Shania Twain details family abuse and painful divorce in new memoir

Shania-Twain-book

Shania Twain’s personal struggles are already country music legend: Her poverty-stricken family, her struggle to support her younger relatives after the death of her parents, her recent divorce from Mutt Lange. But the 45-year-old singer’s new autobiography, From This Moment On (on sale today), is packed with intimate details that may surprise even her most dedicated fans. Here are a few of the most shocking:

  •  Twain says her family was physically and emotionally abused for years by Jerry Twain, her mother’s husband. (Twain is estranged from her biological father.) In one chilling passage, Twain recalls watching Jerry plunge her mother’s head into the toilet repeatedly after knocking her out cold. Years later, 11-year-old Shania (then called Eilleen) would summon the courage to fight back against her father. “I ran up behind my dad with a chair in both hands and smashed it across his back… Before I could get away, he punched me in the jaw. Adrenaline pumping, I punched him back!”
  • Twain also says she was sexually abused by Jerry, who muttered obscene slurs at her while she was in bed and once fondled her when she was a teenager. She eventually convinced her mother to run away with the family to a shelter in Toronto.
  •  Living in poverty in rural Canada often forced the family to make do with little. Twain recalls days on end when the family had nothing to eat but “goulash”: dry bread with boiled milk and brown sugar. She also mentions wearing bread bags on her feet when her family couldn’t afford proper boots for keeping warm in the winter.
  • Twain says she was devastated when her husband, Mutt Lange, left her for Marie-Anne Thiébaud in 2008. “I’ll be honest: when your husband leaves you, and falls into the arms of your close friend, your self-esteem can really suffer.”
  • Twain begged Marie-Anne Thiébaud to leave Lange in an email: “I don’t want life or love anymore… Why are you torturing me? Let it go. Pleeeeeaaaaaaasssseee!!!!!”
  • During the split, Twain cried constantly and took five baths a day. At one point, she helped herself recover from the pain of the split by allowing herself to call Marie-Anne Thiébaud an female anatomical epithet . “It was kind of cathartic. (Harsh, I know, but after all, it is only a word.) My emotions were so balled up inside me that it felt good to release.”
  • Now 45 and remarried to Marie-Anne’s ex-husband, Frédéric Thiébaud, Twain deals with constant anxiety about her appearance and the effects of age. “I’m pretty insecure about my changing body… I’m letting ‘the girls’ hang loose under my sweat clothes around the house and when someone comes to the door, I cross my arms under them for support.”

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  • me

    Interesting that when her career was at an all time high, she didn’t have a single bad thing to say about Jerry Twain, even though he was dead at the time. I remember her on Behind The Music – she couldn’t say enough good things about him.

    • Kelly

      That is so strange, I was thinking the same thing! I watched the behind the music special years ago and she didn’t say anything bad about, acted like he was the best stepfather in the world. Why say all of these things now? Doesn’t even seem like the same guy. Strange.

      • KC

        Pain sells.

      • Razor

        I always love women who jump on the “she wants publicity, so she must be lying” bandwagon when it comes to a celebrity revealing details of abuse. I bet you like to watch “The Bachelor” because it’s so nice to see two people really fall in love, too.

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        ~~~~~~~~I am not spitting out venom. I am a big fan. I just question the difference in the stories. Why is it wrong to ask questions?
        —-

      • Tom

        Because the music industry is full of crap, not her.

      • talkin’

        From then to now I would imagine there have been some intensive therapy sessions. Give the woman room.

      • Jonathan Franz will never happen, Oprah!

        What I found odd is that on her Oprah appearance last week, she talked about what a great guy her stepfather was, and how everyone loved him, even as she told a horrific story about how he knocked her mother out and kept dunking her head in the toilet! We survivors of abuse are an odd lot…

      • karen

        IF YOU understand child abuse, then you would see she was trying to remember only the good in her childhood. It affects your self worth; to tell everyone how much you suffered at the hands of a parent,t is very difficult.
        She had made it ‘huge’ in her career. There was no need to tell of the pain she endured. She wanted to pretend she lived a normal life, why not? She didn’t need pity.
        Once her life fell apart, she was able to express the hurt in her life. It is a part of the healing we must go through to get to the other side. Admire her courage, respect her and don’t snip at her with snide comments about pain sells. Don’t be a dip!
        If you didn’t suffer child abuse, lucky you, many have and need to be respected for surviving it; especially when they do outstanding things with their lives. She could have ended up a drug addict, married many times and drifting through life. You go shania! Proud of you woman!!!!!

    • JD

      The article says it was her bio-dad that was abusive, not her step-dad.

      • @JD

        Read it again, hot shot. It was her stepdad Jerry Twain.

      • JD

        Sorry, I misread it.

      • JD

        @@JD, I wasn’t trying to be rude, just trying to add to the conversation. Apologies for not being perfect.

      • bianca

        Its all good. People make mistakes. I had to read that part twice to understand who the abuser was. The “hotshot” reference was uncalled for.

      • Dee

        Shania..I love you, always will, but why the negative comments all of the sudden about Jerry? People were denouncing this man as your father, more less, and now he’s done all fo this stuff…why is this coming out in the open?

      • Mary

        @JD – The confusion resulted from the following statement in the article: Years later, 11-year-old Shania (then called Eilleen) would summon the courage to fight back against her father. “I ran up behind my dad with a chair in both hands and smashed it across his back…

    • LD

      I thought the same about the “Behind the music” special. I thought she said that they were so in love that it was the inspiration to all her love songs. ?? I think it is odd, so many of us remember that.

    • THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

      (1) I’m pretty sure Shania has enough millions that she isn’t hurting to make more money to stay alive or pay her bills. She doesn’t need to execute publicity stunts in order to get paid (2) Is Shania only allowed to talk about her life when other people think it would be best for her to do so? Or should she talk about it when she is ready to do so? At this point in her career, with her divorce, getting re-married, and all of the emotional stuff she is dealing with, why would she NOT want to talk about everything now and lay it all out there in the open? Besides, I’m pretty sure that even if she randomly released the book with nothing to promote people would still spew nonsense about her because that’s how a lot of people are, cynical and judgmental (3) Shania has enough fans and has sold enough albums that she doesn’t need to do anything to stay popular (4) Do any of you think or feel anything when you spit out your venom like snakes?

      • LD

        I am not spitting out venom. I am a big fan. I just question the difference in the stories. Why is it wrong to ask questions?

      • nm

        hopefully even small minded people could at least understand how humiliating it must be to have that in your past. Also to have it in your past while being famous. I would be interested to see how open you would be if you were abused.

      • Lil

        I agree it is very difficult to come from an abusive past. Then having your husband a man you love and trust, have an affair and leave her with her best friend is stab in the back. You’re one classy woman Shania.

    • Courtney

      I remember that Behind The Music. I am so shocked by her comments. Nothing but nice things were said about that man. It appeared as if he rescued them when he married her Mom. Something is just not right here.

      • Jo

        Me too. When I heard of the abuse, I assumed it was the biodad and that’s why they were estranged. Really shocked that it was the step dad.

    • Lincoln

      So true. I remember when there was debate about her last name. There was an article that came out years ago saying how her last name really isn’t Twain and she’s not half Ojibwa, as initially thought. She spoke about being devasted when the article came out because, in her own words: “who are they to say he’s not my daddy?” She felt hurt and she was always incessant about carrying his last name. It’s all so odd that now we come to find out he was abusive. I love her and I support her but I’m a little baffled. Can’t wait to hear what she says about this on Oprah today, if this even gets talked about.

      • Princey

        I remember the exact same thing. I’ll have to hear what she has to say about it all. Maybe she felt like the abuse was none of our business at the time. Now she may be in a different space.

    • california

      Its really none of our business , how would anyone like to share the deepest pain with the whole world while trying to make them feel good with their music.

  • UGH

    I’ve been wondering if she could still have it in her to sell a new record in big numbers without the guidance of Mutt Lange. I don’t consider her Country but more of a pop artist. She should go back and do a “return to roots” Country record, IMO. Her brand of “Country” kind of ruined Country (along with Garth Brooks) for me.

  • Canadian

    Wow Sad Stuff. Sexual and family violence, That is so sad! You know people sometimes it’s best to keep details like this private because Shania was happy then with Mutt! He hurt her I guess she felt she needed to get her self out there and her story told! God Bless her that women has been through hell

    • Linda

      I agree. It is very sad stuff. I understand why she could not open back then. Now, she is willing to get it all out there to heal and move on. She is very beautiful, strong and talented individual. I also agree that this is one woman that does not need the publicity or the money. It will be great to see her come back.

  • Jake

    It takes a lot of courage and strength to talk about your past especially physical and emotional abuse. Maybe she just wasn’t ready for the world to know about her true past. I think she is an incredible entertainer…Mutt Lange can write music and produce but when it boils down to it, it was Shania who sang those song and Shania who got and stage and performed. Not Mutt.

    • nancy mccarthy

      This is all so true.It is best if sexually and physically abused people talk to someone about it, but it takes a while sometimes to be able to do it.Her voice, sound,and everything is what I have cared about.If Elvis had lived, I would have still loved his music even if he was 90yrs.I don’t care about her appearance,she will always be a great singer.God Bless Her and heal her.

  • Karate Pants

    Too bad she didn’t save those plastic bread bags, sounds like she could use something to hold those “bags” up.

    • karen

      What an ass you are! Shame on your comment! It is people like you who make women feel awful about maturing!
      If you are a CHILD being abused, you are not able to defend yourself against a grown adult. Not only do you not understand why they are doing these things, you can’t fight back and win.
      She struggeld to find some normal part of her childhood to remember and cherished the good times she kept in her mind. THINK about it, he more than likely was a great guy to those around him, most abuser are. He was able to allow himself to feel his failures at home and took it out on his wife and kids!
      People, Thank God you don’t have to understand why she did the things she did. If you were a child in that situation you would be struggling to make some sense of WHY ME? What did I do wrong to make him hate me so? To make it more confusing, he could be kind and loving, when he did, she felt whole and loved, those are your good times, you tend to hold on to them and make them bigger than they were! She is a remarkab le woman, talented and loving to her family. She is a rare find these days! Goid bless her and may she find true peace in her life.

  • Ron Young

    Twain recalls watching Jerry plunge her mother’s head into the toilet repeatedly after knocking her out cold… I’m letting ‘the girls’ hang loose under my sweat clothes around the house and when someone comes to the door, I cross my arms under them for support.”

    …Must be good reading…

    • Mary Iwanow

      I wonder if her new HUSBAND Fred has read her book…seems to be alot of them still on the shelf at stores and at half price too…hmmm, tells me something.

  • me

    I’m conflicted. As an abuse victim, I don’t want to doubt anyone’s story but I instantly do when the first claims of abuse also coincide with the release of a book/movie/album, etc. I believed Robin Givens and Denise Richards yet I can’t put stock in Shania or Meredeith Baxter. It’s just horror to be terrorized by someone in your own home but I find it worse to make a claim just for personal gain.

    • E Benoit

      If you have ever seen the made for TV movie about Shania there are mega hints in there that there was abuse. As you must know, as an abuse victim yourself, there is always a Love-hate relationship when the abuser is supposed to be your care taker. You “have to” love them, but secretly you hate them and get very good at pretending nothings wrong, and you feel ashamed and certainly don’t want the world knowing about it. Maybe even write songs about fantasy love instead in order to cope.
      Growing up and realising that the past has never really been dealt with just pushed under the rug, is a huge learning opportunity and it really helps to write it down. And if she can’t sing anymore (as she says) then getting it to the fans in the form of a book is the way to do it.

      • DSE

        I think you really got it here…exactly what i was thinking..

      • Ray

        E Benoit, I think you must be very smart. People who’ve been abused become experts at pretending everything is okay. They’re often hiding the truth even from themselves because it’s too painful even to think about. Eventually it becomes freeing to get the story out there, either to just friends or the public at large if you’re famous. And people get to that point in their own time.

    • karen

      IF you are an abuse victim, you should have some understanding of this situation. How could she sort out her life, without starting from the beginning. Abuse scars us, it hurts our self worth and distorts how we view life. To grow, one must have the courage to face that abuse and take it apart to understand how it affected us to correct it. It is hard enough to do that privately, but to have to share it with the world at large, to have those who lack understanding or compassion make snide comments about your pain, requires a very strong person. My money is on Shania!

  • Elk River Rancher

    “Twain says her family was physically and emotionally abused for years by Jerry Twain, her mother’s husband. (Twain is estranged from her biological father.) In one chilling passage, Twain recalls watching Jerry plunge her mother’s head into the toilet repeatedly after knocking her out cold. Years later, 11-year-old Shania (then called Eilleen) would summon the courage to fight back against her father. “I ran up behind my dad with a chair in both hands and smashed it across his back… Before I could get away, he punched me in the jaw. Adrenaline pumping, I punched him back!”
    # Twain also says she was sexually abused by Jerry, who muttered obscene slurs at her while she was in bed and once fondled her when she was a teenager. She eventually convinced her mother to run away with the family to a shelter in Toronto.”

    #At JD: you’re right, the article states that at 11 yrs. of age, Shania (then using her birth name, of course), summonsed courage to fight back against her father – it does not say ‘step-father’. The article then mentions Shania says she was ‘also’ abused by the step-father – so, the article certainly indicates abuse, both physical and emotional, by both male ‘father figures’. JD read and interpreted what was reported correctly. The article may be correct, or may be misleading, by not having used ‘step’ father in that particular sentence.

    As for not having reported the dysfunction in her family sooner, when you’re at the top of your game, it’s a bit … well, ‘whiney’ to complain about how awful your childhood was – that it took more years to be able to discuss it is not unusual, not surprising, and in no way ‘negates’ the reality.

    • Just Someone

      Shania has always called Jerry her father so that is why the wording is misleading.

    • JD

      Thank you.

    • Hannah

      Jerry adopted Shania and her two sisters, Jill and Carrie Ann when he married her Mother. So he is her Father, not her step-father.

  • Elk River Rancher

    @ ‘me’, the book reveals the reality of Shania’s childhood – thus, it’s perfectly logical that Shania would be discussing those childhood issues now, with the release of the book. It’s not to ‘publicize’ the book, but to discuss what is revealed in the book.

    • Joanne

      The article clearly states that her biological father and husband abandoned her. Her stepfather mentally and sexually abused her. I doubt anyone doubts that this is the truth.

  • Mackenzie Phillips

    This is kids stuff…

    • karen

      Hardly, it is trauma! You certainly know about trauma as a child. So, how about a little compassion?

  • Iakovos

    I always take celebrity memoirs with a grain fo salt, and I am not sure the writer can ever succeed. Just finished Susan Lucci’s pleasant book (no real shockers or drama) and was left wanting more, but more is often what we do not want to hear. Maybe we do not need all these books and maybe some of the experiences we had should be upfront from the start. ???

  • bread

    I don’t believe hhher. I think she’s full of shImt

    • renee

      Bread,
      How can you say she’s “full of shlmt”? Any psychologist will tell you (I am one) that 1 out of 4 girls will be molested before they reach the age of 10 in our society. It is HUGELY prevalent, and not until mid-life can people get over the shame to come forward – I believe Shania.

      • dea

        i doubt you are a psychologist renee. If so, we are in a world of trouble.

    • karen

      I feel sorry for someone as closed as you are! You have been damaged, or you are very selfish and chidlish!
      Heaven forbid you have any kind of suffering, but if you do, remember your unkind remarks here and hope people are less judgemental of you!
      .

  • Isaiah

    What a shame shania but we love you

  • Tiago Fernandes

    I’m with you Shania
    love you very much, and surely you will shine again.
    Brazil loves you!

  • Ginny

    I always thought there had to be a history of abuse due to her song, Black Eyes, Blue Tears. It sounded too personal, like she had lived it. Now we find out she actually had lived it. God Bless Her and all the people who are enduring it even now.

    • helenann

      “I’d rather die standing/than livin’ on my knees/beggin’ please…” Boy, did that song help me through some difficult things…

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