After surviving abusive childhood, Sudbury woman provides '3 lessons to live by'

When Cindy Rocca was 15 years old she stood up to her violent, abusive father.

As a 15-year-old girl, Cindy Rocca saw parents’ violent relationship and said ‘this can’t be love,’

Sudbury's Cindy Rocca says she was able to turn a turbulent childhood into three powerful lessons she shares with others. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

When Cindy Rocca was 15 years old she says she stood up to her violent, abusive father.

It was an act that the now 42-year-old Sudbury woman says changed her life, and became a catalytic moment she draws on to help motivate others to make positive changes in their life.

Rocca recently competed in a provincial Toastmaster's competition, drawing on her dramatic past to help others with a blueprint she calls "3 lessons to live by."

And although her focus is on the present, it is those experiences from her past that she often reflects on.

"[My mother] often had a fat lip, cuts, and bruises on her face, because my father was violent and abusive," Rocca told CBC's Morning North. "He struggled with mental illness, and instead of getting the help he needed, would self-diagnose with alcohol."

"This is the situation I grew up in. Looking at that as young child, I thought, this can't be love. "

People you meet are either a blessing or a lesson

After a particularly violent episode, Rocca said she stood up to her father.

"I had worker from CAS come talk to me after someone reported the black eye I was sporting. At some point, when my father was starting one of this rages, I thought there has to be something else out there, something that will make me happy and let me live my life."

She ended up calling the CAS worker for further help, and after that lived in foster care.

"Everyone you meet is either a blessing or a lesson," Rocca said. "And my parents were a lesson in what not to do."

Cindy Rocca's Three Lessons

Love yourself first.

"My mother didn't love herself first, and was very afraid," Rocca said. "She couldn't leave. But when I stood up to [my father,] I was doing that."

Don't let your struggles define you

"My father let his mental illness define him," she said. "He never got the help he needed. Now, looking back, I think he let his struggles define him."

Create the life you want

"When I was in foster care, I was very good at blending in. Teenagers are very good at blending in," she said. "But teens are now realizing, I think, that you can be a unique, vibrant individual. If I'm following everyone else is it my life? Or someone else's?"

Rocca said that after her presentation at Toastmasters, people came up to her, congratulating her on her moving speech.

"Some [people] said 'I' going to share this because I want my wife, my daughter, my family, to live these lessons.'"