Cyber Sexual Abuse Survivor Nathaly Speaks Out

On November 16th, the New York City Council voted in favor of passing a law to criminalize the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images. Read the speech survivor and former Sanctuary client, Nathaly, delivered at the press conference.

On November 16th, the New York City Council unanimously voted to pass a law criminalizing the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images. Cyber sexual abuse (also known as “revenge porn”) is an increasingly common and particularly devastating form of domestic violence. It is thanks to the bravery of survivors like Nathaly who have spoken out that this much needed law passed.

Read the speech that Nathaly delivered at the press conference before the vote:

“My name is Nathaly and this is my story. My ex boyfriend of almost ten years ago recorded me behind my back while we were having sex. I had no idea I was being recorded and throughout all these years I didn’t know he had the recording. Almost ten years later he began to stalk, harass, and threaten me all because I did not want to talk to him.

During this time I was in a beauty pageant. He knew about my running in the pageant and wanted to make sure I would never have chance at winning. So he posted the video that he recorded of me on pornography websites with information about me so people would know who the girl is in the video. Even though the video didn’t have my face in it, to know that my body could be seen by just anyone was absolutely terrifying. I felt extremely embarrassed, violated, scared, hurt, and at that point I no longer wanted to live. This was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. I couldn’t eat, sleep, go to work, I couldn’t even search the web in fear that I just might see something of myself on the internet. This affected me so greatly that it literally immobilized me from having a normal happy life. I no longer believed in myself nor in my dreams.

As I stand her today I want to speak for everyone out there who has experienced or is currently experiencing something similar. I want you to know that you are not alone! You can be strong and brave and with the help of programs like Sanctuary for Families, you can get through this! Don’t blame yourself – this is not your fault! Please continue to fight. Don’t allow this to define you. You are great. Never stop believing in yourself, continue to reach for your dreams!

With all this being said, I believe the law needs to be changed. Recording somebody in a sexual state and posting it on pornography websites without their consent should be illegal! This can greatly help people who are victims from this horrific abuse.”

Challenging Gender Violence on College Campuses

Sanctuary’s new Campus Gender Violence Initiative is providing resources to students in cases of campus sexual assault at universities across New York City.

Alyssa interned with Sanctuary over the summer and is currently a student at Holy Cross.

Over the past few years, sexual assault, rape, and intimate partner violence (IPV) on college campuses have become widely-discussed topics, especially for young people. College students, parents, and people of all ages have raised their voices in disdain over the way schools handle or mishandle cases of campus sexual assault. The issue most recently came to a head in September when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, an Obama-era letter of guidance to universities across the country on how to investigate cases of sexual assault and better protect the rights of survivors.

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), “Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” These are staggering numbers. Unfortunately the issue is perpetuated by backward and often misogynistic and discriminatory attitudes towards victims. Phrases like “boys will be boys” and “s/he was asking for it” are still all too common, making it painfully difficult for both women and men to reach out for the help they deserve and need.

Countless organizations have been established in the name of awareness and preventative efforts against sexual assault and IPV, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s “It’s On Us” Campaign and the One Love Foundation. During my time here at Sanctuary for Families, I came to learn that this non-profit puts forth its own kind of effort to help survivors. I was given the opportunity to talk to one of the women who heads this initiative, Rebecca Zipkin.

The Campus Gender Violence Initiative

Sanctuary’s concern with campus sexual assault grew as the nation’s concern with it grew. Lauren Hersh—former Director of Anti-Trafficking Advocacy and Policy and Sanctuary—and Legal Center Director Dorchen Leidholdt noticed that there was no legal assistance readily available for student survivors and decided that Sanctuary should do something about it. It was from this need that Sanctuary developed the Campus Gender Violence Initiative to provide resources to students in cases of campus sexual assault at universities across New York City.

Zipkin, who works alongside staff attorney Alexi Meyers, said that it is rare for student survivors to attain a lawyer for their case. This is why Zipkin and Meyers want student survivors to know that they deserve resources and that places like Sanctuary are able to provide them.

Sanctuary’s Campus Gender Violence Initiative began with a pilot program at Columbia University, through which Sanctuary staff attorneys would counsel and guide students through the campus disciplinary hearing process when bringing sexual assault allegations against other students. Under a federal grant, Sanctuary is now in the planning phase to expand this work to other schools in the New York area, in collaboration with the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. Known as the Campus Advocates Project, this pilot will train and mentor law students to advocate on behalf of sexual assault survivors in university disciplinary hearings, a model pioneered by Sanctuary through its now 20-year-old Courtroom Advocates Project based in Family Court. The Campus Advocates Project will be training 25 New York based law students in the coming fall.

The Need

So far, Sanctuary’s Campus Gender Violence Initiative has assisted over 30 survivors and according to Zipkin, “We have just finished two cases that resulted in the expulsion of the perpetrators, which is very unusual, so we consider that very successful.”

Like Alexi and Rebecca, there are countless people who dedicate their work and their time to raising awareness of sexual violence; but there is still more to be done. According to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, women of color are at the greatest risk for violence. Zipkin agrees that this is the case,

“We have actually seen that the vast majority of our clients are people of color, foreign-born people, [and] young women who would not be able to afford a lawyer otherwise.”

On the other hand, most of the perpetrators do have private attorneys, often paid for by the parents. This leaves survivors at a disadvantage, especially those who are not able to obtain a lawyer at all.

Zipkin also points out that since this issue is primarily referred to as “campus” sexual assault, it ultimately makes people think that it is a “less serious crime or something that just happens at college when two kids get too drunk.” This, of course, is far from the reality: “It’s rape. It’s rape whether it happens at college or whether it happens one year after college at work, or forty years after college. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are, it’s all the same,” says Zipkin.

Prevention

The best way to ensure preventative measures are being taken, according to Zipkin, is to advocate for more education. Most young people don’t learn about sexual violence until the first few weeks of college when they go through orientation. Even after that, most students never hear or talk about it again. This lack of knowledge is not only detrimental, it is unfair to young people.

The best way to prevent sex crimes from occurring is to adamantly teach people from a young age how wrong it is. Just as it is ingrained in society that murder is wrong, sexual and gender violence should not be tolerated. Our culture must change..

Due to the current sociopolitical climate and the changes that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is making to Title IX policies, students and survivors everywhere are on the edge. In response to these uncertain times, Zipkin says,

“I am hopeful that because of the student advocacy and how empowered students have been—especially student survivors—and the demands that they are making on their schools that no matter what [the administration] does, these schools will not roll back these protections. In the end, they are serving the students.”

Above & Beyond 2017

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards,

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards, we worked closely with our Pro Bono Council and event co-chairs to publish eleven stories – each featuring a different team and case. This collection showcases the extraordinary lengths to which so many of our pro bono partners go in order to serve our clients.

To learn more about our Pro Bono Council and related advisory groups, click here.

Cahill Associate Fights for Mother and her Special-Needs Son

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP: Margaret Barone

“My son and I have been enormously blessed . . . with the valuable assistance of Margaret whom I can only thank forever with all my heart as a mother and as a woman and as a minority.”

Read more

Cravath Attorneys Support Mother and Child’s Effort to Flee Domestic Violence

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP: Amal El bakhar, Rachel Fritzler, and Rachel Skaistis

“I believe we have a responsibility as lawyers to represent those less fortunate, and help do what we can to bend the arc a little further toward justice.”

Read more

Davis Polk Team Changes Lives of U-Visa Applicants with Impact Litigation

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: Surya Gopalan, Sharon Katz, Caroline Stern, and Scott Wilcox

“They left no stone unturned in preparing the strongest possible case for our clients.”

Read more

Davis Polk Team Wins Custody Victory Against Abusive Father

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: Alyssa Beaver Gomez, Molly Greer Gurny, and Amanda Meyer

“We no longer live our lives in fear of violence but in freedom we’ve never experienced before. I can never thank them enough for what they’ve done for us and how they’ve changed our lives.”

Read more

Debevoise Team Secures Freedom and Protection for Survivor of Abuse and her Family in Multi-Year Trial Process

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP: Anna Domyancic, Lesley Douglas, Ashley Fillmore, Sean Hecker, Rhianna Hoover, John Pierpont, and Marisa Taney

The team’s work was life-changing for Rebecca. When Rebecca learned of their nomination for this award, she told Sanctuary that the Debevoise team members were her “heroes.”

Read more

Paul Weiss Team Wins Major Victory for Victim of Domestic Violence

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP: Michael Nadler, Allison Penfield, and Elizabeth Sacksteder

“This decision is great case law and a major win for Sanctuary and for Paul, Weiss. But above all and most importantly, this is a tremendous and well deserved victory for Susan!”

Read more

Schulte Roth & Zabel Team Successfully Advocates for Domestic Violence Survivor Against Abuser and Aggressive Opposing Counsel

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP: Mari Dopp, Carly Halpin, and Taleah Jennings

“This was uncharted territory for myself and some of my supervisors . . . a lot of the issues raised in the process were really novel for us. There was no blueprint. But the Schulte attorneys were completely undeterred by this.”

Read more

Simpson Thacher Team Fights for Trafficking Survivor Whose Testimony Led to Successful Prosecution of International Trafficking Right

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP: Carola Beeney, Hilary Chadwick, Kristina Green, Harlene Katzman, Matthew Levy, Jonathan Lieberman, Lara Pomerantz, Mark Stein, and Alyssa Watzman

“I am grateful to the Simpson Thacher legal team for helping me with such a long and complicated case. It has been so many years, but Simpson has supported and protected me at every turn. Thanks to them, I have been able to start a new life with my husband and daughter.”

Read more

Stroock Team Comes to the Rescue of Labor Trafficking Survivor

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP: Joy Baskin, Kevin Curnin, Jonathan Konig, Ben Smyser, and Claude Szyfer

“This legal team is tenacious! While other teams would have rightly been proud to help secure a guilty plea from a husband-wife team of heartless labor traffickers, Stroock went the extra mile in ensuring that their formerly enslaved client got true justice in the form of compensation.”

Read more

Wachtell Team Works Tirelessly to Stop Client’s Deportation

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz: Courtney Heavey and John Savarese

“helping Michael remain in this country where he worked so hard to build a life for himself and keeping him united with his family was an incredibly rewarding experience and I am so thankful to have been a part of this case.”

Read more

WilmerHale Team Reunites Mother and Children in International Abduction Case

Wilmer Hale LLP: Vilmarie Alcaraz, Margaret Artz, Hanna Baek, Todd Blanche, Sanket Bulsara, Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, Musetta Durkee, Matthew Galeotti, Lauren Kennedy, Sharon Cohen Levin, William Roth, Joshua Vittor, and David Yin

“It was a difficult time to be without my daughters for two years, but I never lost hope that my children would be back in my arms sometime. Sanctuary and WilmerHale listened to me, helped me, and were by my side every step of the way although I was in Mexico and my legal team was in New York.”

Read more

 

 

Paul, Weiss Team Wins Major Victory for Domestic Violence Survivor

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP for their skilled litigation on behalf of a domestic violence survivor. Paul, Weiss former associate Michael Nadler (currently a 2nd Circuit judicial clerk) and Paul, Weiss associate Allison Penfield, supervised by partner Liz Sacksteder, argued that past incidents of domestic violence, although committed more than a year prior to petitioning for an order of protection, were enough to give their client, Susan, a continuing reasonable fear of her abuser. The judge agreed with their deftly-made arguments and granted Susan a one-year order of protection. This result was a major victory with immense precedential value.

Emily Suran is an associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP. She is a Co-Chair of the Above & Beyond Benefit, the editor of the Above & Beyond blog posts, and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of attorneys from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP for their skilled litigation on behalf of a domestic violence survivor. Paul, Weiss former associate Michael Nadler (currently a 2nd Circuit judicial clerk) and Paul, Weiss associate Allison Penfield, supervised by partner Liz Sacksteder, argued that past incidents of domestic violence, although committed more than a year prior to petitioning for an order of protection, were enough to give their client, “Susan,” a continuing reasonable fear of her abuser. The judge agreed with their deftly-made arguments and granted Susan a one-year order of protection. This result was a major victory with immense precedential value.

A History of Abuse

In 2014, Susan’s former partner, Todd, became physically violent and menacing, and in 2015, Susan ended the relationship. At one point, Susan obtained an order of protection against Todd, but it was subsequently dismissed.

A New Incident Leads to a New Case

Over a year later, Susan was at a restaurant when she saw Todd standing next to her car outside. Terrified, Susan called 911.

Luba Reife, a senior staff attorney with Sanctuary for Families’ Family Law Project, enlisted the help of Paul, Weiss partner Liz Sacksteder, associate Allison, and then-associate Michael to secure a new order of protection for Susan. While the latest incident did not independently rise to the level of an offense, the team crafted an argument that all the prior incidents of abuse, taken together, gave Susan a reasonable and continuing fear of Todd and justified an order of protection.

Michael and Allison developed a strong relationship with Susan, and did extensive research and witness preparation before heading into the courtroom. Michael single-handedly conducted the direct examination of Susan, and he also cross-examined Todd.  Allison conducted the direct examination of another witness, who testified to the history of abuse.

Paul, Weiss partner Liz Sacksteder recalls,

“Mike and I strategized before every hearing date and talked through all the evidentiary issues and strategy for each examination.  I was very impressed by all the care and thought and depths of analysis going into Mike’s and Allison’s preparation. I thought the two of them were a great team, and Mike was a great leader of the team.”

A Positive Outcome

Thanks to the efforts of the Paul, Weiss team, the court issued a decision granting Susan a one-year order of protection.

Upon receiving the positive decision from the court, Luba enthused:

“Michael and Allison did a fantastic job eliciting testimony as to all the past incidents of domestic violence and, what’s most important, were able to convey to the Court, through the testimony, that Petitioner is still in need of an order of protection … This decision is great case law and a major win for Sanctuary and for Paul, Weiss. But above all and most importantly, this is a tremendous and well deserved victory for Susan!”

In Memoriam

Tragically, Susan passed away shortly after receiving the court’s decision. In an email sharing the devastating news, Luba wrote, “She was a lovely person, a trooper, with a wonderful sense of humor, smart and gutsy. She was going to present the award at Above and Beyond for the Paul, Weiss team. I am absolutely heartbroken over this loss.”

Michael and Allison were shocked. After such an exhilarating win, it was difficult to process Susan’s untimely death. Allison recalled Susan as vibrant and a wonderful role model for women. “I think a lot of people would have not gone through the hell she went through to get this order of protection in place,” she said. “Working with her was the most rewarding part of this case.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 17, 2017 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor the Paul, Weiss team’s outstanding pro bono work.  Learn more about the event here.

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary for Families’ work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.