DOMESTIC violence victim and survivor Michelle Patterson is using her experiences to help families in crisis achieve their goals.
Ms Patterson experienced both mental and physical abuse over eight years while in a relationship.
It wasn't until the Mt Druitt Family Violence Service stepped in and provided support for the Oxley Park resident that she was able to finally leave the relationship.
"They saved my life," Ms Patterson said of the service.
"It was years of going back to the abusive relationship.
"They helped me to get the strength that I needed to walk away from the relationship."
But even after walking away, the tough times didn't stop for the mother of two small boys.
"I lived in a women's refuge for four months until they found us a house," she said.
Ms Patterson now shares her experiences with other families who seek advice and assistance in the service's Family by Family program.
The program, based in Mt Druitt, aims to reduce the number of families needing support from crisis services or child-protection intervention.
Instead of using government services, the program helps families who help other families within their communities.
Ms Patterson joined the program in December after hearing about its success at the Mt Druitt Family Violence Service where she now volunteers.
"I went through some tough times and I thought I could give something back."
Ms Patterson said the program has been worthwhile.
"One of the families I've been working with was looking for a place to live and I was able to help them.
"It felt unreal, it had been something that she [member of the family] had wanted for a really long time."