When I tell people that I grew up in a home where there was severe domestic violence, I get a few different reactions. For some, it’s pity – “Oh. poor you. How did you ever survive that?”

For others, it’s disbelief – “But how could you have grown up like that? You’re so confident and self assured.”

There are also those people who, upon finding out about my childhood, treat me as if I’ve been tainted, as if somehow I’m no longer the same person they know.

Finally, there are those who blame me – “How could you let that happen to you? Why didn’t you just tell someone and ask for help?”

The answer to the last questions is: it’s not that easy. I was a CHILD. An innocent, little, defenceless  child. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it and I certainly didn’t deserve it. If you grew up like me, the same goes for you. It wasn’t your fault and you certainly didn’t deserve what you experienced.

Of course, growing up with violence and abuse in the home, I had to adapt to my environment, so that I could survive another day. Maybe if I was good, he wouldn’t get drunk and beat my mom, then come after me when everyone was asleep. I had to grow up fast and quickly took on the role of parenting my younger brother and eventually my mother as well. I learned many skills that most adults may not have mastered, but I had them down even though I was just a child. At a young age, I was already dealing with adult issues and because of that, I was uniquely prepared to face just about any challenge life dealt me later, for the rest of my childhood and into my adult life.

I’m not saying any of it was easy, it was the exact opposite. But I got through all of it and came out on the other side stronger than ever. I’ve gone through a divorce and have repeated the cycle of violence and abuse many times in adulthood – not as the abuser but as the victim. Then, I was able to escape my own violent relationships and now I stand up for others who are in similar situations.

The same can be true for you, if you chose to understand and accept it. The domestic violence you grew up with did not make you weak or damaged. It made you stronger – it gave you a unique strength and ability to overcome obstacles placed before you because you were conditioned to survive, to overcome as a small child. You carry that strength within you wherever you go, whatever challenge you face. You just may not know it. It’s time you did. The instant you realize how strong you really are and how much that strength is an edge for you compared to others, the closer you are to your goals and dreams.

Because of the domestic violence I experienced in my childhood, I have a story and I have a voice. I use my voice to yell my story from the rooftops to anyone who will listen, because if I can help just one person, I didn’t suffer in vain. If I can help just one person, I’ve made not only a difference in the world, but I’ve made a world of difference to that person. It makes everything I’ve gone through worth it.

Contributed by guest blogger Michelle Larouche
(Personal blog: http://amomslifeafterdomesticviolence.wordpress.com/