Oprah Winfrey opens up on heartbreakingly violent abuse she suffered during her 'lonely' childhood

Oprah Winfrey reflects on the horrific abuse in her new book

Oprah Winfrey
(Image credit: Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey has opened up on the harrowing abuse she endured as a child. 

In poignant words from her new book What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, the iconic TV presenter and interviewer extraordinaire shared moments of her "lonely" childhood, recalling how she was beaten by her grandmother.

Touching on her heartbreaking experiences with abuse as a little girl, Oprah penned notes on her life in Mississippi with her abusive grandmother, who regularly "whupped" her.

Oprah was later "shuttled" between living with her father in Nashville and with her mother in Milwaukee, where she was made to sleep on the outside porch, facing "a terrified sense of loneliness".

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What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry, $22.30/£16 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry explore how childhood trauma impacts our lives and how we can grow and heal from the things we suffered in the early years of life. 

Discussing the book with Dr. Oz ahead of the release this week, Oprah recounted more devastating childhood memories.

Opening up on a time when she was violently punished for dipping her hands in the family's drinking water, Oprah said, "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."

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She added, "She’s like ‘Were you playing in the water? Did you have your fingers in that water? That’s our drinking water'."

Sharing that she got a "really bad whipping for it", Oprah went on to say, "Later, when I put on my clothes to go to church, one of the welts from my back opened up and bloodied the, bloodied the dress, so, my emotion now is not because I feel such deep pain about it, I just feel pain for that little girl."

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Oprah penned the book about childhood trauma with psychiatrist Dr. Bruce Perry, putting her name to the project in order to give the book "as much visibility as possible".

Announcing the news of the new book back in April, Oprah shared her hopes for it to help others come to terms with suffering childhood trauma similar to her own and to help those around those suffering to understand it.

"We hope that through these pages, we help people hold more empathy for themselves and others as we learn to shift from asking 'What’s wrong with you?' to 'What happened to you?'," she wrote on Twitter at the time.