Greater Good

Society of Women
Who Love Shoes

Interview by Jennifer Acosta Scott

ON A RECENT WARM SPRING day in April, somewhere near Houston, Rochelle Frazeur was tired. As the only solo competitor in the 203-mile Texas Independence Relay, Frazeur had been running for nearly three days straight, stopping only for 20 minutes every 6 hours to rest and sleep. To make matters worse, she was dealing with a painful injured iliotibial band. Towards the end of her trek, her overworked feet were âscreamingâ every time they landed on the pavement. Despite the hardships, she crossed the finish line at the San Jacinto Monument on the Houston Ship Channelâmostly because of who she was running forâthe Society of Women who LOVE Shoes, a DFW-based domestic violence charity.

âThe inconvenience and pain that came from that constant tug on my kneecap was nothing, compared to what the women I was running for were facing,â says Frazeur, whose finish made her the first woman to complete the Texas Independence Relay solo.

Frazeurâs incredible 203-mile commitment to the Society of Women who LOVE Shoes is indicative of the organizationâs skyrocketing popularity in Texas and beyond. Arlington resident Dianne Samoff started the Society in 2005 while living in Houston, as a way of furnishing shoes to women who had escaped abusive situations at home. âIt started at a networking event,â Samoff says. âWe were networking and said, âWhy donât we take shoes to these ladies?â It was all done by word of mouth.â

In December 2010, Samoff moved to Dallas and began promoting her shoe-collecting efforts on Facebook. Before long, the Society was holding monthly happy hours centered on donations of new and gently used footwear. Now, more than 200 people typically show up at each monthâs event.

As a victim of domestic violence herself, Samoff thought her organization could help send a hopeful message to abused womenâYou are not alone and you can get through this. She chose to make shoes a major theme of the Society because they had given her hope during her struggle. After leaving her abusive husband of 10 years in Louisiana and moving back to Texas, Samoff borrowed a business suit and a pair of red high heels for a job interview at U.S. Tel (now Sprint). She got the job, and was soon able to make a new life for herself.

Plus, Samoff adds, shoes are just fun, and almost universally relatable among women. âI needed something to draw women out and raise awareness of abuse,â Samoff says. âA lot of usâwe buy shoes and donât even have anything to wear them with.â

Since its 2005 inception, the Society of Women who LOVE Shoes has expanded its charitable collection efforts to clothes, toys and even toiletries. But shoes still remain a vital part of its monthly happy hours. Women who attend wear their best heels and compete for prizes in three categoriesâSexiest Shoe, Most Unique Shoe and Highest Heel. (It isnât unusual to spot 6-inch stilettos.) Men in attendance compete for Best Tie. When the fun is over and the last cocktail has been sipped, supplies collected at the event are taken to a nearby domestic violence organization. Since the happy hours rotate throughout the Metroplex, many different organizationsâincluding Hopeâs Door in Plano, SafeHaven in Hurst and Genesis Womenâs Shelter in Dallasâhave benefited from the Societyâs generosity.

Many times, Samoff says, the women who are residing in domestic violence shelters are âin crisisâ and canât be contacted. But occasionally, the Society is able to hold special events that put them directly in contact with the women that they help. Last Christmas, Samoff and her crew gave a group of women the Hollywood treatment by treating them to makeovers, shoes and evening gowns, followed by a session with a professional photographer.

âWhen we walked in, we were going to help the women of the shelter and make them feel better,â Samoff says. âBut we walked out with tears and Kleenex because it made us feel so good.â

Samoff âs shoe-centric charity has sparked so much attention that it recently became a multistate organization. Samoff had a chance meeting with Daina Harris, a resident of Virginia Beach, Virginia, during one of Harrisâ visits to Texas. After chatting with Samoff, Harris launched her own chapter of the Society of Women who LOVE Shoes in May. The group held its first fundraiser in July.

The Virginia group is smaller than the Texas chapter, with a core group of a few committed women, but Harris says interest is slowly rising as she makes contacts and explains what the Society is all about.

âI explain to them that when domestic violence happens to someone, often they flee with just the shoes and clothes they have on their backs,â says Harris, who is also a victim of domestic abuse. âI give them several stories. At that point it clicks. They realize it isnât just women who want your shoesâitâs people who want to help.â

As the Society of Women who LOVE Shoes prepares to enter its eighth year of existence, Samoff has plenty on the horizon for her organization. The next monthly chapter meeting will be a Halloween-themed costume party on October 25th from 6 to 9pm at Lemon Bar & Grill in Frisco. A wine-tasting event has been tentatively planned for November. And in the spring, the group hopes to hold a high-heel dash, in which women and men race for a block and a half in heeled shoes.

âWeâre wanting firemen, policemen, society chicks, drag queens,â Samoff says. âWe want to show the community that abuse can happen to anyone.â

In addition to showing the community that no one is immune from abuse, the Society of Women who LOVE Shoes hopes that they can emphasize its potential to be a temporary situation rather than an insurmountable obstacle to happiness.

âWhen Iâm running and I want to quit, Iâll get food or fuel, maybe someone will come run with me,â says Frazeur, the ultrarunner. âThen I realize itâs just a wall and I can get over it. We donât want these women to feel like itâs the end, that thereâs nothing on the other side. We want to remind them itâs just a wall and help them work on it and come out on the other side a happier person.â

Facts About Domestic Abuse

⢠One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
⢠85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
⢠Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
⢠Almost 1/3 of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.
⢠Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
⢠30 to 60 percent of people who abuse their intimate partners also abuse children in the household.

Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence