New York Appellate Court issues landmark ruling on DVSJA in the case of Nicole Addimando

On July 14, 2021, Sanctuary for Families and the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative were

On July 14, 2021, Sanctuary for Families and the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative were part of a legal team that achieved a remarkable, ground-breaking result for domestic violence survivors in New York State. On that day, a New York appellate court dramatically reduced the sentence of defendant Nicole Addimando—by more than a decade—because she had demonstrated that her crime was directly related to the severe abuse she had suffered for years at the hands of her domestic partner. For the first time, an appellate court applied New York’s revolutionary Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act to ensure that a survivor’s experiences were credited and that she received a compassionate sentence in line with a modern understanding of the effects of prolonged abuse.

The Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative

What does it take to change systems that have historically been stacked against survivors of abuse, particularly women of color? The answer to this question was the foundation of our Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative. Formed in 2017 by Sanctuary attorneys and pro bono partners, the Initiative seeks to secure the release of gender violence survivors who have been imprisoned in New York State for crimes committed as a result of domestic abuse, through a comprehensive approach: legislation, legal representation, training, and education. 

In 2019, the Initiative, along with survivors and advocates across New York, achieved a major success when New York enacted the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (“DVSJA”) after nearly a decade of hard-fought advocacy.

The DVSJA affords judges the discretion to impose reduced sentences if a defendant was “a victim of domestic violence subjected to substantial physical, sexual or psychological abuse inflicted by a member of the same family or household,” the abuse was “a significant contributing factor” to the crime, and, taking all of the circumstances into account, a standard sentence would be “unduly harsh.” The DVSJA allows defendants to seek a reduced sentence after conviction, and it also allows defendants who were sentenced before the DVSJA’s enactment the opportunity to apply for re-sentencing. 

In New York, the passage of the DVSJA was hailed as a major victory by advocates of criminal justice reform and the movement to end gender violence. To be effective, however, laws must be applied. Since 2019, Initiative members have worked to educate practitioners and courts on the DVSJA, but until the Nicole Addimando case, there was no clear legal precedent on how it should be properly applied. 

Nicole Addimando

Nicole Addimando is the proud mother of two young children who was living in Poughkeepsie, NY. At the age of 19, she began dating the father of her children. Throughout their 9-year relationship, Nicole’s partner became increasingly abusive, including sadistic sexual and physical violence, threats, and psychological and emotional manipulation. One night in 2017, he brandished a gun and threatened to kill both Nicole and himself, leaving their children to grow up parent-less. That night, Nicole used the gun to kill him.

In April 2020, following a jury trial, Nicole was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Despite detailed testimony and evidence outlining one of the most extreme histories of abuse we at Sanctuary and many others in the field have seen, the trial judge ruled that the DVSJA should not apply in her case, and she should not receive a reduced sentence. Using a badly outdated understanding of the effects of prolonged domestic abuse, the judge concluded, among other things, that the history of abuse was somehow unclear, and that Nicole could have easily and safely escaped from her abusive home and relationship. Nicole was shockingly given a prison term of 19 years to life.

For advocates in New York State and across the country, the sentencing decision was disheartening. Nicole Addimando was precisely the kind of survivor for whom the DVSJA was written and enacted.

The Appeal

Sanctuary Board Member and Sullivan & Cromwell partner Garrard Beeney took on the massive undertaking of filing an appeal on Nicole’s behalf. He and his team moved quickly, forming a powerful coalition including, among others, Sanctuary, The Legal Aid Society, and Nicole’s trial attorneys, to challenge both the conviction and the judge’s failure to apply the DVSJA at sentencing.

One of the roles Sanctuary took on was to coordinate the filing of amicus briefs (supplemental legal briefs submitted by third parties to provide judges with additional background or information on the potential impacts of a decision). The trial judge’s decision reflected deeply flawed understandings of the dynamics of abuse, the impact on survivors’ memories, the risk assessment survivors make when determining life or death situations, and the application of the DVSJA — views that unfortunately pervade our justice system.

First, a team of deeply trauma-informed attorneys at the firm of Davis Polk drafted an amicus brief about the impact of trauma on survivors’ memories and the way trauma informs survivors’ decisions, to be filed on behalf of a group of domestic violence service providers. Second, a devoted team of attorneys at the firm of Duane Morris drafted a highly insightful amicus brief detailing the legislative history of the DVSJA and its intended application, to be filed on behalf of the very New York State legislators who drafted and passed the statute.  

On April 22, 2021, Garrard Beeney argued the case before a panel of four judges from the Appellate Division – Second Department.  Oral argument lasted approximately two hours and can be viewed here. 

On July 14, 2021, the appellate court issued its decision. Much to the disappointment of Nicole, her legal team, family, and friends, the judges upheld Nicole’s conviction. In a blistering rebuke of the trial court’s sentencing, however, the appellate court held that the trial judge misinterpreted the legislative intent of the DVSJA and the circumstances of the case. Though not overturned as we hoped, Nicole Addimando’s sentence was reduced from 19 years to life to a term of 7 ½ years. The full decision can be viewed here.

The Silver Lining: A Precedent for New York

As the first DVSJA decision to be issued by a New York appellate court, the Nicole Addimando decision is precedent-setting and should pave the way for more compassionate treatment for survivors throughout the state.

First, after reviewing the record, the court held that “through her lengthy testimony, photographs, and other evidence,” Nicole had shown that her domestic partner had “repeatedly abused her physically and sexually.” Second, the court held that the evidence, “which included a detailed history of repeated sexual, physical, and psychological abuse … expert testimony regarding the impact of that abuse on the defendant, and the defendant’s testimony regarding the events prior to the subject shooting, established that the abuse was a significant contributing factor to the defendant’s criminal behavior.” Third, the court held that in determining a sentence, the trial court “failed to fully take into account the impact of physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse on the defendant as a domestic violence survivor.”  The court concluded that “[t]his approach simply runs afoul of the spirit and intent of the statute. It is unacceptable that, in reflecting the views of a more enlightened society, the Legislature saw fit to enact the DV Survivor’s Act, only to have the court frustrate that legislative intent by applying outdated notions regarding domestic violence issues.”

The court’s decision adopted the arguments made by the Sullivan & Cromwell team in its briefs and Garrard’s oral argument, as well as the arguments in the amicus briefs submitted by Davis Polk and Duane Morris. In sum, the decision in Nicole Addimando’s case, beyond reducing her sentence dramatically, should have a profound impact on how prosecutors and courts apply the DVSJA, and how the criminal justice system views and treats survivors moving forward. 

New York Leads the Way

As the United States reckons with the ways racism, misogyny, and poverty have fueled mass incarceration and the incarceration of abuse survivors, New York is setting an example that other states will hopefully choose to follow. The passage of the DVSJA and the correct application in Nicole’s case, sets a high bar for the compassionate treatment of survivors in the criminal justice system.

But our work is far from over. The appellate court’s decision not to overturn Nicole’s conviction reflects the need for continued education and advocacy from experts in gender-based violence. Survivors should not be criminalized, incarcerated, and separated from their children for the years of abuse they experience and what they must do in order to protect or free themselves.

Thanks to the advocacy and training by Initiative members, our outstanding pro bono partners, and advocates across New York, however, abuse survivors have a beacon of hope for the future.

An Update on our Services

Learn more about the future of our services in the year ahead.

As New York continues to recover from the pandemic, Sanctuary is preparing for a new era of hybrid service provision — one that will better meet the needs of survivors living across New York’s five boroughs.

When the City went into lockdown in March 2020, we shifted our legal and clinical services and career readiness training to virtual platforms. Our social workers conducted counseling sessions through a telehealth platform, our Economic Empowerment Program shifted training to Zoom, and when the courts resumed hearings our attorneys represented survivors through Skype and Zoom. Of course not all services could be offered virtually. Sanctuary staff kept our five shelters open throughout the pandemic, supporting survivors and ensuring a clean environment for our residents.

Learn more about how we adapted our services here >

The changes we made across our programs revealed new opportunities for our work with adult and child survivors of gender violence. Learn what’s happening in the months ahead and how we plan to integrate our current virtual services with our traditional in-person support.

Office Re-Openings

Manhattan Office – Confidential Location

Our Manhattan Office is open for scheduled appointments Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, on a case by case basis. Availability for in-person meetings will increase after Labor Day (Monday, September 6th). Please call 212.349.6009 or your Sanctuary point person to schedule an appointment.

Family Justice Centers

While Sanctuary’s shelters and Manhattan Office have remained open throughout the pandemic, New York City’s Family Justice Centers (FJCs) have largely operated virtually. The FJCs have traditionally provided valuable and accessible comprehensive services, particularly to survivors who prefer to drop in rather than make an appointment in advance. The Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence opened the Manhattan FJC last September for limited appointments two days a week. The other FJCs are re-opening on a limited basis as follows:

  • Manhattan FJC – The MFJC ramped up its on-site staffing and appointment capacity in early June. The MFJC is open on Monday and Friday during phase 2 of the reopening plan.
  • Staten Island FJC – The SIFJC opened its doors on Tuesday, June 8th for client appointments only. The SIFJC is open on Tuesday and Thursday during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan.
  • Queens FJC – The Queens FJC opened its doors on Tuesday, July 6th for appointments only. The QFJC is open on Tuesday and Thursdays during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan. 
  • Brooklyn FJC- The Brooklyn FJC will open their doors on Wednesday, August 4th for appointments only. The BKFJC will be open on Wednesday and Thursdays during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan.
  • Bronx FJC – The Bronx FJC will open its doors in early August for appointments only on Tuesday and Thursday. The opening date is still to be determined. 

Contact an FJC office here >

EMPOWER Center

The EMPOWER Center remains open for virtual services and scheduled appointments only. To make an appointment, please call 212.238.4906.

Future of our services

Economic Empowerment

Before to the pandemic, Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) participants were expected to attend in-person classes at our confidential Manhattan office daily. Our computer labs, onsite childcare and prepaid MetroCards made this program accessible but for many, the commute added an extra layer of complexity to participants’ busy lives. The program was also especially challenging for those who did not have access to a computer or WiFi at home but wanted extra time to practice the skills they were building. The lock-down led Sanctuary to shift EEP online and provide participants with the necessary technology. Now, with generous support from Mobile Citizen for low-cost internet and long-term funding for laptops in the works, we plan to continue offering EEP as a hybrid of Zoom and in-person classes starting this fall. By providing program participants, and by extension their families, with technology to close the digital divide, greater flexibility, and the community that has always set EEP apart, we believe we can better support survivors on their professional journey.

If you would like to learn more about our Fall 2021 Economic Empowerment Program, please email Info@sffny.org

Legal Representation

New York State courts have reopened with most cases continuing to be heard virtually through Microsoft Teams. The shift to virtual court proceedings has revealed several benefits. Survivors save the time and money they would typically spend on childcare, time off from work, and/or the cost of the commute with the added benefit of not having to see or be near their abusive partner in court. While the future of court proceedings has yet to be determined, we expect virtual hearings to become a permanent option.

Family Court: Already-existing cases are continuing in the borough Family Courts where they started however newly filed cases that require immediate judicial attention can now be filed in a City-wide virtual court.

Immigration Court: Immigration Courts remain open. USCIS interviews and appointments have resumed. Non-detained removal defense cases resumed July 6, 2021.

Order of Protection (Family and Criminal): All Temporary Orders of Protection are continued until the next time the case is back in court.

Pro Bono Support: In April 2021, we launched a web-portal for pro bono attorneys to access sample documents, educational guides and a variety of other materials to help them with pro bono cases. Before the portal, these materials were typically shared on an individual, case-by-case basis by the supervising Sanctuary attorney. The launch of the portal makes it easier for our partners to learn the intricacies of gender violence cases and trauma-informed representation while freeing up time for our attorneys to provide oversight. Active pro bono attorneys can request access here.

Counseling

Sanctuary counselors will continue to provide counseling sessions to adults, children, and families through a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform with expanded availability for in-person counseling sessions beginning September 6th. As with many of our other services, counselors have found the shift to virtual services enables clients to attend sessions with more regularity because they do not have to worry about the commute or childcare. Virtual therapy, however, comes with several significant challenges including access to adequate technology and privacy, and the difficulty of building trust without the intimacy of in-person interaction. Read the reflections of our Children and Family counselors on virtual counseling here.

Housing and Shelter

Governor Cuomo has extended the moratorium on COVID-related residential and commercial evictions and foreclosure proceedings for those filing a hardship declaration until August 31, 2021. While Sanctuary’s shelters have remained open throughout the pandemic, our staff have continued working with survivors to secure permanent housing and relief through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Volunteer and In-Kind

Sanctuary is continuing to limit the number of individuals entering our confidential Manhattan Office. Please check back for updates and volunteer opportunities in August. If you would like to support survivors with material or in-kind donations, please browse our Amazon Wish List. The items listed are urgently needed by families visiting our offices and staying in our shelters.

 

 

 

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.

GET HELP

Safety Planning: A Guide for Survivors, by Survivors

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

Recognizing Respond Crisis Translation: A Pillars of Change Honoree

For their phenomenal partnership with Sanctuary providing hundreds of hours of translation services.

Respond Crisis Translation has been an integral part of Sanctuary for Families over the past two years. A member of the Respond Crisis Translation team contacted Sanctuary’s Volunteer Program team proposing a partnership to ensure language access for linguistically-diverse clients. From the beginning, it was clear that our organizations had common goals and deep alignment. Respond Crisis Translation chose Sanctuary for Families as their first partner to pilot their hope of survivors having pro bono access to interpreters and translators. They have worked with Sanctuary in myriad ways such as translating legal evidence for asylum-seeking domestic violence survivors and oral interpreting in psychological and emotional support sessions.

Respond Crisis Translation is a collective of around 2,000 language activists providing support in over 100 languages. There are many translators in their network who are deeply committed to gender justice and are particularly passionate about supporting victims and survivors of gender-based violence who seek safety, freedom, and asylum. The Respond Crisis Translation team notes, “We wanted to work with SFF because they are leading on the frontlines of supporting survivors across New York. For survivors who are also linguistic minorities, we know that Anglocentrism, language violence, and language exclusionism create yet another layer of complexity and often make access to resources and justice close to impossible.” Respond Crisis Translation’s understanding of this complexity has been integral for many of our clients gaining justice and freedom from the violence and barriers they experience.

During the pandemic, Respond Crisis Translation has been essential in helping Sanctuary share our Safety Planning Guide far and wide. Volunteers translated the plan into seven languages so that it could be distributed widely across New York City and beyond. This guide was imperative for victims of domestic violence currently living with their abusers during the stay-at-home order and provided steps to take in case of an emergency. It was critical to have this translated into numerous languages in order to reach a wide breadth of victims and survivors.

When thinking about the longstanding partnership, Jessica Francois, Manager of Volunteer Relations says, “The last thing we want a client to worry about is telling their story in a language that isn’t the most comfortable for them. Respond has been able to deliver quality translations frequently used in court, providing an essential gateway to getting our clients the safety they need. Offering translation allows for survivors to feel supported, heard, and cared for. Respond Crisis Translation are our team members in this effort.”

More importantly, Respond Crisis Translation now provides its services to many organizations throughout the United States. They understand and provide a service of language access to those who are the most in need. “There is a huge language access crisis in this country: all too often, refugees and those dealing with trauma who don’t speak English lack access to critical information because it has simply not been made available in the languages they speak. At the same time, these folks are often forced to navigate immigration, legal, medical, and other governmental systems that are not accommodating to non-English speakers. All too often, when these systems DO provide interpretation, the quality is subpar and the interpreters are not trauma-informed or versed in the language of gender and LGBTQ+ justice. This creates additional layers of trauma and re-victimization. At Respond Crisis Translation, our interpreters are passionate about justice for survivors and committed to providing trauma-informed, high-quality interpreting that not only creates basic access but also creates safety and healing. We are proud to be able to fill in this critical need for SFF clients”, says the Respond team.

“Language access, freedom of mobility, and physical and emotional safety are all basic human rights. Language justice is a feminist issue, is a queer issue, and is a basic human rights issue. We are grateful for the opportunity to work at these intersections in collaboration with Sanctuary for Families.”

We, too, are grateful to our team members at Respond Crisis Translations. We thank them for their amazing commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and clients, and their impact reaches well beyond what can be captured in words.

To learn more about Respond Crisis Translation and their work, please join us on June 17th from 6:30pm -7:00pm at our virtual Pillars of Change

Additionally, for those who are in need of support, please feel free to get in touch with them via their website

https://www.respondcrisistranslation.org/en/newsb/eloblue-jfrancois-santuaryff