By Helen Mitternight
“Why doesn’t she leave him?”
It’s a common question about a woman staying in an abusive relationship.
What many people don’t understand are the barriers to leaving: the “battered woman” shelters that offer little privacy, rules that can be triggering to someone whose life has been ruthlessly controlled, and no place to bring the family pet, often the first victim in domestic violence. And for those who do escape, the shelters often offer respite for only 60 days.
“After 60 days, you kind of sink or swim,” says Mackie Krawcheck Moore, founder of Thrive Saves Lives, which will offer transitional housing to domestic violence survivors. “A lot of women and children wind up homeless, in the streets, living in their cars or under a bridge. It gets to the point that they get so worn down that they return to the abuser because it’s better than life on the street.”
Mackie says Thrive hopes to remove some of those barriers.
“Our mission is to provide transition housing and holistic services and resources to women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. They can stay for up to a year,” she says.
Thrive offered more traditional sheltering in Summerville when it began in June 2016, but Mackie says the goal has always been to offer longer-term housing and services. In the first year, she says, Thrive helped 105 women.
Now, the group is in a bit of a relaunch, hoping to reopen next year with tiny shipping container houses clustered into a community that will offer survivors of domestic violence their own space to live and to heal. Mackie says the privacy is pivotal to her vision.
“When you come from a domestic violence situation, most times you are being watched, controlled by the abuser, and you’re not able to make choices,” she says. “There is so much tension in the house that you can’t communicate with your children properly. After investigating what really works, it’s important for these women to have autonomy and to be able to communicate with their children without being interrupted. If you can get a little privacy with just your little family, then the healing begins so much more quickly and goes more in depth.”
Often, that family includes pets, and leaving the abuser means leaving the pet.
“A lot of times, women and children won’t leave because there’s nowhere to put the family pets,” Mackie says. “Dogs and cats are family members and they are such a comfort. To have to leave them is just trauma upon trauma.”
Some of the Thrive shipping container homes will have fenced backyards so that the residents can bring their pets, and Thrive has a facility that accepts animals.
Beyond the immediate emergency, Mackie says Thrive will offer job training so that the residents can build independent lives.
Mackie says one balancing act will be to provide an open community while still offering security against violent abusers.
“We grapple with security a lot because some won’t advertise the address of a shelter, but these women are going into hiding and it’s like they’re the ones being punished and they’re the ones who did something wrong, and that message is really lousy,” Mackie says. “I’ve talked with some psychologists at the Veterans Administration, and they thought it would be a great fit to have veterans help with security around the property, for the ones who can handle it. It’s exciting because it’s employing veterans who are capable and are just really looking to give back themselves and maybe make a little money.”
Mackie says the area desperately needs Thrive.
“Charleston, in particular, needed this. There was no transitional housing or resources available for any survivor of domestic violence after they left the shelter,” she says. “For the tri-county area, we have 36 emergency beds at My Sister’s House, and that’s been it for about 750,000 residents. And Charleston and the surrounding areas are growing exponentially by the day. This affects everyone, from every economic level.”
Mackie says she hopes to grow Thrive to include a gardening program and to offer branded products that will help teach the residents about business.
“It is the perfect time to do this with #metoo. South Carolina’s a tough state, it’s still a good-old-boy state, and it changes very slowly. Nonetheless, we have to make a change.”
How You Can Help
Go to thrivesaveslives.org, to:
- Donate to the capital campaign.
- Sign up for victim advocacy training, when available. That includes answering crisis calls and accompanying women to court.
- Volunteer to provide transportation to domestic abuse survivors.