Support Camp Hope

This summer, Sanctuary will be leading Camp HOPE America: New York. Learn how this trauma-informed camp is helping young victims of domestic violence heal and find hope again.

Bria Diemer is a Communications Intern at Sanctuary and a rising Junior at Pace University where she studies film and creative writing.

Summer camp is something we do as children because it seems fun and exciting – and because our parents want us out of the house. We swim in open waters and over-eat junk food and gossip about nothing with strangers who somehow already feel like life-long friends. Summer camp is something we need as children because it is a place to meet people and hear stories and have fun in a way only kids can. At home, there’s homework and chores and other impending childhood responsibilities. But at camp, there’s nothing to do but scream and laugh and be yourself. It’s an easy escape from the real world, from home, wherever that may be.

But for many kids, home is something to escape from. According to estimates, between 2 and 10 million children will be exposed to domestic violence each year in America. This trauma makes children more susceptible to short- and long-term emotional, social and behavioral difficulties such as increased anxiety, depression, isolation, physical and psychological aggression and a predisposition to continue the cycle of abuse. Ages 12-17 are some of the most formative years for human development, and the presence of trauma can prevent healthy, effective growth. Trauma forces children to bypass their childhood entirely, leaving no time for s’mores and rock climbing.

Camp HOPE

Every day, Sanctuary for Families works with families that have experienced violence and abuse. And while we and other service providers offer services for the entire family, adolescent kids are often an underserved group. This summer, Sanctuary is partnering with Camp HOPE America to establish Camp HOPE America: New York, which will run from August 20-24. Thirty children ages 12 to 17, (15 girls and 15 boys) will participate in a week-long camp in upstate New York. Sanctuary was asked to pilot the first Camp HOPE America affiliate serving children in the New York City metropolitan area. Over the course of the week campers will enjoy classic camp activities such as swimming, high ropes courses, nightly campfires, team building activities, a trip to a planetarium, zip lining, canoeing, art, and a talent show. And thanks to Sanctuary’s partnership with the Fresh Air Fund, the camp will take place on 2,000 acres of land including two beautiful lakes, mountain overlooks and forested trails in Fishkill, New York.

Camp HOPE America is the first camping and mentoring initiative focused on children exposed to domestic violence. Initially beginning in California, Camp HOPE has developed into a nationwide effort spanning over five states. This year, an estimated 1,500 children and young adults will benefit from all that Camp HOPE America has to offer.

Counselors at the camp have been trained to use a trauma-informed approach when working with the children. Trauma-informed care means understanding a person entirely, and taking their traumas and resulting coping mechanisms into consideration when attempting to understand certain behaviors. “We want to know what happened before this, what were the factors that led up to this? It’s important to understand the root of the issue before addressing the actual issue,” says Bridget Shanahan, co-director of the New York camp. A person’s exposure to trauma influences each area of human development— physical, mental, behavioral, social, spiritual —which is why a trauma-informed method most effectively promotes healing, growth and overall hope.

Hope is the belief that your future will be better than your past and that you have the power to achieve your dreams.  While “hope” sounds like an uncomplicated, commonplace emotion, it actually proves to be an effective source of motivation, specifically for young adults. Hope can inspire roadmaps to short- and long-term goals as well as the inspiration to overcome obstacles that arise. “This camp focuses on hope rather than resiliency because hope is something you can build. Everyone can still have hope,” Shanahan explains. Each camper is given a questionnaire before, during and after the camp in effort to gauge a hope index. These ‘Hope Scores’ are an evidenced-based measure of hope, and results show that post-camp Hope Scores are increased and are sustained over time.

Support

Childhood is a precious time that should be full of the fun and excitement, not violence and trauma. If you would like to support Sanctuary for Families’ first Camp HOPE and our youngest clients, please click here.

Lynn and John Savarese, recipients of the 2018 Law Firm Leadership Award

The Honorees Every year, Sanctuary for Families honors those who have made major contributions to

The Honorees

Every year, Sanctuary for Families honors those who have made major contributions to the movement to end gender based violence at our annual Zero Tolerance Benefit. This year we were thrilled to present the Law Firm Leadership Award to Lynn and John Savarese.

Since meeting as first-year Harvard Law students, Lynn and John have devoted significant time and resources to advancing social justice. Together they have raised awareness about gender violence, secured justice for victims of abuse, and have provided unique platforms and opportunities for survivors to speak out. We are incredibly grateful for Lynn and John’s longtime support of Sanctuary and thrilled to have had the opportunity to honor two individuals whose lives’ work so connect with this year’s theme of “Breaking the Silence.”

Lynn Savarese

Originally from a small town in Texas, Lynn is a graduate of Harvard Law School. For many years she enjoyed careers in corporate law and investment banking before taking time off to raise her family and pursue volunteer work for various human rights organizations. Several years ago Lynn took up photography in earnest, and quickly garnered international acclaim for her fine arts images.

Lynn first became involved with Sanctuary as a pro bono attorney. When her interest in photography grew from hobby to profession, she partnered with Sanctuary to launch a groundbreaking photography project called the New Abolitionists Campaign.

Employing Lynn’s photographs of anti-trafficking advocates and survivors, the Campaign has become an ever-growing tool for advocacy and awareness about sex trafficking, a modern form of slavery in the United States. Photographs of New Abolitionists have been exhibited at galleries and venues across the country and have been seen by tens of thousands of people.

John Savarese

After graduating from Harvard Law School, John joined the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Over the last 25 years, John has represented numerous Fortune 500 corporations, major financial institutions and senior executives in SEC and other regulatory enforcement proceedings, as well as white-collar criminal investigations, complex securities litigations, and internal investigations. Despite the workload, John has always made time for the issues he cares about and has taken on numerous pro bono cases for Sanctuary over the years.

Most recently, John and his colleagues at Wachtell defended a long-time U.S. resident and lawful green-card holder against a protracted deportation proceeding. His team’s advocacy and effective defense enabled the client to remain in the U.S., a victory for which they were honored for at Sanctuary’s 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards.

In addition to his work with Sanctuary, John is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Vera Institute of Justice, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at Harvard Law School, a member of the Board of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the former President of the Board of Trustees of The Brearley School in New York.

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With their impressive portfolio of human rights work, the Savareses have shown time and again their commitment to ending gender-based violence. We thank Lynn and John for the immense amount of time and energy they’ve given towards realizing our shared dream of a more socially just world. Our community is all the better for it.

For a summary and photos of our 2018 Zero Tolerance Benefit, click here.

 

 

Attorney General Endangers Women and Children with New Restrictions to Asylum Law

Attorney General Sessions’ decision concerning Matter A-B- reverses decades of asylum law and puts at tremendous risk the lives of women and children who have suffered horrendous domestic violence in their home countries. Read our statement.

Our Statement

Sanctuary for Families stands with survivors of violence in condemning yesterday’s announcement by U.S. Attorney General Sessions to overturn Matter of A-B- — a case which he referred to himself and one in which he directed immigration judges to deny asylum to survivors of domestic violence.

That heartless decision reverses decades of asylum law and puts at tremendous risk the lives of women and children who have suffered horrendous domestic violence in their home countries. It also leaves vulnerable victims of other human rights abuses including forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The United States has long been a safe haven for immigrants who have been persecuted and cannot rely on their own governments to protect them. This decision by A.G. Sessions eviscerates that safe haven, limiting the types of cases in which immigration judges can grant asylum and thereby increasing the likelihood that women, children, and others will be sent back to their persecutors.

Hon. Judy Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, stated:

“At Sanctuary for Families, too many of our clients bear the scars of unrelenting intimate partner violence that occurs in countries where no government or authorities will intervene. For many, a forced return to their nation of origin will be nothing short of a death sentence.”

Lori Adams, incoming Director of Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project, said:

“This callous move by the Attorney General threatens the lives of those seeking refuge in the United States, after having suffered tremendous violence and believing that this country would stand by its promise to protect those who cannot find safety in their own countries. It is a huge step backward for this country and an atrocious way to treat vulnerable immigrants who came here seeking our help.”

This decision was issued in the wake of other brutal immigration changes including a sharp increase in the criminal prosecution of asylum-seekers for “illegal entry” and a practice of separating mothers from their babies and young children at the U.S.-Mexico border to detain them in separate immigration jails, for the stated purpose of deterring families from making the journey north to seek protection in this country. It is cruel and inhumane to treat mothers and children as pawns in a political game.

Sanctuary for Families and other legal services and human rights organizations will continue to work together to push back against this incremental erosion of the rights of asylum-seekers to seek protection in this country. We invite you to stand with us and to fight for the rights of all survivors of gender-based violence.

Take Action

Donate to support Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Program

Call your Senators and Congressional Representatives and use the script below:

“Hi, my name is NAME, I’m from CITY, STATE, and I’m a constituent of SENATOR / REPRESENTATIVE NAME. I’m calling today to ask SENATOR / REPRESENTATIVE NAME to stand up for victims of gender violence, those escaping gang warfare, and LGBTQ+ people, and demand that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reverse his decision on the Matter of A-B-. Sessions’ decision to deny asylum to those persecuted by private actors is a cruel step backwards for our country. Please speak out. Thank you.”

What You Didn’t Know About Cyber Sexual Abuse

Cyber sexual abuse, commonly known as “revenge porn,” is often misnamed and misunderstood. Spring Communications Intern, Lauren Altus, shares five key facts everyone should know about cyber sexual abuse.

Lauren Altus is a communications intern at Sanctuary and a recent graduate from Johns Hopkins University.


‘Revenge porn’ or ‘cyber sexual abuse’?

Cyber sexual abuse, commonly known as “revenge porn,” is often misnamed and misunderstood. In fact, it is difficult to find a simple, coherent definition for this form of abuse.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “revenge porn” is defined as: “Revealing or sexually explicit images or videos of a person posted on the Internet, typically by a former sexual partner, without the consent of the subject and in order to cause them distress or embarrassment.”

This name misrepresents the crime for several reasons. First, it is not about revenge, and second, it is not about porn. Revenge suggests the victim did something to deserve this crime, in effect placing blame on the victim. Less a tool for revenge, cyber sexual abuse is more often used as a way to maintain control over the victim.

For example, thirty-year-old Amanda’s physically abusive husband constantly told her that if she ever tried to leave him he would share damaging photos of her with her family, friends, and even use them in attempts to gain custody. When she finally did leave, he did just that: posted photos of her—even ones taken without her knowledge—on social media. Now, Amanda lives in constant fear, wondering who might see these photos and how might it affect her and her children.

This example drives home our second issue with the term ‘revenge porn’. Porn, though this may not always be the case, is generally considered consensual. Like in Amanda’s case and in others Sanctuary has seen, the photos and videos that are shared are sometimes taken unbeknownst to the victim or are photoshopped or “spoofed” (manipulated using photo editing software or other technology). Even if the photos are taken consensually – i.e. within the context of an intimate relationship – posting these photos online without the consent (and often without the knowledge) of the victim, is a nonconsensual act. For these reasons, we must call this crime what it is: cyber sexual abuse.

Over the last few years, cyber sexual abuse has become an increasingly common form of abuse due the omnipresence of social media in our lives. It’s also one we’ve seen highlighted in the media. From Jennifer Lawrence’s computer hack to Rob Kardashian posting nude photos of Blac Chyna, these instances have revealed the dire need for both legal protections and a better societal understanding of cyber sexual abuse.

Many people are quick to assume that every photo has been taken with the consent of the victim. Others think cyber sexual abuse can be written off as a joke, or that if their state has no law against it, it is okay to post photos of this nature.

Sanctuary attorney Lindsey Song, who has represented a number of victims of cyber sexual abuse in Family Court and with criminal justice advocacy, is the co-chair of the citywide Cyber Sexual Abuse Task Force. Below, she helps break down some of the stigmas surrounding victims of this form of abuse and tells us the five things we may not have known about cyber sexual abuse.

1. This is not just a millennial issue

There are many ways in which someone can become a victim of cyber sexual abuse, Song warns, and they can be anyone from a teen sexting to an eighty-year-old in a photoshopped image.

For example, thirty-five-year-old Molly did not send, or even take, a naked photo when she became a victim of cyber sexual abuse. Her ex-boyfriend photoshopped a photo of her face onto naked images he found online, and then sent those photos to people in her hometown where Molly was ostracized from her entire family and support system. She was then forced to rely on her abuser financially.

When Betty, a 60-year-old woman, broke up with her abusive boyfriend, he reacted by sending an intimate photo to multiple men who then tried to contact Betty online. The situation escalated until Betty had to quit her job as a nurse out of fear that her abuser would continue to send the photo to her coworkers. A New York police officer told her that this was her fault for sending the photo in the first place.

Some example of cyber sexual abuse include when a photo is posted online, shown to others, or disseminated, and that photo:

  • Was taken with consent of the victim but posted without it
  • Was taken without the victim knowing (i.e. the victim was sleeping or was the subject of hidden cameras)
  • Was stolen from a victim’s computer or private accounts
  • Was an image that is doctored, where someone has put the victim’s face on someone else’s body or otherwise made the photo appear to be of the victim when it is not
  • Was the result of forced production of an image (i.e. drugging a victim)

The one thing each of these victims have in common? “Victim-blaming in each of these situations needs to stop, because none of those victims consented,” Song said

2. A cyber-attack never truly has an endpoint

Song tells us that cyber sexual abuse can be “life-ruining in ways you don’t expect,” as cyber sexual abuse has “no beginning and end.” This often leaves victims fearful that more and more people will gain access to the photos. Unfortunately, no matter how tirelessly the victims and their lawyers work to remove the photos from the Internet, “a cyber-attack never truly ends” as the photos may be shared across multiple sites and platforms, screenshotted by viewers, downloaded onto various devices, and the full reach of the images is never truly known.

3. It’s not necessarily just photos or videos

Cyber sexual abuse does not just mean one photo is posted and it doesn’t necessarily mean only photos or videos. Attackers can post addresses, places of business, phone numbers, and other personal information so that strangers subsequently stalk the victim, sometimes demanding sex or harassing the victim in other ways. Song says that as a victim, there is a “constant weight on your shoulders.” Some of her clients have been forced to “change their names, move from their homes, and even change their children’s names,” while others have been excommunicated from their families and communities and even attempted suicide.

4. It is not the victim’s fault

This one should go without saying, but many judge victims for “allowing” the photos to exist in the first place. As Song points out, however, if a person gives their personal financial information to an accountant so that the accountant could do their taxes and then the accountant posted that private information on the Internet, everyone would deem this unacceptable.

As a society, we understand and frequently utilize the concept of specific and selective consent. It is only in the context of sexuality and the human body that this point gets blurry. In some instances the victim doesn’t even know the photo is being taken. Many attackers also use threats such as sending the photos to employers and family members in an effort to blackmail their victims. This is why Song urges us to remember “not to slut-shame, not to victim-blame, and that it is illegal to discriminate based on gender-based violence, which is what this is.”

5. The fear never goes away

A victim can obtain an order of protection to prevent dissemination and can report the crime to law enforcement. Victims can also contact websites directly to have nonconsensual pictures and videos taken down. Still, victims often carry around the fear of another post or another e-mail going up worrying and waiting for another attack.

For instance, when Celia decided to enter a beauty competition, her abusive ex-boyfriend decided to post videos of her engaged in sexual acts—ones that were taken without her knowledge or consent—onto pornography websites. He said that he did this in order to “make sure she never lived a normal life ever again.” It worked. Now, Celia is terrified to live her regular life, constantly in fear of what could happen if she upsets her abuser. Even though she was able to flee the relationship, her abuser continues to control her life, and will continue to do so until the law is changed to punish him for this horrific abuse.

In New York City, it is now (as of February 15, 2018) a crime to share, or threaten to share, an intimate photo without the subject’s consent or with the intent to cause harm to the subject. 38 states and Washington DC also have laws against cyber sexual abuse; however no statewide law currently exists in New York. While there are currently several proposals for legislation in New York State, none provide the full protections and avenues for justice that we believe victims need. Sanctuary for Families believes that New York State’s cyber sexual abuse law must establish the threat to distribute content as well as knowledge of content distribution (instead of only intent to harm) as criminal offenses.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of cyber sexual abuse, please reach out to Sanctuary for Families for legal assistance, clinical support, and other resources.

To get involved in our advocacy around cyber sexual abuse, please email Lindsey Song at lsong@sffny.org or Nicole Fidler at nfidler@sffny.org to join the citywide Cyber Sexual Abuse Task Force. The Task Force’s next meeting is on June 14 at 3:30 p.m. and meetings are held approximately every month and a half.