Robin Givens

She says she brutalized her throughout their marriage. Today, after years of headlines and many rumors, Robin Givens is breaking her silence about her violent marriage to former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.

Robin says Mike was physically abusive even before they were wed. "After that, I said, 'I'm not going to see this man anymore.' And then the phone calls started coming. … And he was crying, telling me how much he loved me. And I'm going to say something that might sound very, very, very, very strange: I honestly thought, 'Wow, this man must really love me.'"

After a whirlwind courtship, Mike and Robin eloped. But Robin says the abuse increased. She tried to hide the truth from everyone, but her mother finally figured it out and confronted her. "I knew that it was dangerous, and I knew that it had gotten so tough, emotionally, but we were just so in it together," she says of her relationship with Mike. "It was such a cycle. The highs were so high and the lows were so low."
Robin Givens and Oprah

Oprah: You might ask yourself, "Why would Robin—a young, beautiful, successful woman—stay?"

Robin: With Michael, I felt like I had a purpose. I really felt like I had to protect him and love him and convince him that the world can be an okay place—I wanted to love all of his hurts and all of his pain away.

Oprah: Did you love him? Were you in love with him?

Robin: I was. The love that I felt for Michael I still feel now. It's a love that doesn't go away. You know? It's a part of my heart that belongs to him.
Robin Givens

When Robin Givens and Mike Tyson sat down with Barbara Walters in September 1989 to confront the rumors that their marriage was in trouble, millions watched. When asked if Mike ever hit her, Robin skirted the issue, saying "He shakes. He pushes. He swings."

Oprah: Do you regret the interview?

Robin: Well, I think that I was in no state to really sit and do anything and try to handle it. You know, I was such a precocious kind in the sense that [I thought] "I can handle it. I can make it work. I can go talk to the doctor and I'm going to save him and he's going to take medicine." I couldn't handle anything.

Oprah: You were pretty vilified at the time. … Let's address the gold digging.

Robin: This is what I would say about the gold digging: If I was digging gold, I had dug and hit the jackpot. There wasn't anything I wanted that I couldn't have. … You can't drive all those cars. I couldn't wear all those diamonds. … And if I was digging gold…why the hell, excuse me, would I leave [with nothing?] I didn't leave with pennies. I didn't leave my house with anything. I just left.
Robin Givens and Oprah

Robin says the pain she's caused her family has been the most devastating part of all. Robin's mother and sister were invited to the show, but didn't want to come.

"I grew up with a single mother," Robin says. "My mom raised me. She worked so hard to give us the best education. … Just to try to make it good. Let us have all these opportunities. And I felt like, in one fell swoop, just by saying 'yes' [to marry Mike] that night, I had ruined everything that she had worked for. I think that's what made me feel such overwhelming sadness—that I had actually involved…people that loved me. It wasn't only me now. It was everybody that I had involved."
Robin Givens

It was after she realized what she had allowed to happen to herself and to her family that Robin sunk into a deep depression.

"I looked back and I said, 'What happened to me?'" Robin says. "When the adrenaline left my body and I saw everything for the first time, I felt shame and embarrassment and overwhelming guilt for what I had done and had allowed to happen in my life and in the lives of people that I love. I became very sad. I mean, very, very sad to the point that I was immobilized. And I could not get out of bed for days at a time. I was diagnosed as clinically depressed. It took me a while to realize I was depressed and to get help and to get over the shame of what had just robbed me of so much time. I was unable to participate in life."
Robin Givens and Oprah

After years of depression and living in a fog, Robin decided she wanted to change her life. She became committed to getting well—deciding she wanted a successful life and not necessarily a successful career.

"I talked to a doctor every day and I prayed a lot. … I started at the bottom rung of just being happy," she says.

For Robin, getting help was the beginning of a whole new life. She says she has redefined herself and her dreams. Since her divorce, she started a family and she says she has focused on trying to be the best mom she can be to her two sons.

"I'm in love with those two boys," Robin says. "And life is so good. And I'm here to say also that I'm sure there are people who have felt like I felt. Like maybe they couldn't go on. And you can turn a corner. You can be happy again. You can live."