We Must Do More

As service providers and advocates for survivors, we cannot effectively address the issue of gender-based violence without also combating racist systems of oppression.

Judy H. Kluger is Executive Director at Sanctuary for Families. 

I am outraged and heartbroken. The last few weeks have once again laid bare what every Black and Brown person growing up in America knows: racism pervades all aspects of American life. As service providers and advocates for survivors, we cannot effectively address the issue of gender-based violence – one that disproportionately affects Black and Brown women and girls – without also combating the oppressive systems that make these populations more vulnerable and holding to account those who promulgate racism.

Sanctuary for Families stands in solidarity with the families and friends of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, the countless unarmed Black and Brown people who have been killed, and those standing against racial injustice everywhere. 

These are challenging times for so many, but particularly for communities of color, including members of the Sanctuary community, whose health and safety during this pandemic are all the more precarious due to inequalities and discriminatory practices inherent in our healthcare system. Against the backdrop of these recent events, I wanted to share a bit more about how Sanctuary is working to address racism and steps I am taking to challenge myself and bring about change.

Sanctuary has always stood against racism and discrimination, but we know our work needs to be more intentional – to be actively anti-racist. Over the last few years, we’ve made anti-racism trainings mandatory for all new staff, and have incorporated trainings on micro-aggressions and inclusion into our regular training curriculum. We brought on a consultant and formed a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee to help drive this work. The conversations we have had as an agency have been hard, and we know this is just the beginning. Our work must continue.

Of course, this work isn’t new to us. The majority of those we serve – women of color, many immigrants, and mothers living below the poverty line – are processing the trauma of the abuse they’ve experienced as well as the latent trauma of racism. As advocates for our clients, we fight against the racism and discrimination inherent in our systems and institutions daily.

We must hold ourselves accountable for the role each of us plays within these systems of injustice and recommit to doing the work needed to bring about change. Here’s how we can each start:

These are difficult issues that demand our attention and action beyond this moment. I hope you will take time this weekend and in the future to read articles, listen to podcasts, and watch videos with perspectives that challenge you. And to those enmeshed in this work, I hope you take time to rest and practice self-care.

For over 35 years, Sanctuary has worked to build a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right. Our work is inherently bound to the broader fight against racism and structural inequality. Only by addressing both in tandem will we achieve our mission.

In Solidarity,

Hon. Judy H. Kluger
Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families

Standing Against Racism

Our statement on the rise of discrimination and racism against Asians and Asian-Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, a Sanctuary staff member told me about a distressing experience she had with a trafficking survivor who needed in-person assistance. Our staff member and her client were both of Asian descent and as they walked down the street, following proper social distancing etiquette, a passerby verbally accosted them and accused them of spreading Coronavirus.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, discrimination against people of Asian descent has increased dramatically. Numerous staff members at Sanctuary have reported our Asian and Asian-American clients have experienced some form of discrimination or feel unsafe going out in public. Of the nearly 250 bias incident complaints reported to New York City’s Commission on Human Rights since February, 42% were directed at Asian-Americans. Countless more unreported incidents have occurred. This is, unfortunately, part of a long history of discrimination and bias perpetrated against Asian Americans in this country.

This is not who we, as a City, are. 

Sanctuary for Families strongly condemns the reprehensible actions by those few who seek to scapegoat Asian and Asian-American communities. These are trying times for everyone, and hate and discrimination have no place here. At Sanctuary, our staff are reaching out to Asian and Asian-American clients, offering counseling and other supportive services to those who are experiencing heightened anxiety or stress due to the threat or experiences of harassment.

We hope you will join us in supporting and standing in solidarity with our Asian and Asian-American friends, family, neighbors, and communities. Learn how you can safely and effectively intervene when you witness harassment and share these posts from the Immigrant History Initiative online with your communities to ensure we’re all more prepared to step in and support victims.

Wishing you and your family health and safety during these difficult times.


Hon. Judy H. Kluger
Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families

ACTION ALERT: Contact Congress and Tell Them to Address Survivors’ Needs in Next COVID-19 Response Package

Act now to urge Congress to address the urgent and emerging needs of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and the programs that serve them during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting disruptions.

A call to action from the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


Right now, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are at great risk.

Act now to urge Congress to address the urgent and emerging needs of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and the programs that serve them during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting disruptions.

The House of Representatives is finalizing its phase four COVID-19 response package. It is critical that this package meets the needs of victims, survivors, and everyday people. We have circulated a letter to Members of Congress, outlining steps they can take to support survivors and advocates — now we need YOUR help. Your Members of Congress need to hear from you NOW, while negotiations for the phase four package are underway. Your Senators and Representative both need to hear from you, but if you can only contact one person, right now, the priority is the House of Representatives.


Call your Members of Congress or contact them on social media, and tell them that the phase four package must contain provisions to directly address the needs of survivors and the people who serve them. Tell them that the package must:

  • Include $100 million in additional funding for the Sexual Assault Services Program (For more information on the needs of rape crisis centers and sexual assault survivors click here.)
  • Include emergency VAWA funding to states for victim services with funding for Tribes and culturally specific-services;
  • Fund the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act;
  • Include funding for grants for outreach to underserved communities;
  • Address the housing needs of survivors;
  • Meet the economic needs of survivors;
  • Address the long term impact on survivors by redirecting funds from deferred and non-prosecution agreements from the General Treasury to the Crime Victims Fund;
  • Temporarily waive match requirements for federal grants; and
  • Ensure immigrants have access to health, safety, and stability, including access to testing and treatment, and restricting immigration enforcement. For more information on the needs of immigrant survivors click here.

You can find your Senators and their contact information HERE and your Representative and their contact information HERE. You can find Members’ social media handles HERE. If you have contacts in Congressional offices, email is also an effective way to get in touch with staff who are working remotely.

Call/email script:

“Hello. My name is [your name], and I am a constituent [calling/emailing] from [your location and, if applicable, your program]. COVID-19 disproportionately impacts victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and Congress must act to support them and address their needs. This includes providing more funding for programs and ensuring survivors have access to services, housing, and economic stability; waiving grant match requirements; ensuring immigrants have access to health, safety, and stability; and addressing the long term impacts of this crisis on survivors by addressing dwindling deposits into the Crime Victims Fund. We’re counting on you to protect victims and survivors.”

If you are emailing or communicating on social media, please include a link to the letter mentioned above.

Sample social media posts:

.@Handle, #COVID19 disproportionately harms survivors of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault. Support them by increasing funding, waiving match, supporting ALL communities & addressing VOCA shortfalls! More at https://tinyurl.com/ybkmnots.

.@Handle, support Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault survivors and programs by increasing resources for FVPSA/VAWA/housing, waiving match, fixing the Crime Victims Fund, and supporting ALL communities! #COVID4More at https://tinyurl.com/ybkmnots.

For more information, please contact Rachel Graber (rgraber@ncadv.org), Dorian Karp (dkarp@jwi.org), and Emily Dahl (edahl@nnedv.org).

Giving Back During the COVID-19 Crisis: Photographer Donna Ferrato

From the legendary photojournalist, activist, and longtime Sanctuary supporter Donna Ferrato comes a photo print sale in benefit of Sanctuary for Families’ COVID-19 emergency efforts.

From the legendary photojournalist, activist, and longtime Sanctuary supporter Donna Ferrato comes a photo print sale in benefit of Sanctuary for Families’ COVID-19 emergency efforts.

Included in this sale are Ferrato’s prints from her current project, which offer a unique look at New York’s TriBeCa. With an intimate, artistic sensibility, the project captures one of New York City’s most historic neighborhoods. Her photographs portray generations of immigrants, captains of industry, and artists who walked the century-old, cobblestone streets. They also capture the manners and mores of today’s denizens who, lured by its old-world grace and simplicity, have made the TriBeCa of today an urban Ground Zero.

All prints will be made in Tribeca by Donna Ferrato and her assistant Gabo and will be signed and personalized by the artist. They are available starting at $100 each. Each photograph is available in editions of 25. When any photograph sells out it will replaced with a new print. 50% of the proceeds from the sale of the photographs will be donated to Sanctuary. To learn more and purchase prints, click here.

“In the first week of quarantine, I was hit by a hot idea after thinking about how to make a difference in these turbulent times. Why not use my archive of Tribeca for good. Tribeca came together after 9-11 when it took a hit on the economy as well as everyone’s hearts and minds. I wanted to leverage the memory of what the resilient spirit can do to help people suffering as a result of COVID-19. Given my long-standing work on behalf of victims of domestic violence, and their increased need now as they are trapped with their so-called loved ones, the decision was obvious.” – Donna Ferrato

With our clients facing unimaginable barriers while sheltering in place, Sanctuary is adapting its legal, counseling, shelter and economic empowerment programs to meet the emerging needs of gender violence survivors across New York City. Our offices remain open, as we are considered an “essential service”, and we are doing everything we can to provide our full range of support both remotely and in-person for survivors during this time.

We thank Donna for her years of service to Sanctuary for Families. Donna has partnered with Sanctuary for Families since 1991 when she first documented domestic violence in her book Living with the Enemy and has been raising awareness through her work ever since.

In NYC, domestic violence calls are down during the pandemic, but not necessarily because it’s
happening less. The strict measures put in place to curb the spread of the COVID-9 in the city also have raised hurdles and increased risks for victims seeking help. With schools and nonessential businesses shut, victims have lost opportunities to find privacy away from their abusers to seek help. To learn more about Sanctuary’s COVID-19 emergency response efforts, and how the crisis has impacted our clients and services, please click here


Purchase Photos in support of Sanctuary