Sabrina Greenlee is a domestic violence survivor who started S.M.O.O.O.T.H. in 2013 to empower and support women and families who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse. (Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

South Carolina native Sabrina Greenlee was 14 when she encountered her first abusive relationship. Her boyfriend at the time was a few years older than her, and she characterized their relationship as “teenage love.”

The abuse started with face grabbing and eventually escalated to Greenlee sustaining fractured ribs, a broken collarbone and black eyes. At 18, she married her abuser. 

She had two children, and at 20, she divorced him. 

“After that, I continually attracted the same type of man because, at this point, I was totally broken and distraught. I only had a 12th grade education, and I found myself living in the projects two more children after that,” said Greenlee. “I was a single mother of four, I was by myself and I was trying to figure out life, which was very tough.” 

Today, Greenlee is a Houston Humanitarian Award honoree, entrepreneur, author, activist, inspirational speaker and survivor. 

She’s dedicated her life to empowering women, especially those who have been affected by domestic violence, but her journey officially started when she founded S.M.O.O.O.T.H. in 2013. 

S.M.O.O.O.T.H. stands for “speaking mentally, outwardly opening opportunities toward healing.” Greenlee said although she could have started an organization focused on issues ranging from  teen pregnancy to depression, she chose domestic violence because she knew she could talk to women about her firsthand experience and potentially make a difference. 

The women who the nonprofit supports are referred to as “butterflies” because while undergoing domestic violence, they are isolated and controlled, similar to a caterpillar in a cocoon. When they reclaim their power and exit their abusive relationship, they become beautiful butterflies that can fly freely, according to Greenlee. 

In the beginning, she didn’t think the organization would be taken seriously because it didn’t have “domestic violence” in the name, but she was wrong. 

“Here we are, almost 10 years later, and it is S.M.O.O.O.T.H. Transition,” said Greenlee. “We help women transition out of domestic violence into their own dwelling, so it makes perfect sense.”

The organization just launched the S.M.O.O.O.T.H. Transition program, which provides women with financial literacy workshops to ensure they are prepared to afford living on their own. 

Pretty Scars into Stars serves as the organization’s preeminent event where women from transitional centers receive a “Purple Carpet Makeover,” which includes facials, massages, teeth whitening and professional hair, nail and make-up services. 

After the makeover, the women convene for a catered dinner with their loved ones, and they have the chance to hear from motivational speakers. 

S.M.O.O.O.T.H currently has chapters in South Carolina, Texas and Arizona, and Greenlee hopes to expand across the nation. But, for now, it’s one woman and one state at a time. 

“Find that one thing that gives you the strength to fight, whether it’s your children or you wanting a better life or you just wanting to be free, and focus towards that because it’s never as bad as it seems,” said Greenlee. “You’re still alive, you’re still here, and if you’re still breathing, there’s a chance for you to have that freedom that you desire.”

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