EXCLUSIVE: Steve Smith opens up about growing up with domestic violence

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Steve Smith is opening up about a disturbing truth that he has kept private for most of his life.

"You've never talked publicly about this?" Channel 9 anchor Erica Bryant asked.

"I've never talked publicly about this," Smith said.

From the time he was 4 or 5 years old, Smith said his mother was involved in a series of abusive relationships, and he saw it all.

"The first time I remember my mom getting punched … they got into an argument and like a coward, he hit my mom," Smith described. "Being a young kid … police at your house, the ambulance … it was probably the first time as a kid I think that I hated someone."

These are feelings Smith said no child should have to experience, but as he got older the violence continued.

In fact, he said it became the norm.

"He was standing on top of her with his hand raised and she was crying and he was calling her names. I was so concerned that I slept with a machete under my pillow to protect myself, my brother and my mom if I had to," Smith said.

To this day, Smith clearly remembers a low point -- the day his mother married one of her abusers.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Erica Bryant's interview with Steve Smith

"I remember sitting there and thinking, 'I lost my mom today,'" Smith said.

"Why did you have that feeling?" Bryant asked.

"Because I saw how he treated her," Smith said.

"I felt hurt and I felt like she chose those guys over me and my brother and to see what he was doing to her and she still chose him. That's where some of that anger came from. I felt I wasn't good enough, I felt abandoned a little, and that fueled the anger," Smith said.

Sports became Smith's escape and he moved to a new chapter in his life.

He never talked about the abuse, but after counseling and a heart-to-heart with his mother, Smith said he is finally free and has her blessing to talk openly about their past.

Smith, 34, and his wife reside in Charlotte and have three children with another one on the way.

They are now serving the community through the Steve Smith Family Foundation.

They have assembled a team to help them champion a cause that is personal -- supporting women and children impacted by domestic violence.

"I've come out of that storm. My mom has come out of that storm. We're healthy. We are living fine, then why can't I be an example to say, 'Hey, you can get through that storm,'" Smith said.

Smith and his family volunteered at the domestic violence shelter. His Family Foundation will pay for all the children at the shelter to attend summer camp at the YMCA.

Bryant also asked Smith what he would say to women and children in abusive relationships and their abusers.

Hear what Smith had to say tonight at 11 p.m. on Channel 9.

For more information on The Steve Smith Family Foundation, click here.

If you are in a domestic violence situation, contact Safe Alliance: 704-332-2513 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).