When Danielle Crosby studied abusive relationships in her classes at Trine University, she convinced herself that her life wasn’t like the girls she read about in books. Her boyfriend at the time gave her attention and wanted her affection and then he became her abuser.
Crosby, a Michigan native from Hanover/Concord, said she ignored many of the red flags in the relationship and pleas from friends and family to leave. After her abuser attacked her, he always told her that he loved her and that he would get help.
But the abuse didn’t stop, and Crosby said she’s still healing.
Today, Crosby is married with three children and works as a domestic violence victim legal advocate at Domestic Harmony in Hillsdale where she helps other survivors overcome their traumatic pasts. She is also the author of two books and hopes, by sharing her story, she can help other victims learn that they are not alone and offer a glimpse of what it’s like to survive an abusive relationship.
“I just hope that the stigma surrounding domestic violence breaks,” Crosby said. “My biggest goal now is to break that stigma and actually raise awareness.”
Crosby’s abuser broke her phones, tore her money, took her car keys, hid her purse, physically harmed her, attacked their children, and isolated Crosby from her friends and family.
When her family asked her to leave, she retracted further into isolation.
For a while, Crosby said she tried to hide the physical abuse from her mother and stepfather, whom she calls “dad.” One weekend, while still in college, she visited home and planned on swimming. When she put her swimsuit on, she realized there was no way to hide the bruises from the night before.
“It was actually the first time that he came at me. He shoved me into this wall, where the corner of the wall stuck out. It was a weird space in the room,” Crosby said. “He wanted my phone because he thought I was cheating on him, but I was texting my mom. I didn’t understand that he was actually projecting. He basically wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing the same thing he had been doing. I told him he had to wait until I was done with my text because I’m a big mama’s girl. But he took my phone and just bent my arm back. Then he shoved me on the wall and started hitting me with a folding chair.”
When her parents asked her what happened, she blamed her clumsiness and “played the whole ditzy card,” explaining that she fell. She knew her parents didn’t believe her, but she still believed she could “fix” her abuser.
Crosby said most girls experiencing domestic abuse don’t tell their family members or friends because they feel ashamed.
“We don’t tell friends, we don’t tell family, we just become more secluded,” Crosby said. “Especially because it’s always that fear of, ‘What are people going to think of me?’”
Even though her family assumed something was wrong, Crosby said she didn’t tell her mom about the abuse until her son almost died. Her abuser gave their 3‑month-old son 30 rib fractures and began to manipulate Crosby more than he had before.
After telling her mom, however, Crosby felt more isolated because people tried to tell her what to do with her life and her children. At first, her mom tried many times to come get Crosby and the two children.
“It felt like I was back in another power-control relationship because it just felt like I wasn’t making any decisions for myself again,” Crosby said. “I actually retracted even more from her, even though she was one of my best friends.”
Rather than push their loved ones to seek help, Crosby said it’s best that family members and friends remind victims of abuse that they’re willing to help when the survivor is ready to seek resources.
Crosby said what most people don’t understand about survivors of abusive relationships is that the victim will go back to their abusers about seven to nine times before leaving for good. Even when the law is involved and there are personal protection orders in place, women often go back because they fear being alone.
“When I did go back to him after he’d almost killed our son, that was the worst thing because I’d actually signed paperwork to get my kids back and get full custody of them,” Crosby said. “I wasn’t going to let them by him again. But I took them to have him say ‘goodbye’ and then he took pictures and just kept saying he didn’t care if he went to jail because I would end up going too.”
Nobody in Crosby’s family knew that she had gone back to her abuser for several months. Crosby hid her relationship even when there was a warrant out for her abuser’s arrest because of child abuse.
Crosby said she couldn’t leave her abuser for good until she physically fought back, causing him to pack his bags and leave her apartment, something most girls will never experience.
“He had pinned me up against the wall again, and I only have one of the boys upstairs with us,” Crosby said. “And I could hear the other one down in the car crying, so I was going down to get him, but I did something that made him mad. And again, he pinned me up against the doorframe and the bedroom door and he wouldn’t let me go, and I physically fought back because I wasn’t going to let him make me pass out that time — I needed to go downstairs and get our son.”
After that, every time her abuser tried to force himself back into her life, Crosby said she shut him out. She changed the locks on her apartment and kept him away from her kids. But in the process of keeping her abuser away, Crosby closed off other people in her life.
Crosby said being alone is one of the most difficult parts of the healing process. Working as a correctional officer at a maximum death row prison in Tennessee, she realized she needed somebody in her life who was willing to be emotional. She needed somebody who was willing to understand her triggers and help her overcome the pain from her past.
When Jayden, Crosby’s husband, walked into her life, she said she didn’t want him to have anything to do with her children. But now, Crosby said she wouldn’t have made it this far without Jayden’s support.
“He believes in everything that I do, even if he doesn’t understand it,” Crosby said.
Jayden encouraged Crosby to write down what she could remember from her past and share it with other women who may be suffering. Crosby said Jayden and her friends knew that she could help other women by sharing her own story.
Crosby said her first book “It’s Not Your Fault,” which was released in September 2019, took her five years to write because it was painful reliving her past. She couldn’t remember a lot of her past because “when somebody goes through domestic violence, everything gets to be like a big scrambled egg inside their head as far as timelines.” She relied on journal entries stuffed in boxes to piece together her past. Crosby said her abuser often destroyed any of her journals when he found them.
“It’s probably 5% of what I went through, but it was all that I could remember for the longest time,” Crosby said. “And then I just couldn’t handle doing any more of it. I still haven’t even read it after I wrote it. I gave it to my old teacher, who edited it, and I still haven’t read it because I just can’t.”
Crosby said she’s had many family members reach out to her, explaining that her book helped them understand domestic violence and give them a better idea how to help relatives who are suffering. She’s even had police dispatchers tell her that they have a deeper grasp of how to help women who call several times and are victims of abuse.
“The dispatchers said that now, they don’t judge the people on the other end of the phone as much because they would always say, ‘We have girls that are calling like 10 times and they don’t press charges, or they hang up,’” Crosby said. “They were honest and said they used to judge those girls. But now they said that they don’t because they understand why they’re doing what they do.”
Crosby said the goal of her first book was to help heal herself, but she realized the book helped other survivors heal as well.
“It’s helped everybody heal in a way,” Crosby said. “Knowing that you’re not alone is the first step of overcoming everything and knowing that you have people that you can talk to and relate to. And it’s formed this little community that is just amazing for people to turn to.”
Crosby also has a website where survivors can talk about their pasts and ask her questions.
“I think the nice thing about the blog section is that I opened it up for people to share their stories with me to put on there, and they can either put anonymous or they can share their name and a photo,” Crosby said. “It helped a lot of people because I didn’t even realize some of the other forms of abuse between different people that aren’t intimate.”
After publishing her first book, Crosby said she immediately began her second to answer questions that people kept asking. She only took two months to write, “Rising From the Ashes: Only Human,” which was released in October 2019, because she did not have to relive her past.
In the last couple of months, Crosby said she has forgiven herself.
“I was always ashamed of what I went through,” Crosby said. “I was ashamed to talk about it. I was ashamed that I went back. I was ashamed that my kids got hurt. I was ashamed that they witnessed abuse for even months afterwards, after everybody thought that they were safe.”
Crosby said she’s no longer ashamed, but even with this forgiveness, her biggest success in life has been helping other women find themselves.
“When you can find yourself again, and when you can be happy with yourself, that’s the biggest gift you can give yourself besides what you went through,” Crosby said.