'You don't even realize that it's happening': Graduate shares abuse story in Take Back the Night keynote

April 16, 2021

Though she loves Trine University, it wasn’t easy for Danielle Crosby to come back.

During an emotional address at the university’s Take Back the Night rally and march, the 2012 graduate and domestic violence survivor described anxious feelings as she returned to the school she was attending when her abusive relationship began.

“But for the first time ever, I wanted to come back and actually make it a place where I could make a change,” she said.

The annual event, held Wednesday, April 14, in the MTI Center, featured personal stories from several program participants.

Mayor: ‘Don’t be afraid to stand up’

Angola Mayor Richard Hickman, providing a welcome from the city, told students that sexual assault and domestic violence impact every social group.

He shared the story of his cousin’s daughter, a successful bank professional who was abused and eventually murdered by her husband.

“Up to that point, everyone in her life thought everything was going extremely well,” Hickman said.

“When you leave here tonight, this isn’t your only night that you’re advocating against sexual violence and domestic violence,” he challenged those in attendance. “This is something you need to be aware of around you, probably for the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your friends and family and help them out.”

Cheryll Miller, president of the board of directors for TLC House Indiana, shared about that organization’s mission of providing a safe shelter for and fostering self-sufficiency in domestic violence victims, and encouraged students to have anyone in an abusive situation reach out for help.

“So often the people that come to us have been controlled for so long by their abuser, they really don’t even know how to think for themselves anymore,” she said. “It’s so important that they learn to think and plan for themselves.”

Prior to singing “That’s Life,” a Frank Sinatra hit she performed at the Miss America pageant, Trine psychology major Lydia Tremaine said that, unlike the stereotype many have of pageant competitors, she struggled with self-confidence due to growing up in a home where verbal and emotional abuse was prevalent.

“The victims, we believe the lies,” the 2018 Miss Indiana told the crowd. “When people tell you that you aren’t good enough, when people tell you your dream is not valid … you have to have the ability to see that those are not truths, those are lies.”

‘I was one of you guys’

In her keynote address, Crosby, now a domestic violence advocate, author and small business owner, told students that, while at Trine, “I was one of you guys.”

“I spent most of my time in Best Hall with the late Prof. Laker,” the criminal justice and psychology major said. “I spent time with my friends in the cafeteria. I was an Alpha Sigma Tau sister, one of the first ones that came in after it became the first national sorority on campus. I had my face painted on for games, I went to Hoops and Wings Night. … I sat out in front of the dorms I lived in with my friends and I laughed and I had fun.”

Her abuser did not attend Trine – “At the time, that was kind of the appeal to it,” Crosby said — but reached out to her via Facebook during her junior year, while she was working third shift at the Ramada Inn in Angola.

Eventually he came to Angola for a party that Crosby and her friends were having, and the two stayed up all night “talking, dancing, drinking.” After falling asleep, Crosby woke up to 100 texts, some saying she was amazing and beautiful, others accusing her of cheating.

“I thought it was me,” she said. “I had never actually dated a guy that was decent to me. … It just felt nice to be wanted.”

Though he showered attention on her and was romantic, her abuser gradually began secluding Crosby from her friends and family. She stopped participating in her sorority and in campus events.

“It’s so subtle that you don’t even realize that it’s happening,” she warned.

Abuse escalates

Eventually the relationship advanced to physical and sexual abuse.

“The bruises started to get more consistent, as well as me covering things up,” she said. “I told people that someone wanted me, desired me and that we had plans for a future, but they didn’t know what I knew. My reality was different than what people on campus saw.”

She finished her degree at Trine a semester early, and her abuser did not allow her to walk at Commencement. She also discovered she was pregnant during her last semester.

Her son was born missing part of his brain due to in utero trauma. However, Crosby was now afraid to leave her abuser because of what might happen to her son.

She eventually had another son with her abuser — neither resulting from consensual intercourse, she said. That child eventually wound up in the emergency room at three months old with multiple rib fractures.

“I had to watch an officer and CPS take my kid and say that I had to go home and get my other one,” she recalled. “And I watched as this monster blamed the babysitter for whatever happened to our kid. Of course, I went with it because I didn’t have a voice. How could I? How would anybody believe me when I wouldn’t even come forward about all the abuse he put me through?”

‘You need to leave’

Crosby told students that if they are with someone who is controlling, makes them fearful or suicidal, or touches them without consent, “you need to leave.” She encouraged anyone who exhibits toxic behaviors to get help.

“You all deserve to be loved by someone who won’t hurt you in any way, shape or form, or make you second-guess your worth or your value,” she said.

The program concluded with students marching down Thunder Drive in a show of solidarity against sexual assault, domestic violence and violence against women and children. Crosby also offered free autographed copies of her books, which share her story and the stories of other domestic violence survivors.

Part of an international effort that dates to the 1970s, Take Back the Night has been a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month recognition on the Trine University campus since 2002. In addition to the annual event, Trine University educates its community throughout the year on topics such as consent and respect.

Video from Take Back the Night is available at vimeo.com/513451184

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Learn more about Danielle Crosby's work at daniellecrosby.com/

Trine University encourages anyone who is a victim of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual assault or rape to reach out to one of the following resources:


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