Celebrating Angela Ayora: 2024 Pillars of Change Honoree

For her exceptional dedication, unwavering commitment to creating safe spaces, compassionate counseling, and significant contributions to the Children and Family Services Programs.

Angela’s journey with Sanctuary for Families began in the fall of 2023, guided by her Internship advisor, who recommended the organization for her required field placement as part of her Master of Social Work degree. Drawn to Sanctuary for their commendable work aiding survivors of gender-based violence, Angela was eager to contribute her skills and learn more about the important mission. Currently serving as a Clinical Social Work Intern within the Children and Family Services Program, Angela manages a caseload, offering trauma-informed counseling services on a weekly basis. Additionally, she plays a key role in facilitating the Weyerhauser workshops for mothers of male-identifying children and co-facilitates a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Club catering to children ages 8-12.

Angela shares,

“I believe that the work the agency does has a lasting impact. While I am just a part of a whole, I provide my clients with a safe space where they can feel comfortable and safe to share their stories. My goal is to be there for them, providing support and care throughout their healing journey.”

A particularly memorable moment for Angela was when a client expressed feeling safe and secure within the office environment. This validation underscores Angela’s commitment to creating a nurturing space for all her clients.

Angela’s contributions extend beyond her direct interactions with clients and far beyond the requirements of her internship placement. She has been instrumental in collaborating with various stakeholders, including family members, legal entities, schools, and other systems involved in a family’s life. Her dedication is further exemplified by her proactive approach to attending additional trainings and meetings, even on non-assigned days, showcasing her eagerness to learn and grow.

Katherine Roman, Angela’s supervisor, speaks highly of her work ethic and personal qualities, which include compassion, humility, humor, curiosity, and self-discipline. Angela’s calm demeanor in crisis situations and her ability to forge positive relationships with clients and staff stand out as her defining traits.

One of Angela’s most significant contributions was highlighted by a parent who shared that, due to Angela’s compassionate and dedicated counseling, their child’s frequent nightmares had ceased, and the child appeared visibly happier. Angela’s SEL group has also been a success among the children, offering them a platform to learn and bond over group activities.

Angela’s time at Sanctuary for Families will soon end with her upcoming graduation. The agency recognizes her invaluable contributions and hopes to retain her talent in the future. Her dedication, passion, and positive impact on the families she has worked with make her a deserving Pillars of Change honoree.

In conclusion, Angela’s journey at Sanctuary has been marked by her genuine desire to make a difference. From creating safe spaces for the youngest survivors to actively participating in workshops and group sessions, Angela’s impact resonates deeply with everyone she encounters. As supervisor Katherine Roman fondly recalls, their supervisory meetings, affectionately termed “spilling the tea,” will be dearly missed. Angela’s presence has undeniably enriched the lives of Sanctuary staff and clients alike, and her future in the field of social work will undoubtedly continue to change lives.

To learn more about Angela and her work, please join us on April 18th from 6:00-8:00 PM at Pillars of Change.


Sanctuary Files Brief to SCOTUS Supporting the Right to Emergency Abortion Care

Sanctuary filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated cases Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States in support of reproductive care access.

Yesterday, Sanctuary filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated cases Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States in support of reproductive care access. We argued that by requiring pregnant patients to incur serious but preventable harms or to suffer until their medical conditions become life-threatening, Idaho’s abortion ban amounts to gender-based violence. 

Joined by a coalition of 16 organizations advocating on behalf of survivors, our brief urges the Court to consider the compounding effect of the harms caused by abortion bans that conflict with EMTALA* for pregnant patients who arrive at the emergency department with emergency medical conditions resulting from physical abuse.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States. The Court should not permit states to further endanger pregnant women’s lives and empower their abusers by denying stabilizing abortion care in the narrow but critical circumstances in which EMTALA requires it to prevent the patient’s death or serious harm to her health.

We want to thank the National Women’s Law Center for coordinating this broader effort in support of reproductive justice and our partners at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP for authoring this brief on our behalf. We also want to recognize the remarkable leadership of Sanctuary’s Reproductive Rights Advocacy Sub-Committee, co-chaired by Family Law Project and Policy Director Luba Reife and Senior Staff Attorney Anne Glatz.

Click here to read the full amicus brief. 

*The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires hospitals with emergency departments to provide a medical screening examination to any individual who comes to the emergency department and requests such an examination, and prohibits hospitals with emergency departments from refusing to examine or treat individuals with an emergency medical condition.

Honoring the Plight of Jewish Survivors on International Agunah Day

March 21, 2024, marks International Agunah Day, when we recognize the plight of Jewish women who are denied a religious divorce (get) by their husbands.

Stand with Jewish survivors of domestic abuse by supporting Sanctuary’s Jewish Orthodox Matrimonial Initiative. Make a tax-deductible gift today. 

March 21, 2024, marks International Agunah Day, when we recognize the plight of Jewish women who are denied a religious divorce (get) by their husbands. Get denial, which is a known form of abuse in the Jewish community, results in women being “chained” to dead marriages.

Under traditional Jewish law, only husbands can grant religious divorces. In some cases, women remain chained to their husbands for decades, even after receiving civil divorces. In other cases, the provision of a get is used to extract unreasonable concessions from women, such as waiving claims to marital property, giving up custodial rights, or forcing cash payments. Without a get, traditional Jewish women may not remarry, holding them back from moving on with their lives.

Sanctuary for Families has long recognized the plight of Agunot — chained women — and represents a wide range of Jewish communities through its Orthodox Jewish Matrimonial Initiative (OJMI). Our attorneys partner with advocacy organizations, community leaders, and the religious courts to obtain religious divorces for our clients.

If you need assistance with a get, or if you would like to learn more, please contact our OJMI Senior Staff Attorney and Director, Alice Shooman, at ashooman@sffny.org or our Project Assistant, Rivkah Cohen, at rivkahcohen@sffny.org.

International Agunah Day coincides with the Fast of Esther, which recognizes the bravery of Queen Esther, who saved her people in ancient Persia by defying communal norms and risking her life to approach the King for help. We take strength from her example in advocating for our clients’ freedom.



The Essential Work of Sanctuary’s Social Workers

This March, as we celebrate National Social Work Month, we delve deeper into the heart of Sanctuary for Families’ mission, showcasing the specialized and compassionate work our social workers do every day.

This March, as we celebrate National Social Work Month, we delve deeper into the heart of Sanctuary for Families’ mission, showcasing the specialized and compassionate work our social workers do every day.

Our team of more than 80 social workers provides evidenced-based, trauma-focused therapies and support to survivors of gender violence across diverse communities, including LGBTQ+ individuals, unaccompanied minor immigrant children, and survivors of trafficking, female genital mutilation/cutting, and forced marriage. Their work is tailored, sensitive, and inclusive, focusing on the unique needs of survivors, including immigrant groups such as the West African and South Asian communities.

Here is an overview of the outstanding work led by Sanctuary’s social workers:

Individual Counseling

At the core of our services, individual counseling provides a safe space for survivors of all ages and backgrounds to share their stories and embark on a healing journey. Our social workers are trained to address the profound emotional and psychological barriers survivors face post-abuse.

Group Counseling

Surviving abuse is often a solitary journey filled with challenges. Through group counseling facilitated by our social workers and art and drama therapists, we offer a supportive environment where clients can find healing and strength in the stories of others, fostering a sense of community and shared resilience.

Case Management

Our comprehensive case management services ensure that survivors’ multifaceted needs are met. From securing housing and accessing food pantries to navigating public benefits and accompanying clients to important appointments, our social workers are there every step of the way, ensuring stability and support in all life areas.

Crisis Intervention

Our helpline and crisis intervention services are lifelines for those seeking immediate escape from violence. Safety planning and support are readily available to clients and families in their most critical times of need.

Survivor Leadership

Empowerment is key in breaking the cycle of abuse. Our Survivor Leadership program offers clients who have moved beyond their abusive relationships the chance to become peer educators and advocates, contributing their voices to raise awareness and foster community outreach.

Children & Family Services

Understanding that children and families bear the brunt of domestic violence, our Children and Family Services Program is designed to minimize the effects of violence on young lives, support family healing, and prevent the intergenerational cycle of abuse. Through a variety of trauma-informed therapeutic interventions, including TF-CBT, play therapy, and group counseling, we cater to the emotional and psychological well-being of children and teens.

Our educational advocacy, tutoring, childcare, and parenting support services ensure that families have the resources and support needed to navigate the challenges of school, life transitions, and parenting after violence.

As we honor National Social Work Month, we recognize the profound impact of our social workers at Sanctuary for Families. Their dedication, expertise, and compassion are pivotal in our mission to support survivors and advocate for a world free from gender violence. Their work embodies the essence of social work—empowering individuals and communities towards healing, justice, and change.