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The “DV Free” campaign will roll out a series of never-before-seen survivor video testimonials, calling on Americans to stand up for a world free of domestic violence

NEW YORK – October 1, 2014 – To kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Urban Resource Institute (URI), New York City’s first and only domestic violence services provider to open its doors to pets, today announced the launch of its national video campaign, titled “DV Free.” The video series profiles domestic violence survivors who are coming forward to share their stories publicly for the very first time, with the goal of raising critical awareness about our collective responsibility to stand up for a world free of domestic violence.

“There has never been a more critical time to stand up against abuse,” said Nathaniel Fields, President and CEO of the Urban Resource Institute. “We know that an alarming one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and that’s one too many. By leading the charge for a world free of domestic violence, the Urban Resource Institute is calling on everyone to do their part—whether big or small—to help end the cycle of violence and pledge their commitment to becoming DV free.”

Throughout October, URI will unveil new videos each week, offering a rare glimpse into the dark realities of domestic violence from different vantage points, including men, children, and families with pets. Each video showcases the diverse ways that abuse—whether physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or economic—has no boundaries and affects people of all ages, races and socio-economic backgrounds. Viewers will be encouraged to share the videos widely via social media platforms, using the hashtag #DVfree.

Among the domestic violence survivors sharing the intimate stories of their abuse:

Titi, 29, was in an abusive relationship for nearly three years. To escape the abuse one day, she jumped off her second-story balcony and broke her leg from her knee down to her ankle; she was hospitalized for five months as a result. As she began her healing process at URI, Titi said, “I feel like I’m releasing a lot of things I went through—all my pain. I don’t have to look over my shoulder anymore.”

Linda, 60, demonstrates that domestic violence can affect any of us. A successful entrepreneur who owns a clothing boutique on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and sponsors clothing drives and other activities that benefit URI’s shelter residents, Linda was in an abusive relationship for 15 years until she finally broke free. “I want people to understand that there’s no typical face of domestic violence—people think it’s a problem that only affects lower-income and minority groups,” she said. Another problem is that “people don’t talk about it. I see the impact it has on the women in URI’s shelters when I share my story with them. I wish there had been someone to talk to me that way.”

Jose, 21, often witnessed his mother being abused by his stepfather. “I was younger, so my mom would always tell me to not get involved, that it was her problem,” Jose said. When his mother left the relationship, he entered URI’s shelter with her. “As a child, you don’t want to see your mom going through that. Domestic violence is not something you want your child around at all.”

Ebony, 32, was in shelter at URI for six months. “I always looked at myself as a person who was strong,” she explained. “Then I met this one guy who took that all away from me. The worst moment was when my 14-year-old daughter walked into the room, because she heard her mother hollering and screaming. To hear her say, ‘Leave my mom alone’—that’s when I felt I had to leave.” Ebony is currently facing the challenge many domestic violence survivors experience in New York City—finding affordable housing upon leaving shelter.

Ashley, 22, was raised in a physically and emotionally abusive home, and fell victim to the cycle of violence when she wound up in an abusive relationship as an adult. “I thought this was the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with until the beating started,” she said. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had to fight.”

Ana, 25, grew up in a home where her father abused her mother. “I thought that was what love looked like,” she admitted. “When I was in my first serious relationship as an adult, being abused emotionally, physically, and economically felt normal. It was all I knew.” Ana spent six months healing at one of URI’s domestic violence shelters. “My journey at URI has completely shifted my perspective, and I hope my story can be a lesson to others about the importance of making all relationships free of domestic violence.”

Muriel broke free of an abusive relationship and entered a URI shelter with her daughter in 2009 but was forced to separate with her dog, Jasmine, since shelters weren’t equipped to take in pets at the time. “There were nights where I just wished that I had my dog to comfort me when I was worried and feeling alone,” said Muriel of her shelter stay. “An animal is never going to be able to ask for help, but pets are often subjected to violence and physical abuse in order to manipulate the victim into acting the way the abuser wants them to.” In 2013, Muriel helped celebrate the launch of URI’s URIPALS—People and Animals Living Safely—New York City’s first-ever initiative to enable domestic violence survivors to enter shelter with their pets.

With awareness being critical to the campaign’s mission, URI is taking to social media to build momentum for the cause. Show your support for a #DVfree world on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about URI’s “DV Free” Campaign, or for vital awareness and safety planning tips, visit www.urinyc.org/dvfree.

About Urban Resource Institute

Urban Resource Institute (URI) is a leading non-profit organization that provides comprehensive, holistic, and supportive human services programs that help individuals and families in the New York metropolitan area overcome obstacles and better their lives. With a rich 34-year legacy of social service research and expertise, deep community relationships, and a flexible, innovative approach to program development and service delivery, URI is uniquely equipped to provide solutions to the challenges affecting New York’s most vulnerable populations. URI’s hands-on programs for victims of domestic violence, the developmentally disabled, and people struggling with addiction and substance abuse are specifically tailored to meet the needs of the individual, while community outreach initiatives build wider visibility and support for the issues that have an impact on our clients’ quality of life and New York’s urban communities. For more information, please visit www.urinyc.org.

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