Oprah Winfrey Recalls Her Abusive Childhood In New Book; Says She Was Forced To Sleep On the Front Porch At Night

Oprah Winfrey’s life hasn’t always been picture perfect.

When she was a child, Oprah experienced a lot of trauma at the hands of family members. Though she’s been open about some of those harrowing experiences over the years, the famed talk show host gets candid about her abusive childhood in her new book, which details traumatic memories that have stuck with her all these years.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey during Global Citizen Prize Awards Special Honoring Changemakers In 2020 |2020 Global Citizen Prize/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Oprah Winfrey was abused by both her parents and grandparents growing up

For nearly four decades, Oprah has been living a lavish life as America’s Media queen. Though her days have been filled with happiness, love, and support since the rise of her career, the media mogul hasn’t always had the best life.

While promoting her new book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing, on the Dr. Oz Show, Oprah opened up about her traumatic childhood, which was filled with abuse and “loneliness.”

During the virtual interview, the media mogul shared that, as a child, she suffered a lot of abuse from her grandparents and her mother.

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She recalled one horrifying beating from her grandmother that left her bleeding through her church dress. “One of the welts on my back opened up and bloodied the dress,” Oprah tearfully recalled.

In another disturbing incident, Oprah remembers being woken up out of her sleep 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.”

Oprah recounted how her grandmother pushed her grandfather away and ran for help.

After that, Oprah’s grandmother would put tin cans around a chair in front of the door so they would wake up if her grandfather tried to come back in.

“And that is how we slept every night,” she shared. “I’m sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans. Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves.”

Oprah has traumatic memories of living with her mother

After her grandmother died, Oprah was sent from Mississippi to Milwaukee to live with her mother, from whom she suffered more abuse.

In her new book, The Oprah Winfrey Show host detailed her first night with her mother, revealing that she was forced to sleep alone on the front porch of the house they were staying in.

“When I went to live with my mother at six-years-old, I did not feel welcome. 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,'” Oprah wrote. “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.”

Naturally, Oprah was afraid to sleep on the porch by herself but noted that her religious faith gave her comfort.

“I imagined a robber snatching me from the porch or someone breaking through the windows and choking me,” she shared. “That first night, I got on my knees and prayed to God to send angels to protect me. HE did. And that was my first lesson in learning other people (even your mother) can disappoint you, but God doesn’t.”

Oprah used these childhood experiences to strengthen herself

Though these traumatic childhood moments stuck with her throughout the years, Oprah has used these memories to give herself the strength to move forward and find happiness in life.

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“I firmly believe in this idea of post-traumatic wisdom, which we talk about in the end of What Happened to You?” Oprah tells Dr. Oz. “I now know from interviewing over 50,000 people over the years and my own personal experiences that everything that has happened to you can be used to strengthen you if you allow it. If you’re open to it.”

She continued, “So, it’s because of my own mistakes and my own observations about life and paying attention that I now can live, truly I can say, the most peaceful life of anybody I know. But it has taken work to get here.”