Our statement on the passing of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian.
On Friday we lost two pillars of the Civil Rights Movement – Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian. At Sanctuary for Families, we mourn the loss of these brave men who transformed our country through their love, compassion, and unyielding commitment to racial justice.
Our mission of ending gender-based violence is inextricably linked to the fight for racial equity. Here in New York City, we see how forces like housing segregation, underfunded schools, inequitable health care, police brutality, and unconscious bias in social services converge. These systems oppress Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, creating the circumstances that too often engender abuse and exploitation.
The work of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian and the Movement for Black Lives must continue. Words alone are not enough when it comes to honoring these freedom fighters. Here’s what we can all do:
Rep. John Lewis said, “Do your part and vote like you’ve never voted before. Believe in the power of love and together we will build the Beloved Community here in America.” Visit Vote Save America to register or make sure you’re registered, then check with your friends to make sure they’re ready for November as well.
From the “three-fifths” compromise, continuing through the Jim Crow era, to today, the census has historically been weaponized to deprive critical federal funding to Black and Brown communities. Fill out your census and consider exploring ways you can support NYC census efforts which have been hampered by the pandemic.
Sanctuary for Families joins in mourning the passing of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian this week and we send out condolences to all who were fortunate to know them personally. As we strive to build a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right, we remember the words of Rep. John Lewis who said, “Freedom is not a state, it is an act.” With your support, our fight for freedom continues.
Act now to make sure immigrant survivors can continue building lives free from violence in the United States.
Our sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who took action in defense of asylum and to Chapman and Cutler LLP for assisting Sanctuary in submitting a detailed comment to DHS & DOJ.
The Trump administration has just proposed regulations that would effectively eliminate gender-based asylum claims, prohibiting individuals fleeing domestic violence, human trafficking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, anti-LGBTQ violence, and other forms of gender-based persecution from seeking safe haven in the United States. By codifying into federal law its numerous and sprawling anti-asylum policies, these rules represent the most consequential attempt by this administration to dismantle asylum protection for the most vulnerable survivors.
Relying on the decision in Matter of A-B- by Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the rules propose a change to the very definition of “refugee”— a crucial protection created under international law and enshrined in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The rules further eliminate any possibility of protection for survivors of domestic violence and anti-LGBTQ violence by framing such violence as “private criminal acts” or “interpersonal disputes.”
At Sanctuary, we work with gender violence survivors, 70% of whom are immigrants. Many are seeking asylum due to extreme intimate partner violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), and/or death threats they experienced in their home countries.
Click here to learn more about our work or continue reading for instructions on how to push back on the Trump administration’s latest effort.
The proposed asylum rule represents an unconscionable attack on our clients and others seeking humanitarian protections to escape violence, protect themselves and their families, and work towards a new life. With assistance from Chapman and Cutler LLP, Sanctuary submitted a detailed comment urging the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw the proposed rules in their entirety.
HOW TO SUBMIT A COMMENT
Our friends at Immigration Equality have created an Individual action takers guide that includes sample comments asking DHS and DOJ to withdraw the proposed rule. All you need to do is personalize the sample comment and briefly explain, in your own voice, why the U.S. must preserve access to protection for all asylum seekers, including survivors of gender-based violence. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 PM ET on Wed. July 15.
Please, DO NOT copy and submit the sample comment as it is—The U.S. government is required by law to review and respond to unique comments only. We strongly encourage you to personalize your message so that it speaks to your own individual and/or professional experiences.
You can also find visit the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s asylum rule web-hub to find detailed templates specifically geared towards attorneys and legal service providers by the Tahirih Justice Center, National Immigrant Justice Center, Immigration Equality, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), among others representing specific perspectives (e.g., templates from the Alliance for Immigrant Survivors for domestic violence/sexual assault advocates, from the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights for children’s advocates, from Physicians for Human Rights for health professionals, and from the Coalition to End Violence Against Women taking a U.S. foreign policy angle).
SANCTUARY’S IMMIGRATION WORK
For over 30 years, Sanctuary for Families has served and advocated for survivors of gender violence regardless of immigration status, offering the highest quality of legal representation to clients in order to protect their right to due process.
In the face of Matter of A-B– and other anti-immigrant policies, Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project has led the field in fighting for our clients and other survivors of gender-based violence, advancing—and winning—asylum claims on their behalf based on theories offeminist political opinion. Take, for example, our client Ms. O-T-, a Honduran woman who testified before a judge at the New York Immigration Court in the fall of 2019.
Ms. O-T-‘s Story
As a young woman from a rural village in Guatemala who was removed from school at the age of 9 and who spoke little Spanish and no English, Ms. O-T’s pro se I-589 application demonstrated little to no understanding of the legal framework underlying her valid claim for asylum, let alone the type of evidence supportive of her claim. With the help of Sanctuary counsel, Ms. O-T- was able to testify to the court not just about the severity of the harm she experienced at the hands of her husband, but also about the many ways her individual actions expressing independence from both her husband and the patriarchal community to which she belonged prompted increased violence and threats to her body and her life.
For the first time since entering the United States and asking for asylum protection, Ms. O-T- felt liberated to tell her story simply and directly. Her testimony—sincere and succinct, and punctuated by moments of emotional release—served to assist the judge in ascertaining not just the factual elements underlying her claim for asylum but also her credibility as a witness. Even the government’s cross-examination of her testimony served to solidify her claim as she further clarified some of the more complicated aspects of her experience as a survivor. The court’s ultimate finding—that this young woman was persecuted by her partner because of her feminist political opinion—would have been impossible under the Proposed Regulation since it allows for the pretermission of an asylum application that does not, on its face, present a legally cognizable claim for asylum.
Taking Action for Our Clients
Sanctuary’s immigration team has consistently, and with success, argued before the immigration courts and the asylum office about theimportance of country conditions evidence in framing our client’s claim for asylum within a specific cultural and political context. The Proposed Rules would bar consideration of such evidence, ignoring the reality that persecution of an individual cannot be considered in a vacuum and must be looked within the context of wider societal realities remains.
Now more than ever, we stand committed to pushing back against the incremental erosion of the rights of immigrant survivors seeking protection in this country. Please join us by taking action today.
Intimate partner violence, like other forms of abuse, does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.
Intimate partner violence, like other forms of abuse, does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.
In honor of PRIDE, we’re hoping to bring attention to how intimate partner violence affects the LGBTQ+ community. We also want to remind our fellow New Yorkers that Sanctuary’s services are free and available to ALL individuals regardless of race, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, national origin, citizenship status, or marital status. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help.
Abuse occurs in LGBTQ+ relationships at similar or even higher rates than in the general population. According to a 2010 CDC survey, the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) is significantly higher for bisexual women (61%) compared to that of lesbian (43%) and heterosexual women (35%). Lesbian women and gay men also reported experiencing levels of sexual and intimate partner abuse similar to or higher than those of their straight counterparts.
Although data on IPV in the transgender community is much more limited, studies suggest that 31 to 50 percent of transgender people suffer from intimate partner abuse at some point in their lives, compared to 28 to 33 percent in the general population. One study found the prevalence of IPV experienced by trans women in the past year to be twice as high as that of trans men (16% vs. 8%), a finding consistent with the higher prevalence of intimate partner abuse among women in general.
While it is often assumed that abusers are either the male or more masculine-presenting partner in a relationship, it is important to note that violence can be perpetrated by any individual regardless of their physical or personal attributes.In the CDC study, for example, bisexual and heterosexual survivors, of various genders, overwhelmingly reported having only perpetrators of a different gender.
At Sanctuary for Families, we recognize that LGBTQ+ individuals’ experiences of abuse are too often ignored or dismissed. We also know that members of this community face unique barriers to seeking help because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression. These may include the risk of rejection and isolation from family and friends; fear of being outed by their partner in retaliation; misconceptions about abuse in same-sex relationships; homelessness and trauma from police brutality; lack of confidence in service providers due to potential homophobia; limited availability of or awareness about LGBTQ-specific or LGBTQ-friendly services; among others. Trans people, in particular, have been impacted by COVID-19, including increased unemployment and homelessness, while also struggling to find adequate medical care and support.
Every day, we at Sanctuary strive to create a welcoming environment that fosters compassion and mutual respect where all survivors can find safety and stability as they rebuild their lives in the aftermath of abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out.
The following Safety Planning Guide was created by members of Sanctuary’s Survivor Leadership program and has been reviewed by multiple clinicians. The guide draws from survivors’ and clinicians’ expertise, as well as from safety planning models from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Sanctuary for Families, and Love is Respect.
Download this guide with safety tips from survivors.
What Is a Safety Plan?
A safety plan is a set of steps you can take to reduce the risk of harm in unsafe situations with an abuser or family member. With the changes in our environments due to coronavirus, we advise survivors of gender-based violence to consider the following safety tips created by survivors. Sanctuary for Families’ team of Survivor Leaders put this list together in hopes of providing digital tools for safety during this time.
Why Should I Create a Safety Plan?
It can be hard to think and react in a time of emergency or high stress, especially with the added stress and uncertainty of coronavirus, so it is helpful to create a plan in advance. It is also important to update your safety plan often, as circumstances can change. Abusers often try to have power and control over a survivor’s life, and a safety plan is one way a survivor can have power and control over their own situation, as much as they can. Having a plan can empower you to make the safest decisions you can for your situation.
You are the Expert
You know your situation better than anyone, so please individualize your safety plan to what feels safest for you. If something does not feel safe, trust your instincts. For example, it may not be safe to complete a safety plan in writing, but you can still review one in your head and memorize it as best you can. It can also be helpful to go over your safety plan with a trusted friend or relative.
Please try to use a safer computer or phone that someone abusive does not have direct or remote (hacking) access to. Digital stalking is one way for abusers to try to exert power and control. Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call instead. If you use email or texting, please use a safer computer or phone and an account your abuser does not know about.
For more information on computers, the internet, and digital safety, click here.
Increased risk of harm due to COVID-19
As many of us are practicing social distancing and quarantine, there are many additional risks for survivors and their safety, such as:
Isolation: Abusers can use this time to further isolate survivors from their loved ones. They may also use this as a time to further restrict a survivor’s movement in person, controlling where they go and when. They might also control a survivor’s interactions online, limiting their access to the outside world.
Restricting Access to Information: Abusers may also restrict access to the news and other outlets, making themselves the source of all information.
Increased Abuse: The abuse may worsen during this time as survivors may be spending more time in contact with their abusers. Survivors may also experience new or different types of abuse during this time.
In-Person and Digital Stalking: Abusers might try to exert their power by trying to monitor, control and stalk survivors in person and digitally.
Financial Abuse: Many individuals are experiencing financial burdens due to being unable to work, and abusers may further financially exploit survivors during this time.
Parenting: Survivors who co-parent their children with their abusers may be facing unique challenges during these times, such as barriers to visitation and/or increased exposure to the abuser due to lack of accessible childcare. For example, in order for a survivor to work, he/she/they may need to utilize their abuser for childcare.
SAFETY TIPS FROM SURVIVORS
1. Buddy System Code Word
Identify at least two people that you can contact with a “code word” to let them know if you are in trouble. Plan in advance what they should do if you send them the code word.
2. “Safest Room”
If there is an argument, identify an area of the home you can move to where there are no weapons and there are ways for you to leave the house, apartment, or building, such as a door or window to exit the house/apartment. For some survivors, especially those quarantined at home with an abuser during coronavirus, no room may feel safe, so we call it the “safest rooms”. If you can at least identify the lowest risk areas, you may be able to reduce harm.
3. Planning with Children
Code Words: If you have children, decide how to communicate urgency. For example, when one survivor’s daughter was little, the survivor would open her arms and the daughter knew that meant to come running to her for safety. Some survivors also create a “code word” with their children that means they should go to the “safest room” in the home that you have already decided upon.
Emergency Numbers: If for some reason you are not able to make emergency calls and you have children, give them the safety number/s, if they are old enough. Please see the Resources section listed below for some emergency phone numbers.
4. Notifying the Police Before an Emergency
Ahead of time, you can notify your local police station of your concerns. Let them know the history and your concern of being in isolation due to coronavirus. It may be useful to speak with the Domestic Violence officer.
5. Exit Plan
In case you have to flee, create an exit plan ahead of time with someone who could support this need. Is there a trusted friend/relative who you can stay with if needed?
6. Supplies, Food & Medication
Check your supplies and food. If you need food and do not have the money, check your local pantry, temple/church/mosque/etc., or other community organizations. Remember to keep your medication in the safest, easily accessible location in case of emergency.
7. Emergency Bag
Pack an emergency bag with an extra set of keys, clothes for you and your children, a pay-as-you-go cell phone, medications, copies of important documents, etc.
8. Important Documents
Make copies or take pictures of your important documents for yourself and send them to a trusted friend or relative. Important documents may include IDs, social security cards, immigration documents, birth certificates, health insurance information, and Orders of Protection. As mentioned earlier, be mindful of sending anything via phone or computer. Please use whatever method is safest for you.
9. Seeking Social Support
With social distancing and quarantining, survivors can feel even more isolated, and abusers may use further isolation as a power and control tactic. Identify trusted friends, relatives or even online support groups where you can still connect virtually. If you have a friend who may be experiencing abuse, be sure to reach out to them even more during this time.
10. Creating a “Peaceful Space”
Many survivors are feeling forced to spend more time with an abuser during the coronavirus outbreak because they may feel unsafe leaving the home, as well as unsafe staying in the home. If you cannot leave your home, try to create a “peaceful space” for yourself in your home (if that is safe for you). You can draw pictures of a more peaceful place and put them on a wall to help you take an emotional break to visualize a more peaceful place. This is also an activity you can do with your children. You can also write positive affirmations and put them up on the wall to remind yourself of your worth.
11. Holding onto Your Plan
Consider keeping a list of your safety plan in your phone or wherever might be safe for you. Please consider what is safest for you. If you choose to write your plan somewhere, consider listing only key words that help you remember the plan, but that would not be clear to your abuser. If this is not safe, try to memorize your plan, focusing on memorizing at least one key emergency number on your list of resources.
All of the following resources are accessible, despite the coronavirus outbreak.
9-1-1: In case of an emergency at any time, please call 911.
Emergency SOS on iPhone: Here is a link to a shortcut to using Emergency SOS to quickly and easily call for help and alert your emergency contacts if you have an iPhone: How to Use Emergency SOS on your iPhone
Emergency Location Sharing on Androids and iPhones: Here is a link for how to set up emergency location sharing on your phone, in case you want to share your location with a trusted friend or relative in case of emergency: How to Use Emergency Location Sharing
Sanctuary for Families Hotline: Sanctuary for Families’ Hotline is still accessible from Monday-Friday from 9 AM- 5 PM. Please call us at 212-349-6009
National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Violence Hotline is still accessible 24/7. Please call them at 1-800-799-7233
National Human Trafficking Hotline: The National Human Trafficking Hotline is still accessible 24/7. Please call them at 1-888-373-7888 or text them at233-733
Suicide Hotline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is still accessible 24/7. Please call them at 1-800-273-8255
By: Monica Harris, Survivor Leader & Shobana Powell, LCSW, Director of Survivor Leadership Institute.
Reviewed by: Flore Baptiste, Carmen Guzman Lombert, Survivor Leader, Cristian Eduardo, Survivor Leader, and Hazell Imbert, LMHC, Counselor in Residential Services.
 Walters, M.L, J. Chen, and M.J. Breiding. “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation.” Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013.
 Brown, Taylor N.T., and Jody L. Herman. “Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse among LGBT People.” Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, 2015.
 Clements, K., M. Katz, and R. Marx. “The Transgender Community Health Project.” San Francisco, CA: University of California San Francisco, 1999.
 Human Rights Campaign. “Common Myths about LGBTQ Domestic Violence,” October 18, 2017.
Judge Rakoff’s ruling on ICE arrests at courthouses is a triumphant and long-awaited moment for immigrants, including many of the gender violence survivors we serve, and advocates across our State.
Last week, Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests at courthouses in New York State are illegal. This is a triumphant and long-awaited moment for immigrants, including many of the gender violence survivorswe serve, and advocates across our State.
ICE’s presence in our courthouses began to increase following the election of President Trump. From January 2017 through December 2018, ICE arrests increased by 1700%. Nearly 75% of our clients at Sanctuary are immigrants and many expressed deep fear of seeking help, reporting crimes, or moving around in public. Gender violence survivors were faced with an impossible choice between ensuring their physical safety and the possibility of deportation.
As arrests increased, advocates across New York responded. Sanctuary for Families joined several leading immigrant service providers to form the ICE Out of the Courts Coalition and contributed to a shocking report on the rise of ICE arrests. Together, our coalition lobbied for the Protect Our Courts Act. While our legislative efforts were unsuccessful, Sanctuary was instrumental in convincing the New York State Office of Court Administration to issue a court order requiring a warrant for any arrest on court property in April 2019. Despite the order, however, arrests continued to increase.
In September 2019, we turned to the courts. Sanctuary for Families joined Make the Road New York, Urban Justice Center, The Door, and New York Immigration Coalition as plaintiffs in a case brought by The Legal Aid Society and Cleary Gottlieb. Our lawsuit sought a halt to ICE courthouse enforcement on behalf of a noncitizen domestic violence survivor who needed to appear in court in order to secure an order of protection but who feared the possibility of ICE arrest. Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez filed a second lawsuit arguing that ICE enforcement in and around courthouses was a threat to public safety and impeded the administration of justice.
Judge Rakoff’s decision in the lawsuit brought by AG James and DA Gonzalez ensures the access of those most in need of the court’s protection and preserves the sanctity of our system of justice for those who are vulnerable. At a time when victories on immigrant rights are few and far between, we are grateful for the fellowship of our amazing partner agencies, AG James and DA Gonzalez, and immensely proud of the attorneys and clinicians at Sanctuary who support and advocate for immigrant survivors every day.
Chat for Help
To chat with an advocate about safety planning, shelter, and counseling services, click here.
To chat with an advocate about family law, immigration, trafficking, or other legal concerns, click here.