ragments of that day are etched into Kia Davis’ (’06) memory like scars.
The malignant blankness in her boyfriend’s eyes, his fingers pressing into her throat. The screaming and thrashing, the feeling of her legs connecting just hard enough to kick him away, her hands grasping the knob of her apartment door and throwing it open. She recalls looking up at the sky, then down at the stairs. A way out.
This time, she thought, I’m going to take it.
“I was yelling and running for help with no shoes on,” says Davis, whose ground-floor neighbor summoned the police as her boyfriend fled. “I could feel the pebbles from the stairs on my bare feet.”
Several years later, she found herself wondering, What if I would have had to keep running that day?
“It was really about the shoes in the beginning,” says Davis, a Fort Worth native and interdisciplinary studies alum who is the CEO of WeTalkRadio.com and founder of Heels on the Move to Heal, a nonprofit that brings awareness to domestic abuse and sexual assault while empowering and supporting survivors. “And then people were like, ‘Wait, can I give you clothes?’ And it just kind of grew from there.”
Since its inception in 2018, Heels on the Move to Heal’s events and programs have served more than 5,000 families in counties across the state, including Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, Denton, Harris, Rockwall, Kaufman and Ellis. The nonprofit sponsors educational programs and initiatives for area youth to create and produce local events, allowing them to explore roles like emcee, performer, producer, DJ, photographer and videographer. Those opportunities also are part of Heels on the Move to Heal’s annual charity fashion show, in which participants sashay down a runway that ends in a good cause — a donation box where they can contribute shoes to be gifted to local women’s shelters.
“When we started, I didn’t realize that it would be a movement,” says Davis, who notes one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. “I didn’t realize what we were going to do. I didn’t realize that we were going to save lives — that we were going to get women out of abusive homes, place them in shelters, make sure they have all the items they need. Whatever they need, we’re going to make it happen.”
It might be more understatement than cliché to say that Davis has walked a mile in their shoes. In a video on the Heels on the Move to Heal website, Davis shares the details of her abuse — how her relationship, which began when she was 23, devolved into a seemingly endless cycle of physical violence and apologies. Her apartment walls were marred with holes, her body with bruises.
“I was so sick of it,” she says. “I was worn out.”
Empathy for survivors of domestic violence isn’t the same as understanding, and Davis’s bone-deep recognition of the guilt and fear and paralysis that can plague women and children in abusive situations has made her a particularly effective advocate. Still, she says, it’s not uncommon to see victims return to their abusers.
“There are some who go back — I went back many times before I finally left,” says Davis, who encourages women in need to reach out any time, day or night. “I never want to push myself on anyone, but they know I’m here to help. They know they can come to me with that information, and I won’t judge them.”
And so she marches on in her mission, just as determined to help women as she was to earn her UNT degree as a single mother commuting back and forth from Euless each day. It’s the same determination that led her to launch We Talk Radio — an online entertainment platform that includes talk, music, video, networking, community partnerships and more — in 2010, following stints as a communications specialist with KKVI Radio, a director of finance and assistant superintendent with Alpha Charter School, and chief executive director of The Black Academy of Arts and Letters.
So it should come as no surprise that even COVID-19 isn’t enough to push her off course. Davis is hosting Heels on the Move to Heal’s third annual fashion show virtually at 5 p.m. Dec. 6, with proceeds benefiting Denton County Friends of the Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing free, compassionate and supportive services to those impacted by relationship violence and sexual assault.
“We know because of COVID, resources are drying up right now, and we would love to be able to replenish them,” Davis says. “We’re always looking for ways to help ensure that families have everything they need — to make a greater impact locally and beyond.”