalled how as a little girl she had been carrying a bucket of water to bring back home. “As I was bringing the water back, I was, like, playing with the water with my fingers like that in the water and my grandmother was looking out the window,” Winfrey recalled. “And when I brought the bucket in and I’m sloshing the bucket cause I’m a little girl, and she’s like “Were you playing in the water? Did you have your fingers in that water? That’s our drinking water.”

Winfrey’s latest book isn’t totally autobiographical, chapters dive into the connection between trauma and well-being, and Dr. Perry insight into who to handle traumatic experiences from their childhood. “The journey from traumatized to typical to resilient helps create a unique strength and perspective,” Dr. Perry write in the book. “That journey can create post-traumatic wisdom.”

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