Our Statement on the Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision

The Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade ignores 50 years of precedent and is a blatant attack on human rights.

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization:

“Today’s Supreme Court’s decision, decided largely on ideological lines, to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey ignores 50 years of precedent and is a blatant attack on human rights. Many states are now free to impose bans on abortion with no exceptions, even for rape and incest. The three judges in the minority eloquently wrote that they dissent ‘with sorrow — for this Court, but more for the many million American women who today have lost a fundamental constitutional protection.’

Like domestic violence, abortion bans are about power and control. In allowing states to restrict women from accessing abortion, the Court is stripping away their bodily autonomy — leveraging its power to force women to carry unwanted, unsafe, or unviable pregnancies to term with utter disregard for what that means to their rights as equal citizens of this nation. 

Bans on abortion can mean a death sentence — for women with high-risk pregnancies whose doctors deny them life-saving medical care; for women resorting to unsafe methods out of fear of prosecution or due to a lack of alternatives; and for women in abusive relationships living in a country where homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women. 

This devastating decision comes right after the Court’s irresponsible ruling striking down a century-old New York law that limited the carrying of concealed firearms outside the home. This, despite the evidence that access to a gun makes it five times more likely that an abuser will kill their victim. 

As one of New York’s leading service providers for survivors of gender violence, we know how detrimental both rulings are to the safety and wellbeing of our clients and victims across the country. 

Today’s ruling grants more power to abusers who use sexual violence and reproductive coercion to control their victims. It also adds yet another barrier for survivors to whom abortion represents a lifeline and a path towards freedom from abuse. The Court’s ruling and the impending state bans will disproportionately affect women of color, trans and nonbinary people, women with disabilities, and those living in poverty who lack the resources to travel to states where abortion is legal. 

As horrifying as they are, these attacks on our rights will not deter us from our mission to build a world free from violence. Sanctuary stands more committed than ever to the Movement for Reproductive Justice and will prioritize access to abortion and gun control in our advocacy efforts.”


For press inquiries, please contact us at press@sffny.org.

Access to Abortion — A Lifeline for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Intimate partner violence and pregnancy are highly correlated — which is why abortion bans are so devastating for survivors of abuse.

In light of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, it is vital to bring awareness to the correlation between intimate partner violence (IPV) and pregnancy — and highlight the devastating consequences of restricting access to safe and legal abortion for survivors.

In the US, homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, and 1 in 6 survivors are first abused during pregnancy. More than 320,000 pregnant women are abused by their partners each year, and as a result, they have a 37% higher risk of developing obstetric complications

Too often, violence and pregnancy go hand in hand — unplanned pregnancies increase the risk for violence, and violence increases the risk for unplanned pregnancies. One study found that a woman’s odds of experiencing IPV rose by 10% with each pregnancy

It is important to note that pregnancy is not always consensual. 10.3 million women have had a partner who tried to get them pregnant against their will or refused to wear a condom, and 2.1 million have become pregnant due to rape by an intimate partner. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This is called reproductive coercion — an abuser’s attempt to control their partner’s reproductive health. The abuser may engage in reproductive coercion as a means to maintain control and power in the relationship, and it can manifest in behaviors such as:

  • Interfering with or manipulating birth control methods, such as withholding a partner’s birth control pills or intentionally breaking/removing condoms during sex
  • Forcing a partner to get pregnant, carry a pregnancy to term, or terminate a pregnancy against their will
  • Coercing a partner to have unprotected sex

Lack of reproductive autonomy further tethers victims to their abusers, making it harder than it already is to leave an abusive relationship — for instance, a victim may stay with their abuser if they are the only means of financial support for the child. 

Access to safe and legal abortion is imperative in putting an end to reproductive coercion and IPV. Between 6% to 22% of women terminate their pregnancies because they are in an abusive relationship, and 34% of survivors report that their abusive partners limited their childbearing decision.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade will make obtaining abortion care difficult for those whose abusive partners control their decision-making, finances, and daily lives. It will disproportionately affect women of color, who also experience higher rates of IPV, and maternal and infant mortality, and are more likely to die from unsafe, illegal abortions. 

Reproductive autonomy is a lifeline — a chance to break free from a cycle of violence. A society that supports the right to choose means a society with less violence and more empathy and resources for survivors.

Morton Bast: Sanctuary Pro Bono Partner Spotlight

A spotlight on Sanctuary Pro Bono Partner Morton Bast and her amazing work on Sanctuary’s Family Law Project.

Sanctuary for Families’ Pro Bono Project has the honor of working with hundreds of extremely dedicated and expert pro bono attorneys per year. As part of our new Pro Bono Spotlight, we’ll be highlighting some of the great work done by Sanctuary pro bono attorneys!

As the pandemic worsened in 2020, it quickly became clear that the most vulnerable New Yorkers would disproportionately suffer the consequences of both the health crisis and the corresponding shutdown of the City. Non-profit legal and social services agencies immediately pivoted to triage mode as they worked double-time to meet the growing needs of the communities they served.

Recognizing the urgent need to provide additional support to these communities —and well-positioned to jump into the fray given its long-standing commitment to pro bono work—Cleary Gottlieb created the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program in 2020. This groundbreaking new initiative places Cleary associates at legal services organizations for one year, providing critically needed legal work to underserved communities while enabling Cleary Fellows to continue expanding their skill sets and pursue their specific interests. The first cohort of Fellows dispersed across New York City, landing in organizations such as Brooklyn Defender Services, Everytown for Gun Safety, the International Refugee Assistance Project, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the Vera Institute of Justice, and so many more.

Sanctuary for Families was the lucky recipient of a Cleary Fellow and Columbia Law graduate Morton Bast. As a Cleary associate, Morton had worked pro bono on an asylum case with Sanctuary and participated several times in Sanctuary’s Queens Trafficking Intervention Project, providing comprehensive immigration screenings and consultations to defendants in the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court. “Every time it was Cleary’s turn to participate, really, I signed up because I found the clinic so impactful,” Morton explains. “So when the Fellowship opportunity was created, Sanctuary was the first organization that came to mind. Although I’d really enjoyed these immigration cases, I ended up signing up for Sanctuary’s Family Law Project because it would allow me to hone my litigation skills as well.”

Morton Bast

Morton’s arrival could not have come at a better time. Sanctuary’s Director of the Bronx and Manhattan Legal Project & Policy, Jennifer Friedman, recalls, “Morton came to us early in the pandemic, at a time where our entire office had to pivot to being online and the physical courts had just closed, so the only way for litigants to file petitions was online. We were really in an ‘all hands on deck’ situation, and Morton was hugely valuable and integral to our work during this time.” Morton was quickly tasked with conducting initial legal screenings and drafting petitions for the many survivors who had no other place to seek help once the courts physically closed and stopped providing pro se assistance to unrepresented litigants. Faced with unprecedented and urgent client situations, Morton also offered critical support in conducting research, drafting motions, and assisting pro se clients with safety planning and navigating the ever-changing landscape of the new virtual court system.

From Morton’s perspective, the experience was a crash course in direct client contact and the stark differences it poses to other types of legal work. “Most of the billable work I had been doing as a junior associate was not direct client contact – I spent most of my time working with people who are also doing their day jobs,” Morton says. “Whereas at Sanctuary, these are problems in people’s own lives that they can’t step away from at the end of the day, so it’s easier to become even more invested very quickly.” 

When asked about the most gratifying aspect of this type of work, Morton pointed to the satisfaction of using her legal skills and background to help people solve real problems in their lives.

“Gender-based violence issues have always been of great interest to me, but I never really considered that they could be something I could use my legal skills for.” – Morton Bast

Morton approached each survivor interaction with compassion, patience, and a mindset of trauma-informed, client-centered advocacy. Jennifer recalls one client with whom Morton worked for close to an entire year, who was deeply traumatized by her experiences of domestic violence and, as a result, extremely anxious about testifying in court. Morton worked extensively with the client for hours at a time to prepare her for trial at her own pace. Jennifer explains, “One of the major challenges of this case was that the client was not able to share her experiences in the typical structure of a direct examination, i.e. broken up into pieces in response to the attorney’s questions; she really needed to get into the zone and just deliver her story all at once. So rather than trying to force that, Morton and our team reconstructed the direct examination to allow the client to be the most comfortable telling her story on her own terms.” 

Through these experiences and more, Morton gradually became an attorney with highly specialized knowledge of Family Law, even taking two of her clients from Sanctuary back to Cleary to continue working on their cases pro bono after her Fellowship ended. Jennifer notes, ”We’re so grateful to Cleary for enabling this Fellowship. Now when we work with Morton as a pro bono, she is fully trained and can operate on a high level on really sophisticated cases and be familiar with our approach and philosophy.” From her perspective as a Fellow and now a pro bono attorney, Morton adds, “Working full-time at Sanctuary allowed me to see the symbiotic relationship between law firm pro bono work and the organization. I think when you’re working in a firm on pro bono matters, you worry, ‘Am I just doing this for myself, to make myself feel good?’ But I realized when I was at Sanctuary that the organization can’t work at the volume it works at without pro bonos, so it really is an important and mutually beneficial relationship.” 

Cleary’s Director of Pro Bono Katherine Hughes provided her perspective on Morton’s work with Sanctuary. “Watching Morton grow as an attorney during her Cleary Fellowship rotation at Sanctuary for Families has been a tremendous highlight for me during these past two challenging years. She naturally has a sense of confidence and lightness that brings her clients comfort in what are arguably some of their darkest hours. However, the Fellowship experience at Sanctuary and her clients and mentors have clearly shaped her into a smarter, more resilient litigator. She speaks so highly of the experience and continues to represent several of her clients with equal measures of grace, intelligence, and patience. Cleary is so grateful for the ways the Fellowship has strengthened our relationship with Sanctuary and for all that Morton has brought back to the firm from it.”

We are so grateful to Cleary for enabling this opportunity to work with such a talented, kind, and skilled associate and to Morton for all of her efforts throughout the Fellowship. We look forward to continuing our relationships with Morton and Cleary well into the future!

Standing With LGBTQ+ Survivors

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.

Keep reading to learn more about safety planning and download our guide by clicking here.

Sanctuary at NYC Pride 2019

Intimate Partner Violence in the LGBTQ+ Community

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%).[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]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.


Safety Planning: A Guide for Survivors, by Survivors

English | Español | Français | Deutschالعربية | 中文 | 한국어 

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.

Digital Safety

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.


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 at 233-733
  • 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] Clements, K., M. Katz, and R. Marx. “The Transgender Community Health Project.” San Francisco, CA: University of California San Francisco, 1999.

[4] Human Rights Campaign. “Common Myths about LGBTQ Domestic Violence,” October 18, 2017.