Oprah Winfrey has built her career and empire around helping others and has long been an advocate for helping underserved children. She’s inspiring to so many people for a multitude of reasons, but we’ve always been fans of her ability to be open and honest while striving to teach others. Her latest book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, extends upon her raw insight on life. Written with child psychiatrist and neurologist Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, it’s described as providing “powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand,” on Amazon. While promoting her new book, Oprah revealed her own traumatic experience growing up and the moments that have stuck with her through adulthood including being a survivor of domestic violence.
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While promoting her book on the Dr. Oz Show, per Entertainment Tonight, Winfrey shared that she had been abused by both her parents and grandparents growing up. She recalled one horrifying beating from her grandmother that left her bleeding on her church dress. “One of the welts on my back opened up and bloodied the dress,” she told Dr. Oz tearfully.
In another disturbing incident, Oprah described being woken up to her grandfather barging into the room where she and her grandmother slept together. “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.”
After that, Oprah shared that her grandmother had put tin cans around the chair so they would wake up if her grandfather tried to come back in. “And that is how we slept every night. I’m sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans. Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves,” Oprah said.
“Your relationships with people who cared about you — other than your family members — changes the way you view yourself and the way you view the world,” she told Dr. Oz.
It’s incredible to see Oprah be so vulnerable. Shifting the way we view and address trauma in our lives and in those of others can have a tremendously positive effect. We have no doubt that her latest book will spark a much-needed conversation, and we’re so grateful she has opened those doors.