360 West Magazine: Shelter from the Storm

Charlene, 26, is a resident at The Gatehouse. She says she's there to start over and get her life back on track. Photo by Mark  Graham.

Charlene, 26, is a resident at The Gatehouse. She says she’s there to start over and get her life back on track. Photo by Mark Graham.

Domestic violence affects all races, incomes, and family members. But there’s an innovative nonprofit in Grapevine that’s creating a path for women to build new lives—free from fear, full of love, and filled with hope.  And it’s a community like nothing else in the country.


At The Gatehouse in Grapevine, sunflowers are ubiquitous. They are in the pictures hanging on the walls of the nicely furnished, spacious apartments. They are in the vases decorating the community center, where 10 staff members work to support families creating their own paths to sustainability. Soon, they will be growing in the green space surrounding the community’s nature trail and playground — resilient, beautiful and bright.

The 61-acre apartment complex and community located in a serene, heavily treed patch of land off Texas Highway 121 is designed to be a refuge offering support, safety and spiritual growth for women living in crisis situations such as poverty and domestic abuse. It’s a fortress of solitude and security, with cameras strategically placed throughout the space and a meticulously monitored gated entry. Beauty is important, too. The sunflower is the community’s symbol of faith in the future for the families living there, because the flower always turns its face toward the sun and grows tall and strong.

Keep reading here.

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She Died on a Sunday.

Details of the murder slipped from hushed lips and spread like the flu in January.

“There was a knife.”

“Her throat was cut.”

“Her baby was gone when the police arrived.”

She died on a Sunday, while I was lying on my couch, drinking wine, watching another episode of “Parenthood,” she was crying, screaming, fighting, and hoping that her baby wouldn’t see what was happening to his mommy.

People say her ex-boyfriend killed her in a fit of crazy rage. Aren’t knives the weapon of passion? But it wasn’t the first time; it rarely is.

Six months before she died, he attacked her, but she made it out alive—with just a few bruises and one black eye. She said his eyes looked crazy; a look she had never seen before. A look that wouldn’t accept love or logic. She took their son and left. Immediately. And that was that.

But he came back. Maybe to see the baby. Maybe to see her.

“I want to be a family again,” he told her.

“No,” she told him. “No.”

The television was on when the police arrived. It was playing a kid’s DVD. Toys were scattered in the apartment’s living room, but the baby wasn’t to be seen.

She was 32. Her son is 13 months old. Same age as my daughter and I.

Police found the baby with her father, at his apartment. They took the sweet cherub away, and placed him in the grieving arms of grandparents.

I knew her mother, too. Their resemblance was unmistakable.

What do you say to a mother who’s lost her baby?

“Sorry,” just doesn’t hold the same weight when your child gets murdered. It’s too simple. Too sterile.

The funeral is next week; I’ll wait to see if the words come to me.

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