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Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel Host 3rd Annual Upstander Awards

October 26, 2016

City to honor five Upstanders for their work raising awareness, combatting domestic violence: NYC Anti-Violence Project; The Broadway production of The Color Purple The Musical; NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito; Judge Toko Serita of the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court; Huffington Post senior reporter Melissa Jeltsen

NEW YORK—Today Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel host the City’s 3rd annual Upstander Awards at Gracie Mansion. The Upstander Awards salute New Yorkers who, along with the Administration, have taken an active role in helping the City to raise awareness about domestic violence.

“Domestic violence often takes place behind closed doors, but its impact reverberates to every member of our NYC family. When a woman, man or child is put in danger by their family or loved one, we all need to stand up and speak out,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This year we recognize New Yorkers who are Upstanders: individuals and groups that have dedicated themselves to combatting violence, raising awareness and supporting survivors.”

“Every day, the NYPD gets roughly 800 calls about domestic violence. And that’s only a fraction of the true number, because so many people are afraid to report their abuser. In order to reduce the violence, we must get to the very root of the problem,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “We must teach our young people better models of interaction, which we are doing through our Healthy Relationship training workshops, and by supporting survivors so that no woman remains with her abuser because she doesn’t have another choice. Today we recognize five honorees who have taken those messages to heart. I’m proud to stand alongside these dedicated, talented and fierce advocates to renew our call to stand up, speak out and make change to end domestic violence.”

Domestic violence occurs in every neighborhood and community in New York City regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. Awareness is the greatest tool we have, which is why OCDV wants every New Yorker to understand that he or she plays a role in combatting domestic violence.

The Upstander Campaign was launched to inspire New Yorkers to move from being bystanders to domestic violence to being Upstanders, focusing on the idea that everyone plays a role in preventing intimate partner violence. This public awareness campaign was featured in taxi cabs and online, and is one component of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness and bring an end to domestic violence in New York City.

To become an Upstander against domestic violence, the City encourages New Yorkers to:

  • Recognize and speak out against intimate partner violence, gender injustice and all forms of abuse.
  • Offer unconditional support to someone who has experienced violence.
  • Speak up against statements that promote violence.
  • Get help from an expert, advocate, or other professional.
  • Help share resources with those who need help: NYC DV Hotline 1-800-621-4673; 911 in emergencies; for information and connection to services, call 311 and ask for OCDV’s Family Justice Centers.

OCDV wants all New Yorkers to know that there is help. OCDV is the City government’s hub for Citywide delivery of domestic violence services, development of policies and programs and work with diverse communities in the five boroughs to increase awareness. Through a robust outreach effort, OCDV is able to connect victims to critical services through the City’s Family Justice Centers and other key stakeholders.

This past summer, the City opened the doors to the Family Justice Center in Staten Island, completing the Administration’s goal of having a Center in every borough of the city. Family Justice Centers are walk-in centers that provide free and confidential assistance to victims of intimate partner violence, sex trafficking and elder abuse, regardless of income, language, immigration status, gender identity or sexual orientation. On-site services provided by community partners include: case management, risk assessment, safety planning, family law and immigration legal services, counseling for adults and children, self-sufficiency and economic empowerment classes and programming, NYPD Domestic Violence Prevention Officers (DVPOs) and Assistant District Attorney’s from the District Attorney’s Office. In 2015, there were over 59,000 client visits to the Family Justice Centers throughout New York City.

Along with opening the City’s fifth Family Justice Center this summer, OCDV also unveiled its Policy and Training Institute, which will assist City agencies and community-based organizations in reviewing and updating their domestic violence policies, and providing tailored trainings for their staff. Included within the Institute is the NYC Healthy Relationship Training Academy which last year conducted over 300 workshops and trained almost 7,000 youth, parents and organizational staff about what a healthy relationship consists of and looks like.

This year, as part of the Academy, OCDV also introduced the Creating Awareness about Relationship Equality (CARE) Program, which will bring our trainings to the over 5,000 youth in the City’s foster care system, giving them the tools they need to build healthy relationships. The Upstander Awards remind New Yorkers that everyone plays a role in ending domestic violence. From global leaders to local media, all of the honorees are taking a stand against domestic violence in New York City.

The five honorees at the award ceremony include: The Color Purple The Musical, the NYC Anti-Violence Project, New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito, Judge Toko Serita of the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court, and Huffington Post senior reporter Melissa Jeltsen.

The Color Purple The Musical has brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront of culture in New York City and throughout the nation, helping to raise awareness of the issue through the creativity of the theater. The production has also partnered with the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, bringing singers to awareness events throughout the city.

NYC Anti-Violence Project empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy. Their onsite partner staff provide assistance at all five NYC Family Justice Centers and provide training and support to partner staff.

NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito is a dedicated public servant whose attention to detail and commitment to ‎his agency's narrowly focused work has resulted in serious improvements for domestic violence victims, their advocates and the rest of law enforcement in New York City. He has shown that he understands the issue and the needs of survivors by his persistence to improve the system, and has demonstrated his unwavering commitment through the increased service of Orders of Protection and holding offenders accountable.

Judge Toko Serita is a pioneer and a true champion for trafficking victims and survivors. She works tirelessly with stakeholders including attorneys, court personnel, mental health providers, social work and case management staff to ensure all victims receive the most compassionate, dignified and highly effective services. According to the New York Times, Judge Serita’s court “change[s] the legal conversation around the multibillion-dollar sex trade by redefining the women in it as victims instead of criminals.” Judge Serita has made a measurable impact and will continue to make a difference in the lives of trafficking victims and survivors.

Melissa Jeltsen has focused her journalistic career on domestic violence, gender-based violence, and other issues relating to women’s health, safety, and security. Through her reporting, Melissa brings a much-needed focus to these issues, becoming a shining example of how to report on incidents of domestic violence.

For more information on services offered through the City’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, call 212-788-3156 or visit the website at

“As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am thrilled to honor our city’s Upstanders,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Herminia Palacio. “Domestic violence can affect anyone, and everyone has a role in preventing it. Our honorees have gone above and beyond, bringing awareness to the complex issues of domestic violence and improving the lives of survivors across the city."

“I am thrilled to celebrate inspiring New York City Upstanders with Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray. For three years this Administration has helped to close out Domestic Violence Awareness Month by recognizing some of the heroes among us, those who go above and beyond every day to raise awareness about domestic violence and the resources available in our city,” said Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel. “But as the Mayor and First Lady make clear, domestic violence awareness and prevention is not confined to one month a year. The Upstander Awards remind us that every single New Yorker can play an important role in ending domestic violence every day. By emulating the examples set by the individuals and organizations honored tonight, we can move closer to a culture in which everyone can feel safe and respected in their relationships.”

“As we see in far too many of our cases, domestic violence has a devastating impact not only on victims, but also on children, families and our communities,” said ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión. “It is important for all New Yorkers to play an active role in helping prevent domestic violence by raising awareness about healthy relationships. The recipients of the 3rd Annual Upstander Awards are model citizens who are the voice for those who often endure domestic violence in silence.”

“Gender -related violence is shockingly common but it is not inevitable,” said Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity. “We are proud to stand here tonight with this amazing group of leaders who have decided to take action to stop this form of violence. The Commission on Gender Equity applauds these valiant Upstanders and men and women across our city who stand against gender-related  violence every day. We should not stop our efforts until society has zero tolerance for domestic violence and every woman and girl and LGBT individual is safe at home and in public.”

“I am very proud of Sheriff Fucito and his team. They are a perfect example of what public service means. They illustrate on a daily basis what it means to serve fairly, professionally and with compassion. Their service has and will continue to have a long lasting impact on not just the individuals they’ve assisted, but their families, and by extension, their communities,” said Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha.

“The Mayor’s Fund applauds the heroic work of this evening’s Upstander honorees. These individuals and groups are examples of the leadership we need to raise awareness and establish a culture change around domestic violence. They are helping reduce stigma and supporting individuals in need to come forward for support and help. These honorees, and advocates like First Lady Chirlane McCray and Commissioner Noel, are leading by example. Our city and our families are better off because of their tireless work,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC.

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