Yoselín Acevedo / NYC
September 30, 2008 AT 09:00 AM EDT

We’ve seen her on the show Ugly Betty (ABC). She dazzles with her beauty on the red carpet. Her contagious laughter is one of her best traits. This is why it’s hard to imagine that Ana Ortiz was a victim of domestic violence.

During her 20’s, the actress of Puerto Rican descent experienced one of the most bitter moments in her life. Today, more than 10 years later, Ortiz, 37, has decided to share her painful experience with the millions of women who can relate to what she went through. This is why –in the context of October, the Month of National Domestic Violence Awareness–Ortiz has become the spokeswoman of a campaign called Tell a Gal P.A.L., launched by the Allstate Foundation to encourage domestic-violence victims to speak out to someone close about their experience, and to use every available resource to walk away from a painful situation.

As part of this initiative, a campaign to collect bags and purses was launched last week that will last through Friday, October 3. The donations will be given to Dress for Success, an organization that provides clothing to help women enter the working community.

Ortiz –now happily married to musician Noah Lebenzon– spoke to in an exclusive interview about this initiative and told us about her painful experience.

What made you become part of this campaign?
I’ve had my own experience with domestic violence, so I know the pain and shame that comes with it. And when I learned that 75 percent of the U.S. population has been affected by domestic violence, I thought: “Nobody is talking about this.” I believe that if I speak out and share my experience, I can perhaps help other women to also speak out, because the first step is to break the silence and let someone know you’re in danger and need help. I want people to understand that if I can now have this wonderful life and be capable of being as successful as I’ve been [despite what happened to me], they also can. They’re not alone.

Tell us about your experience
When I was younger, I had a charismatic boyfriend with a mean streak and I allowed myself to become entangled. It all started in a very innocent way. He began to embarrass me, insult me and humiliate me. Then he started to flirt with my girlfriends in front of me and that escalated into physical violence. I was fortunate that I could trust my mother, who realized what was happening and got me to tell her what was going on without passing judgment. She was the help I needed.

We have learned recently of various cases of celebrity Latinas who have been abused by their husbands but have not been willing to speak out publicly about it. What would you tell them?
I would tell them that we have to rid ourselves of this stigma and that it’s up to us, who are in the public eye, to help other women. We should not be ashamed to speak out because we do have a voice and should speak out on behalf of those who don’t have that voice. This is precisely the problem. You feel impotent, and that’s the power the person who abuses you has over you. They make you feel you’re worthless and that you can’t walk out of the situation. And that’s not true.

You’re now happily married. What do you feel when you remember your past?
It’s a relief to know the place I’m in now. And that’s what I want women to understand, that going through that experience doesn’t determine who you are. You have the power to walk out victoriously and be strong, happy and capable of trusting again and loving again. Get the help you need. It’s wonderful to know what I’ve been through and to see what I’ve become.

For more information to contribute to this cause, go to, or take the hand bags you wish to donate to an Allstate office throughout the United States through Friday, October 3.

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