Winfrey discusses abuse during chat with Letterman

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Oprah Winfrey took the stage at Ball State University with David Letterman Monday night.

Eyewitness News was there when the two television icons walked onto campus together.

Letterman has hosted top names at his alma mater in Muncie, in a lecture and workshop series bearing his name. In front of a packed house, including students who camped out all night to see her, Winfrey took Monday's audience and Letterman on a tour of her life.

"I wouldn't take nothing for my journey now. That's an old spiritual," Winfrey said, explaining that she wouldn't change it.

The 58-year-old Winfrey told her audience that, like herself, they, too, were on their own journey.

"Everybody is on a journey, the adventure of your life is to discover what your journey is and everything that has ever happened in our life contributes to the call and to the journey," said Winfrey.

Winfrey's journey started in rural Mississippi. That's where she was raised until she was six by her grandmother.

"I was raised in an environment that would, clearly, would be called abusive today," she explained.

"You were struck," asked Letterman.

"Oh, I was beaten regularly," Winfrey answered.

She then talked about her years in Milwaukee living with her mother, where Winfrey said she was raped at nine and sexually abused from 10 until she reached 14.

"I really did believe that there was a power greater than myself, ruling my life. I really did believe that it's not going to always be this way," Winfrey said.

Winfrey became pregnant at 14 and went to live with her father in Nashville. The baby died soon after it was born.

"This human experience of yours is stunning," said Letterman. "Because it's going in one direction at the speed of light and then suddenly it turns around."

"Well, Dave, I have to tell you I never thought of it as stunning, cause it just is my life. But maybe it is," said Winfrey. "I've never had therapy, but I did have 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' and I paid attention to all of those experts over the years."

Through it all, Winfrey explained she has learned the common thread uniting everyone.

"Every interview, regardless of who you're talking to, everybody's looking for the same thing and that is validation. That's the common thread that runs through our human experience," Winfrey said.

Winfrey told the audience even though their experiences may be different, "The reason why I was able to be the number one talk show all those years is because I fundamentally understood and continue to understand that there is no difference in your life and mine. There's no difference. There's no difference in the value of your life and the value of my life."

Winfrey said life is ultimately about finding your calling, your purpose, and taking the road there.

Read more about the event.

From the Associated Press

Oprah Winfrey says victims of physical and verbal abuse spend years rebuilding their self-esteem.

The media mogul recounted her own childhood physical and sexual abuse with David Letterman on Monday during an appearance at Ball State University as part of a lecture series the late-night television talk show host sponsors.

Winfrey told him, "Anybody who has been verbally abused or physically abused will spend a great deal of their life rebuilding their esteem."

The Star-Press of Muncie reports the two discussed their very different upbringings, the quality of television programming and other topics.

About 3,000 Ball State students and others attended the conversation at Emens Auditorium on the Muncie campus.

Hundreds of Ball State students camped out all night earlier this month to get free tickets for the event.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)