Seven years ago, Kaite McCoy felt trapped. Threats of violence against her life and the prospect of losing her children reached a breaking point. The time to escape was now or never. 

In her mid-20s, McCoy was living through an abusive relationship – something approximately one in four women will experience in their lifetimes, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Her journey from survivor to founder of Classified, a Licking County nonprofit dedicated to empowering survivors, exemplifies the courage and resilience of someone who refuses to be defined by their past.

Kaite’s Story

McCoy, a 32-year-old native of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, grew up with dreams of becoming an attorney, but the difficulties of being a young mom prevented her from completing a college degree. Instead, she entered the world of property management in 2012, starting as a leasing consultant and steadily moving her way up. Her current role includes approving or denying rental applications, where she has conversations with applicants about their circumstances, income, background checks and credit. Additionally, McCoy juggles a part-time job as an event coordinator to support herself and her three children.

She said the most trying period of her life was the years she spent trapped in an abusive relationship, torn between the fear of leaving and the dread of what would happen if she stayed. 

“One of the reasons that I stayed in this relationship for so long was because financially, I didn’t think that I could do it on my own,” she said. “I had two kids at the time and I was pregnant with our daughter. And it was really hard to take that final step and to just trust in myself and figure it out.”

Founding Classified

In 2022, she established Classified, a nonprofit she runs alongside three other board members with the purpose of helping survivors like her transition into their own safe housing, driven by the belief that everyone deserves a safe haven. 

“I never want money to be the reason someone can’t leave,” McCoy said. “If finances are the barrier, we’ll find a way to overcome it and help them rebuild their lives.” 

The name “Classified” symbolizes the covert nature of the struggles faced by victims. McCoy said the organization works almost like a modern-day Underground Railroad because the assistance they provide is discreet. 

“The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when the victim decides to leave,” McCoy said. “The stories of women we help are classified. We can’t publicly celebrate their courage and the strength they possess to choose better for themselves and often for their children.” 

As a 100% volunteer-driven organization, every board member contributes their time and effort. Despite having limited resources, Classified channels every penny toward helping women in need.

Classified’s efforts include a range of services to support victims, including financial assistance through apartment application fees, security deposits and even pet fees – a service not commonly provided by other organizations, though vital for victims who could be deterred from leaving their abuser if they cannot bring their pets with them. 

Moving costs can be outrageous, and additional pet fees often make it financially unmanageable, McCoy learned. 

“Most apartment communities charge anywhere from $350 to $400 just as a pet fee, and then perhaps $25 to $40 a month per pet for your pet rent,” she explained. “So we will cover the upfront initial costs for the pet so that they can come with the family when they’re moving.”

The organization serves as a point of contact to refer those seeking help to the appropriate organizations, since Classified is not authorized to give any kind of legal or medical advice to victims. McCoy will refer people to the Center for New Beginnings in Newark, Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio in Franklin County, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network in Columbus, or the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center in Delaware County – depending on the type of care they need and the level of crisis intervention necessary.

McCoy checks emails and the Classified website daily, making sure that no inquiries go unanswered. 

Within 24 hours, the person seeking help will receive a response if they have been affected by domestic violence, and then they can proceed with the financial process. 

On average, two people per week reach out for her assistance, and so far, Classified has funded assistance for 11 women affected by domestic violence. 

She devotes time weekly to researching additional funding sources to support Classified’s mission. 

“We don’t ask their story; they don’t have to tell us,” McCoy said.“It’s not easy to hear a lot of it. But at the same time, you realize just how strong these women are.” 

Survivors primarily find the organization through referrals from partner agencies such as New Beginnings or through word of mouth. 

Classified relies heavily on a variety of financial resources. Much of the funding is generated through collaborations with local businesses, including OneHope, See’s Candy fundraisers and Little Caesars Pizza. Classified also benefits from programs such as Kroger community rewards and Amazon community rewards, in which a portion of purchases made by supporters is directed back to the organization. 

Last year, Classified received a grant from the Young Leaders of Licking County, an organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of leaders in the region through philanthropy. This grant allowed the organization to secure a storage unit for a full 12-month period, providing a vital space to store donated household items. 

“That way, when someone does get to move into their own place, if they need furniture and basic household items, they can come pick out what they like, making their new place feel more like home,” McCoy said. 

Tiffany Gordon, a Newark resident and chair of the philanthropy committee at the Young Leaders of Licking County, is involved in selecting grant recipients and determining their funding amounts. 

“We were thrilled to fully fund Kaite’s grant request in the amount of $1,200,” Gordon said. “It was crucial for her to have a space to store, organize and help distribute these items to survivors. Kaite’s hard work and determination to see a need, realize a dream and turn it into a reality has already helped so many.”

Kaite’s Vision

In addition to her direct support for survivors, McCoy is passionate about creating systemic change and raising awareness in the community. She plans to expand Classified’s mission to include advocacy efforts and educational initiatives, including online courses, to change the culture of silence present within our society surrounding domestic violence.

“Never, not once, in my whole education did anyone talk about what love should look like or what abusive behavior is,” she said.

Noelle Oliva, a Classified board member and property manager from Reynoldsburg, emphasized the importance of public awareness and education about domestic violence. 

“Knowing red flags can help someone leave a situation before it’s too late,” Oliva explained. “Often, domestic violence is like the ‘frog in the boiling water’ scenario. The heat has been gradually turned up, and you don’t realize you’re boiling until it’s too late.”

McCoy envisions establishing a transitional housing community that offers comprehensive support services, including child care, job placement, coaching, counseling and more. 

“I want it all in one place where they feel safe and they get everything that they need,” she said.

Additionally, McCoy wishes to expand Classified’s presence on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. 

“You never know who’s going to see it and at what point in their life. And whatever message that is, it might be exactly what they needed to hear in that moment,” she said.

For McCoy, the most fulfilling aspect of Classified’s work is knowing that even in their darkest moments, survivors can find peace in the knowledge that they aren’t alone in their struggle. 

“For me, the most rewarding part is knowing that if even for a moment, the women that are coming to me know that someone cares,” she reflected. “And, unfortunately, not always do they stay out of the relationship. I know that some of them ended up going back. But even for just a short period of time, they knew someone cared.”

McCoy’s nonprofit is gradually working to build a future in which fleeing abusive situations doesn’t seem so hopeless.

“It’s a public health crisis, and ignoring these situations and hiding what’s happening behind closed doors only makes it worse.” 

As if her plate wasn’t already full, McCoy accepted a job as a paralegal at a law firm this year while pursuing her degree at Ohio University; actively working toward her dream career as an attorney. 

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAVE (7233), text “Start” to 88788 or visit

Skye Foley writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.