"I've been through certain things that have sucked the life out of me . . . just the light about me was gone. I was just a dark person," she explains. "So I had to leave that situation and kind of come into my own again and I did."
Hough's character, Katie, in the film adaptation of Nicholas Spark's bestselling book, falls in love with a widower after escaping a abusive ex-boyfriend. "Being Katie, I relate a lot to her," she tells ET Online. "The fact that she had been in one situation that just sucked the life out of her, and it was a bad situation. She needed to change and move on and kind of find her own again. And through that you find love and everything."
The former Dancing With the Stars pro, who has been dating Ryan Seacrest for over two years, told Cosmopolitan magazine she was "abused, mentally, physically, everything" while studying dance at London's Italia Conti Academy of the Arts.
"I was 10 years old looking like I was 28, being a very sensual dancer," Hough explained. "I was a tormented little kid who had to put on this sexy facade because that was my job and my life. But my heart was the same, and I was this innocent little girl. I wanted so much love."