Sanctuary Spotlight: Nefertiti J. Alexander

A conversation with Nefertiti J. Alexander, partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP and co-chair of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Council.

We are thrilled to have a conversation with Nefertiti J. Alexander, partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP and co-chair of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Council. Nefertiti has handled pro bono matters involving criminal defense, labor trafficking, and immigration. Her practice at Kasowitz focuses on complex commercial litigation, white-collar defense, and government investigations.

How did you first learn about Sanctuary for Families?

I have known about Sanctuary for more than a decade.  When I was an associate at my former firm, I heard about the great work that Sanctuary was doing and was eventually invited to a Legal Advisory Council (LAC) meeting by Bill Gorin, one of my mentors.  Through the LAC meetings, I learned more about Sanctuary’s mission.  I also volunteered with Sanctuary for its annual Holiday Drive, putting together holiday presents for Sanctuary’s clients and their families. I have always felt aligned with Sanctuary’s holistic approach to helping more vulnerable members of our community.

Sanctuary has a very strong relationship with Kasowitz, and the firm has taken on so many pro bono cases for us. Can you elaborate on this partnership?

Kasowitz has a long history of working on pro bono and other community projects with Sanctuary.  Our partner David Abrams and counsel Teresa Matushaj run our pro bono program, and our partner Sarah Leivick has also been closely involved with Sanctuary.  When I joined the firm in 2018, I was so impressed by the Kasowitz attorneys devoting significant resources and time to Sanctuary’s pro bono matters, and took on a pro bono matter through Sanctuary myself.  It’s a great opportunity for our associates to take on leadership roles in cases, develop client relationships, and make a difference in the community. The work is incredibly rewarding.

You are a co-chair for the LAC now. How did that come about?

As part of Kasowitz’s long-standing relationship with Sanctuary, we began working with Sanctuary on its Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative (IGVSI).  Through that initiative, I started to work closely with Ross Kramer and Kayla Abrams at Sanctuary.  When Sanctuary asked me to co-chair the LAC, I jumped at the opportunity.

As a co-chair of the LAC, are there any particular goals you would like to achieve?

I am deeply committed to diversity and sit on the diversity committee at Kasowitz.  The LAC would love to welcome a wide array of members, whether in-house or at firms, from different economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds and representing a wide range of ages. When you bring those perspectives together, we create a stronger LAC.

Earlier in the year, Ross, Kayla, and I gave a presentation at Verizon Communication’s New Jersey headquarters to raise more awareness about Sanctuary;  it was very well received. A Verizon Communications in-house lawyer participated in a client visit at a correctional facility and joined us at our recent LAC meeting.  We are developing ways to collaborate, and it’s been great to help develop that relationship.

What kind of pro bono work have you done with Sanctuary?

Kasowitz has worked on a number of matters with Sanctuary, including orders of protection and divorce.  One case that I worked on that I would like to highlight is the case of Mrs. P., in which we sought parole for one of Sanctuary’s clients through the IGVSI. We sought parole, but close to our client’s release, she got a misconduct ticket that threatened her release date. Our team had to move quickly to represent her in a disciplinary hearing, one of the first of its kind in New York State, where outside attorneys could represent their client. We also represented her at a rescission hearing, where we persuaded the parole board that her release date should not be jeopardized by the misconduct ticket, and spoke in depth about the support, including shelter, work opportunities, educational opportunities, and clinical services, that Sanctuary would provide our client upon release.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about Sanctuary?

Sanctuary for Families is a unique organization. Not only is it helping survivors advocate for themselves and pursue their legal rights, but it provides so much support to empower clients and enable them to build a successful future.  All of that is being done within a trauma-informed framework, whether in the court system or through psychotherapy, education, or mediation.

Sanctuary’s 360 support for clients is incredibly admirable and worthy of support. This is why, as a LAC co-chair, part of my mission is to ensure that LAC includes a broad base of legal professionals. When we uplift our most vulnerable, we strengthen the community for everyone. In an area that can be fraught with politics, Sanctuary helps us to focus on the human perspective.

How to Save on Your Taxes AND Make a Tax-Free Gift to Sanctuary

If you are looking for a way to save money on taxes and support Sanctuary’s mission to help survivors leave abuse behind, consider making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your IRA.

If you want to save money on taxes and support Sanctuary’s mission to help survivors leave abuse behind, consider making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your IRA.

What is a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD)?

Giving a QCD is a tax-smart strategy for IRA owners to achieve maximum impact for their charitable donations. QCDs are direct transfers of up to $100,000 per person from their IRA to a qualifying charity, like Sanctuary. The donor doesn’t report QCDs as taxable income and gifting the income can lower one’s adjusted gross income (AGI,) which is used to determine the taxable portion of Social Security benefits and other deductions and credits.

What age can I start to make a QCD?

IRA owners and beneficiaries who are age 70 ½ or older qualify.

What is a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) and how does that relate to QCDs?

Beginning at age 73, you may be subject to taking annual withdrawals known as Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as a traditional IRA. If you do not make withdrawals, you’ll be subject to pay a potentially significant penalty.

Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) are gifts to charity that replace your receiving part or all of an RMD as taxable income.

How do QCDs help Sanctuary?

QCDs are an excellent way to fund lifetime giving in retirement years. In addition, they support our mission of providing comprehensive services to survivors of gender-based violence, including life-saving shelter, counseling support, legal assistance, and economic empowerment programs.

What do I need to do to make a QCD?

It’s simple – contact your IRA custodian and follow their procedures to request that part or all of your QCD be gifted directly to Sanctuary. It’s important to remember that the money must be paid directly from the financial institution to Sanctuary. If the funds were previously held as an asset such as stocks or bonds, the investment will be sold to transfer cash to the charitable organization.

To make use of this tax-smart giving strategy, please ensure that the check arrives with your name and address so we can thank you and send you a gift acknowledgement letter.

Questions? Contact Susan Puder at spuder@sffny.org for more information.

giving tuesday; facebook; fundraiser

Stand with Survivors this #GivingTuesday

This Giving Tuesday, we invite you to join us in making a powerful impact on the lives of survivors of gender violence and their families.

Celebrate #GivingTuesday with a tax-deductible gift to Sanctuary — all gifts will be matched up to $70,000!

DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT


Giving Tuesday is just around the corner! 

As we approach Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to the spirit of generosity and philanthropy, we invite you to join us in making a powerful impact on the lives of survivors of gender violence and their families.

We know many other causes are vying for your attention at this time of year. Still, we hope you’ll think of Sanctuary’s clients on November 28th — the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Thanks to a generous group of anonymous Sanctuary Board members, all gifts made to our #GivingTuesday campaign will be matched up to $70,000! You can get a head start on Giving Tuesday by donating today, knowing that your gift will have double the impact for survivors

  MAKE A GIFT  


Take Action on Social Media

If you’d like to increase your impact, you can create a Facebook fundraiser to get your friends and family involved in our mission to end gender-based violence. It’s an easy and effective way to get the word out about our work.

Create my facebook fundraiser

You can make an incredible difference with just a few minutes’ work. 

  1. Click here to create your own Facebook fundraiser.
  2. Click ‘Select Nonprofit’ and search for Sanctuary for Families. You’ll know it’s us by our logo!
  3. Set your goal and tell your friends why you’re supporting Sanctuary or why supporting survivors is important to you.
  4. Start sharing your fundraiser Monday evening and all through the end of the day on Tuesday!

100% of donations made through Facebook go to the nonprofit organization; which means every dollar goes to our cause.

Create an Instagram Nonprofit Fundraiser:

Instagram fundraisers can be attached to video, carousel, and image posts in the feed. The fundraiser will be visible in the post and will be active for 30 days, which can be extended at any time. A link to an active fundraiser will also be added to your profile bio. ACCESS OUR GRAPHICS.

  1. On your profile, tap the Create icon (“+”) in the top right.
  2. Select Fundraiser.
  3. Enter Sanctuary for Families (@sffny) and select it from the menu. 
  4. Add details in the Fundraiser Details page, tap Add, and tap Share.

Invite others to join an Instagram Group Fundraiser:

  1. Once you’ve created your fundraiser, tap Share.
  2. Tap Invite Collaborators.
  3. Invite the account(s) you would like to join the fundraiser.
  4. Once the invitees accept, their usernames show in the fundraiser. The fundraiser is also added to their profile.

Fundraise on Instagram Stories Using a Donation Sticker

  1. Open the camera and upload one of our graphics, or your own photo.
  2. Tap the sticker icon.
  3. Select the Donation sticker from the tray.
  4. Search for and select Sanctuary for Families (@sffny).
  5. Customize your fundraiser using Stories creative tools.
  6. Tap Send To, then tap Share next to Your Story.
  7. You can add multiple images or videos to build your fundraising story.

Prefer X (Twitter) to Facebook or Instagram? 

  1. Add our donation link to your bio. 
  2. When you post, drive your followers to the link in your bio

Have questions? 

Direct message us on any of our social media accounts or email communications@sffny.org

Thank you for supporting Sanctuary for Families. We are dedicated to the safety, healing, and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Through comprehensive services for our clients and their children, and through outreach, education, and advocacy, we strive to create a world in which freedom from gender violence is a human right.

Survivor Leader Spotlight: W.Y.

“I encourage survivors to try however they can to create and make space for a self-care/healing practice because it can only be empowering.”

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), we’re spotlighting some of our incredible Survivor Leaders, former clients of Sanctuary who go through a 12-week training and certification course to prepare them to make system-wide change through advocacy, training, program development, and working directly with other survivors. 


Having a self-care practice while I was liberating myself from DV has been essential in my sanity, and the success of my and my child’s outcome. I often asked myself why didn’t I have this in place sooner, especially when I was still in the relationship with the abuser. It’s not until I had distance from him and the situation that I understood that I was in daily survival mode — there was no space to cultivate my stillness, awareness, and inner strength.  The following practices have not just helped me, but have really made all the difference, in who I am today. I can say that I’ve transcended the victim and survivor phases of trauma, and am now thriving.  I hope every person who has been a victim of any form of DV gets to this place within themselves and in their lives because they deserve to.

After being in survival mode for years, having my sympathetic nervous system activated non-stop, my nervous system needed a huge rest.  Any practice that revolves around stillness or slow-pace and body/mind awareness will help regulate the nervous system. For me, it was meditation.  Having at least 2 hours to myself daily to be still was essential. I meditated anywhere from 1-2 hours, for almost 2 years straight.  I never set a timer..I just got up when I was ready. I also experienced that “witnessing” during meditation that I’ve heard about from serious meditators and monks.  This was truly healing as I was able to view matters and people (including the abuser) from a higher, detached perspective.  The majority of my emotional healing has come from my meditation experiences. These sessions brought understanding and compassion to my life in extremely profound ways…in essence enlightenment.  I also allowed (and still do) myself to sleep-in whenever possible, and to have lazy-days.  If sleeping-in isn’t an option, then I get to bed super early like 8pm to get 10-12+ hours of sleep.  Your nervous system and entire body is healing during this time.  

The other practice is something that allows recording of reflections, and emptying of thoughts and feelings. I journaled as much as possible.  It’s a way to dump out raw thoughts and feelings to get out of my system without directing that energy onto anyone else. It’s also a great tool for reflecting. Journaling allows me to look back at entries to see how far I’ve come in my healing journey. I tend to also sleep better when I journal before bed. It’s a space to free up my mental and not take things into my sleep. I used to use notebooks, but that fills up quickly and where does one put tens of dozens of notebooks?! An app like Evernote or Apple Notes is great because it’s automatically dated, and you can search for key words or dates whenever you want to look back at older entries.  If journaling might not be your thing, recording voice notes is a great alternative.

“I can say that I’ve transcended the victim and survivor phases of trauma, and am now thriving. I hope every person who has been a victim of any form of DV gets to this place within themselves and in their lives because they deserve to.”

Both journaling and meditation are something I’ve done prior to experiencing DV, so it felt natural to use familiar tools — although there are numerous other practices that can offer the same support. And although I did these things intensely during this time period, I don’t at the moment need to sit daily nor for that length of time. I’m in a better place internally and externally, and am grateful that the biggest to smallest things were aligned for me to have and experience these practices during a critical time in my life; most especially throughout the family court case.  

The last thing I’d like to share isn’t a healing practice, although it may provide some relief with further abuse. While the custody and DV case was in family court, I wish I would’ve requested that any communication required with the abuser pertaining to our child be thru a communication app.  There are apps like OurFamilyWizard and TalkingParents that are created for this type of communication. Whereas text messages/emails can get a little tricky to gather and present as evidence, these apps don’t allow deletion or changes to the messages exchanged, so there can’t be any manipulation of context, and are widely accepted by courts as admissible evidence. I only found out about this years into the court case and didn’t occur to me then to request this even for the temporary OOP. The OOP petitioner may request communication clauses in an OOP, which I did since overnight visitations were granted between my child and the abuser. And he did abuse that access to me.  Since we now use the app, his written interactions with me have calmed down a lot because he knows this could be unquestionable admissible evidence.

Every person’s situation is different, and I recognize I had a certain privilege to be able to do have this type of time and physical space, but I encourage survivors to try however they can to create and make space for a self-care/healing practice because it can only be empowering. 


Join W.Y. in standing with survivors of gender violence. Your gift supports Sanctuary’s life-saving work with thousands of families escaping abuse.

   Make a Gift