Ohio Grown Film series: Woman refuses to stay silent about domestic-abuse victims
By Terry Mikesell
The Columbus Dispatch
Posted at 5:00 AM
As a child, Danielle D. Smith knew the sting of a slap and the hurt of an insult. To this day, the 39-year-old East Side resident still fights the aftereffects of having constantly been told to “shut up.” “I hear someone say it to someone else,” she said, “and I go into a shell for a second.”
The author, speaker and advocate against domestic violence is now a filmmaker, too. On Sunday, as part of the Ohio Grown Film series, Smith’s first work — “Don’t Be Quiet” — will make its debut.
In 2017, Smith wrote the book “Yesterday’s Tomorrow,” her story of suffering from abuse.
A companion to the book, the 27-minute “Don’t Be Quiet” (11 minutes of footage was added to the film just last week) features Smith revisiting her childhood home — where, at age 3, she says she endured abuse from some family members.
The book, Smith said, “is my life story, and so the film is the visual to my book. It’s showing people where the abuse happened.”
The house she visited, on Franklin Park West across from Franklin Park, was where she would watch happy families in the park enjoying themselves and each other.
“I wanted to be a part of their world,” she says in the film, “and, instead, I’m part of this world. And I’m only 3 years old. All I feel is hatred and pain. It’s just pure hell — pure hell — being here.
“And I wonder: What would my life be like if I were one of them, walking in the park, having fun. But instead, I’m here, in this house.”
In 1983, the state of Ohio removed Danielle from the house when she was 4; eventually, her father gained full custody of her. Smith would graduate from Pickerington High School and attend Columbus State Community College.
Today, she operates Don’t Be Quiet, a central Ohio organization that aids victims of domestic violence. She or one of her volunteers might also lend a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on.
“A lot of times, that’s the main thing somebody needs — to be able to talk to them and not be biased,” she said. “We offer resources, support and love.”
Smith knows that the cycle of abuse can echo through generations — a cycle she is working hard to break with her 15-year-old daughter, Deja.
“My goal is to never treat her the way that I was treated,” Smith said. “It is a battle for me, because I still have to tell myself on a daily basis that I’m wonderful and I’m smart and I’m not stupid, and I teach her that as well.”
After the screening of “Don’t Be Quiet,” Smith will answer questions along with Franklin County Municipal Court Judge James E. Green and therapist LaTasha Washington.
“I want to be able to provide people with different sides of the answers,” the filmmaker said.
Smith has entered “Don’t Be Quiet” in several film festivals and wants to expand the short film to feature-length.
She hopes that people caught in an abusive environment can learn from her film.
“Number one, they’re not alone,” she said. “Number two, to know that there’s a way out. And number three, that you don’t have to stay in the situation, that there’s hope and someone there to help you.”