Derek Hough

Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for GLSEN Respect Awards-Los Angeles

Derek Hough may be one of Hollywood's hottest dancers, but life wasn't always so sweet.

The Dancing With the Stars pro suffered horrific bullying when he was a child.

"On one occasion, they would tie my ankles up with a very rough rope, hang me from a tree upside down and spit on me and call me names and even held a gun to my head," Hough remembered last night at GLSEN's Respect Awards, where he was honored by the LGBT student advocacy group with the Inspiration Award.

He was too scared to let anyone know what was going on. "I didn't tell anybody—my parents, teachers, my friends, my sisters," Hough said. "I kept it to myself."

Hough told me it got so bad that his family decided to move.

DWTS, Derek Hough, Bethany Mota

ABC/Adam Taylor

But then came dance. "It became my safe place, the place where I could grow and flourish and where I could find those answers," he said.

As fans already know, Hough's career not only includes DWTS, but he also acts (most recently during a guest spot on Nashville), sings and now even flips houses with his best friend and fellow DWTS pro Mark Ballas.

"I know now the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence," Hough said, adding, "Often times we allow ourselves to suffer a lot more than we need to by keeping it to ourselves and carrying the burden alone.

Amber Riley and Derek Hough

ABC/Kelsey McNeal

"Let me tell you right now, you are not alone," he continued. "Seeking help requires incredible strength and incredible courage. The most powerful weapon you have against bullying is your voice."

Also honored last night were Julia Roberts and Danny Moder with the Humanitarian Award and NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt with the Chairman's Award. Cliff Tang was named Student Advocate of the Year.

The gala took place at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with presenters and guests including Amy Poehler, Ryan Murphy, Robbie Rogers, Fashion Police's George Kotsiopoulos, Jason Collins, Jessica Capshaw, Elisabeth Rohm and Kirsten Vangsness and Shemar Moore from Criminal Minds.

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