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Ariel Zwang
Ariel Zwang is the CEO of Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading provider of services to victims of crime and abuse. Last year, Safe Horizon provided support, prevented violence, and promoted justice for hundreds of thousands of victims and their families and communities. From 2001-2008, Ms. Zwang was Executive Director of New York Cares, which, under her leadership, became the city’s largest volunteering organization, deploying 40,000 volunteers annually. Her previous experience includes serving as a Vice President of the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation in the South Bronx, and as Special Assistant to the Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education. Ms. Zwang is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.

Entries by Ariel Zwang

What You Should Know About the Most Dangerous Week

(2) Comments | Posted June 29, 2015 | 9:35 AM

It can be hard to understand how seeking safety can first lead to danger. But it can.

When victims call Safe Horizon's domestic violence hotline, it's often in a moment of desperation and crisis and, all too frequently, immediately after a terrifying incident of violence.

People dial, reaching out to a complete stranger for help to make a life-changing decision.

When victims choose to leave a domestic violence situation, they have made one of the most courageous choices imaginable. Few people realize just how dangerous the week victims choose to leave truly is.

You may be asking, "Why is the week when a victim chooses to leave so incredibly dangerous?" In order to reestablish control, abusers may respond in extremely violent and unpredictable ways once they find out the victim has decided to leave. In fact, a recent separation is one of the reliable indicators of lethality identified by researchers who have studied domestic violence homicides.

At Safe Horizon, we know from firsthand survivor accounts just how dangerous this week can be.

Ilianexy was a client who barely survived a brutal attack at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. Six days after she left him, he showed up at Ilianexy's apartment and stabbed her multiple times. After six weeks in an induced coma and seven surgeries she eventually recovered. But not all victims do. And this is why putting an end to domestic violence is so desperately needed.

So what can be done during that most dangerous week when a victim decides to leave in hopes of a safer future?

Domestic violence experts know from firsthand experience that hotlines are an incredibly important means to help stop domestic violence. And research proves this--it shows that hotlines decrease the risk of harm by providing victims with the information and resources they need to make informed decisions during times of extreme crisis.

Clients' safety is the number one priority for hotline staff. Together with the victim, these trained specialists explore risks, develop safety plans, and link survivors to critical services.

In 2014, Safe Horizon answered more than 112,000 calls to our hotline and provided telephone services to nearly 9,000 individuals seeking domestic violence emergency shelter housing. In fact, 80 percent of New York City domestic violence shelter residents are placed through our hotline.

This makes shelters another critical service during this most dangerous week. Research shows that shelters have been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of ongoing violence.

Why? Because shelters place a strong barrier between a victim and abuser. They are confidential, their addresses unlisted, and no one is allowed on the premises without advance clearance. It is extremely important that when victims leave that they cannot be found by their abuser. This means that staying with family or friends may not be the best solution as it is very likely the abuser knows where these individuals live, leaving victims vulnerable to being located.

At shelters, victims gain access to essential resources, such as food, child care, housing advocacy, linkage to employment and education resources, and so much more to ensure their most immediate needs are met. And so victims are able to focus on rebuilding their lives.

Ultimately, hotlines and shelters transform what can be the most dangerous week into one that will one day be looked upon as the moment victims became survivors.

To learn more about Safe Horizon, please visit us on the web at

To do your part to raise awareness and help stop domestic violence, here are three ways you can help:

1. Let victims know a hotline is available. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and are in need of help, call Safe Horizon's anonymous domestic violence hotline, 800.621.HOPE (4673) in New York City; or The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800.799.SAFE (7233) nationally.

2. Know the signs of domestic violence. Click here to learn the 10 signs.

3. Support solutions and #PutTheNailinIt to end domestic violence. Donate today to Safe Horizon's #PutTheNailinIt campaign to support programs and services that stop domestic violence, like hotlines and shelters. Then paint your left ring fingernail purple to show your support. Learn more at

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence...

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Domestic Violence Awareness Is at All Time High: What Next?

(4) Comments | Posted May 22, 2015 | 3:07 PM

#PutTheNailinIt from Safe Horizon on Vimeo.

In the past year, sports organizations and their millions of fans, celebrities, media, and the public have focused as never before on the issue of domestic violence. A revolutionary conversation peaked on social media with the hashtags #whyistayed/#whyileft, which advanced the public's ability to understand the obstacles faced by victims - and to blame them less. At Safe Horizon, we've been hoping for this level of societal attention for years.

But missing from all this passionate discussion has been an understanding of what is actually working to end domestic violence and how people can support real change. In response, Safe Horizon has launched an action campaign called #PutTheNailinIt.

#PutTheNailinIt asks the public to show their support for anti-domestic violence efforts at Safe Horizon - the largest domestic violence organization in the country. By painting their ring fingernail purple, individuals show they've donated--knowing that even a dollar helps--and are vowing to end domestic violence. It's a simple act that, when taken by many, can make a profound impact in enabling Safe Horizon to continue and expand work that is actually ending domestic violence.

What Works?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there has been a 63% reduction in incidents of domestic violence that do not result in death in the US since 1994. In addition, there was a 48% reduction in intimate partner homicides between 1976 and 2005. Clearly this is the direction we want to be moving. However, what's moving us in this direction? What's working?

Here are the top seven interventions that - according to research -- do work.

7 Things That Are Proven to End Domestic Violence

1. Domestic Violence Shelters

80 percent of victims staying in Safe Horizon shelters reported being choked or strangled by their abuser--they were in terrifying, life-threatening situations. Shelters offer a safe refuge for victims and their children, providing time for victims to think about options and rebuild their lives. Shelters have been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of ongoing violence and to decrease depression.

2. Orders of Protection (aka Restraining Orders)

What happens when the abuser won't stay away? An Order of Protection is a court order that typically requires the abuser to stay away from the victim. Orders of Protection can go further to require that the abuser turn in firearms, cover the rent, or pay to replace damaged possessions. It can even address child custody on a temporary basis. Research has found that orders of protection decrease the likelihood of repeat abuse.

3. Advocacy

Domestic violence can do damage in every area of a victim's life. Many victims need intensive help to get back on their feet. Domestic violence advocacy services focus on supporting victims in accessing social, medical, legal, and financial aid so that they can rebuild their lives. Studies reveal that recipients of advocacy experience less violence and have improved quality of life and social support.

4. Legal Representation and Advocacy

Navigating a challenging legal system can be daunting for anyone, let alone for someone in crisis. Free or low-cost legal representation and advocacy from professionals or paraprofessionals on criminal and civil legal matters are essential for victims. Evidence shows that victims that receive legal advocacy report a decrease in abuse experiences.

5. Hotlines

In moments of crisis, having someone ready to hear you and offer options can be lifesaving. Domestic violence hotlines provide support to victims around the clock, exploring risks, developing safety plans, and linking survivors to critical services. Victims report that calling a DV hotline helped them gain important information and resources and increased survivor's access to support.

6. Counseling

Domestic violence counseling provides a safe space for victims to talk about their abuse experiences helping them build confidence and hope. Research has found that recipients report that they feel more informed and supported, are better able to be self-sufficient, use coping skills, and improve their decision-making ability. With trauma-focused treatment, survivors experience relief from posttraumatic symptoms like nightmares and panic attacks.

7. Economic Empowerment

The majority of victims staying in Safe Horizon shelters were financially dependent on their abusers. Economic empowerment programs help victims of domestic violence learn how to manage their finances and develop financial plans. Research indicates that victims receiving these services have a better understanding of financial matters (like credit scores and managing a bank account), and they feel more confident about their ability to manage their money and plan for the future.

Together these efforts represent the core of Safe Horizon's programs to end domestic violence in New York City. Across all these interventions, Safe Horizon takes a client-centered approach, grounding in the understanding that victims are the experts of their own lives. As advocates, our responsibility is to provide safety and healing options for victims, but never to tell them what to do. Whether staying or leaving, there are tremendous challenges. Research also bears out that making their own choices enables victims to feel empowered and more likely to follow-through with their decisions.

It's up to us all to keep domestic violence a social priority by pushing the discussion and by also supporting the solutions. On Sunday, June 14 starting at 3p ET, Investigation Discovery is supporting #PutTheNailinIt by dedicating an afternoon of programming that addresses this issue. Check your local listings at Join the conversation on Twitter during the programming marathon to chat with domestic violence survivors and advocates. Be sure to follow @DiscoveryID, #InspireADifference and...

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Child Abusers Shouldn't Be Able to Run Out the Clock

(2) Comments | Posted April 22, 2015 | 3:02 PM

At Safe Horizon, we help thousands of abused children every year to tell their stories, often detailing horrors that most adults would find unimaginable. And then we work closely with the police and prosecutors to bring those who have harmed them to justice. However, there is another side...

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Let's Overcome Our Blind Spots When It Come to Child Trafficking

(1) Comments | Posted February 18, 2015 | 12:47 PM

Safe Horizon's newest Child Advocacy Center

When most people hear the word "trafficked" they think of drug smuggling, or of young women being sexually exploited by a pimp. We may think of victims being moved across international borders and forced into abusive work conditions....

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In Counting the Homeless This Week, Let's Count Youth Who Exchange Sex for Shelter

(1) Comments | Posted February 11, 2015 | 5:09 PM


This week New York City will once again try to count the number of homeless individuals who are not in a shelter as part of the nationally coordinated Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. Admittedly, this is not an easy undertaking.

Just try to think...

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Why You Should Curb Your Instinct to Judge Homeless Youth

(1) Comments | Posted December 12, 2014 | 10:42 AM

I will probably say "stay warm" hundreds of times this winter season, but I don't need to walk very far to run into those for whom staying warm is impossible, because they call the streets home. In New York City, over 1,750 youth will sleep on the streets on any...

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Not Just the NFL: How Employers Can Help Stop Domestic Violence

(1) Comments | Posted October 22, 2014 | 6:15 PM

By now, we've all seen the video of Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out in an Atlantic City elevator. Seeing it stripped away the convenient excuses - "she hit him first" or "it wasn't that bad." There are many lessons to be learned from the public dialogue about this case:...

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The Children on Our Doorstep

(0) Comments | Posted August 26, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Just as I began writing this piece about Hector* -- one of many children who have arrived, unaccompanied, in the U.S. since last October- - news broke that at least five of the children the U.S. recently deported back to Honduras, Hector's country of origin, were murdered when...

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Let's Not Forget About Domestic Violence on College Campuses

(4) Comments | Posted August 1, 2014 | 11:12 AM


As parents, my husband and I try our best to give our daughters examples of what healthy relationships look like. However, we know there are no guarantees this will positively influence their relationships, especially once they leave our home and go off to...

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More Pride Needed Over Treatment of Homeless Young People: 5 Things You Should Know to Help

(0) Comments | Posted June 25, 2014 | 6:01 PM

Did you see any homeless youth on the way to work this morning? If you're like a lot of people here in New York or other cities, you probably did, even if you didn't realize it. That's probably because homeless youth have become adept at not standing out for fear...

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The Power of Mothers to End Violence

(0) Comments | Posted May 8, 2014 | 4:35 PM

Like moms everywhere, I'm reflecting this Mother's Day on my blessings. I have two teenage girls, and it is a delight to help them grow. But even as I enjoy a card or breakfast in bed, I know that the normal things we do for our children -- care for...

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Despite Progress in Helping Abused Children, More Needs to be Done

(0) Comments | Posted April 17, 2014 | 11:40 AM

Seven-year-old Sarah suddenly seemed withdrawn and tired. She started to wake up with bad dreams and was wetting the bed for the first time in years. A letter from school expressed concern about her progress in class. Sarah's parents were worried.

When Sarah told them that she had been...

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Sanando a quienes ayudan a sanar: el alto costo del trabajo social

(0) Comments | Posted March 12, 2014 | 8:05 PM

Como CEO de Safe Horizon, organización dedicada a empoderar y sanar a las víctimas de crímenes y abuso, comúnmente visito nuestros centros de apoyo a los niños (Child Advocacy Centers). Estos extraordinarios centros para niños cuentan con personal compuesto por dedicados expertos que trabajan en equipo...

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Healing for the Healers: The Great Personal Toll of Social Work

(1) Comments | Posted March 11, 2014 | 10:36 AM

As the CEO of Safe Horizon, an organization dedicated to empowering and healing victims of crime and abuse, I often visit our Child Advocacy Centers. These extraordinary child-friendly centers are staffed by a team of dedicated experts who work together to investigate, prosecute and treat...

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NO MORE: Putting An End To Domestic Violence Once And For All

(38) Comments | Posted March 15, 2013 | 9:15 AM

While we are absolutely, truly delighted that President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act last week, it's also clear that the legislation never should have been allowed to lapse in the first place. The fact that it was even used as a political chess piece is a disturbing indication...

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Dominique Strauss Kahn and Rape Cases

(20) Comments | Posted July 26, 2011 | 3:39 PM

The Dominique Strauss Kahn affair is like a Rorschach test: it consists of pieces of information so conflicting, and hard to make sense of, that what people end up thinking about it is a reflection of the perspective they brought in the first place.

If you feel that a world...

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