It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – check out our list of exciting ways you can get involved!

Domestic violence is one of the most common, yet least discussed issues affecting Americans today. Even if we haven’t experienced it ourselves, odds are we love someone who has suffered (or is currently suffering) at the hands of their intimate partner – According to the NCADV,  1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking, among other forms of abuse that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of Public Law 101-112, which designates October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and calls on the people “to observe this month by becoming more aware of the tragedy of domestic violence, supporting those who are working to end domestic violence, and participating in other appropriate efforts.” As usual, Sanctuary is joining millions of survivors and advocates throughout DVAM to bring the issue of domestic violence to the forefront of the public’s attention, raise awareness about our services, honor the memory of those we’ve lost, and celebrate strength and courage of our clients and of survivors across the country.

We hope that you, too, will honor the survivors in your life by joining us as we break the silence around domestic violence. Check out a list of exciting opportunities below and stay tuned for more DVAM updated throughout this month!

ATTEND AN EVENT

Oct. 1st & 8th: NBC’s Domestic Violence Vigils: Commemorating Victims of Domestic Violence

Oct. 4th: CLE:  Investigating and Prosecuting Intimate Partner Traffickers

Oct. 5th: Bronx 5K Run/Walk/Roll to End Domestic Violence

Oct. 24thThe Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence and Cyber Abuse

Oct. 25th & 26th: Gibney & Sanctuary for Families Present: Cracks of Light

Oct. 27th2019 Vision for Change: A Survivor-Led Conference to End Gender-Based Violence

SPEAK OUT

Stand with survivors of domestic violence! Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues; share information through social media; let your representatives know that the silence surrounding domestic violence must end!

On Facebook: Show your support for survivors by adding a #StandWithSurvivors temporary frame to your profile picture

On Instagram & Twitter: Go purple to raise awareness about domestic violence!

  • Change your profile pictures to all-purple for the month of October by downloading this image or by taking a screenshot of our latest Tweet and Instagram post
  • Share graphics from our Social Media Toolkit using the hashtags #StandWithSurvivors & #NoLoveInViolence and tagging @sffny
  • Drive the conversation on why we must #StandWithSurvivors using our graphics (or create your own!) and tag @sffny

Tag us @SFFNY (Twitter & Instagram) or @SanctuaryforFamilies (Facebook) and use the hashtags: #NoLoveInViolence #StandWithSurvivors

VOLUNTEER

We engage over 2,000 volunteers annually. Learn more about our diverse volunteer and internship opportunities by clicking here.

DONATE

You can make a difference for thousands of adults and children every year. Give today.

Skadden Attorneys Help Client Secure Dismissal with Prejudice in Contentious Hague Petition Abduction Case

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP for their dedicated and powerful advocacy on behalf of their client, “Jocelyn Brown” throughout a contentious and complex international abduction case. 

Victoria O. Abraham is an associate in the Mergers & Acquisitions group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP and a co-chair of the Above & Beyond Committee on 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 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP for their dedicated and powerful advocacy on behalf of their client, “Jocelyn Brown” throughout a contentious and complex international abduction  case.  We are pleased to honor this incredible team consisting of former associates Erin Simmons and Donna Farag, partners Lea Haber Kuck and Pat Rideout, and associates Mackenzie Newman, Christina Pryor, Maria da Silva, Chris Fredmonski, Tamar Lisbona, Caitlyn Cheleden, Joshua Atkinson, Molly Brien, Belinda Huang, Grace Jun and Pippa Hyde.

In December of 2018, a team of attorneys from Skadden took on the representation of Jocelyn Brown (“Ms. Brown”), a mother of three young children, in a case brought by her husband and the children’s father under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Hague Convention”) in the Eastern District of New York. The Hague Convention is an international treaty that provides a mechanism for addressing international child abductions. Under the Hague Convention, if a child is removed without consent from a Hague Convention signatory country to another Hague Convention signatory country, the left-behind parent can file an action in the court system of the country where the children have been removed to.  In this case, Ms. Brown had fled from the U.K. to New York with her three children to escape the domestic violence perpetrated by her husband.  The children’s father initiated an action in United States District Court, Eastern District of New York demanding the return of the children to the U.K.

Due to the nature of the relief sought, the Skadden team worked tirelessly to defend Ms. Brown from the “abduction” allegations brought against her by her husband.  Hague Convention cases are required by law to move quickly through the system and so immediately after Sanctuary contacted Skadden about representing Ms. Brown, the team had to hit the ground running. Under an extremely expedited timeframe, the Skadden team appeared in Court to respond to allegations that Ms. Brown and her family had evaded service. The team also answered the Hague Petition, propounded and responded to discovery requests, engaged a forensic psychologist to interview Ms. Brown and the children and to prepare a report documenting the effects of the domestic violence on the family, and ultimately prepared the case for trial in federal court.

“We had a team of attorneys who pulled together to work under demanding timeframes over the holidays to respond to the Hague Petition that was filed against the client,” said former associate Erin Simmons.  “Our team leveraged a wealth of experience and worked around the clock to achieve the best possible outcome for the client and her family.”

According to Erin, Sanctuary’s resources and connections were invaluable in helping the Skadden team prepare for trial:

“Sanctuary is a leading nonprofit in Hague representations for domestic violence survivors and they have significant expertise in this practice area.  Sanctuary connected us with the pro bono team from Paul Weiss, also working on a Hague Convention case in the E.D.N.Y, who was instrumental in helping our team navigate the representation.  Sanctuary also connected us with a forensic psychologist willing to perform the evaluations under the expedited timeframe set by the federal court.  That connection made a tremendous difference in our ability to defend our client.”

“The Hague Convention as drafted and implemented does not provide adequate protection for primary caretaker parents—typically mothers—who come to the United States to protect themselves and their children from dangerous domestic violence perpetrated against them by the left-behind parent,” said Sanctuary Pro Bono Director Nicole Fidler.  “For that reason, the expedited nature of the cases, and the high stakes, Hague litigation can be very challenging and I am deeply grateful for our dedicated Hague Convention partner law firms, like Skadden, who take this challenge on without question.  The work Skadden did on behalf of Ms. Brown was off the charts.” 

The Skadden team benefited directly from partner Lea Haber Kuck’s international legal experience and partner Pat Rideout’s trial experience as well as invaluable contributions from associates Mackenzie Newman, Christina Pryor, Maria da Silva, Chris Fredmonski, Tamar Lisbona and Caitlyn Cheleden and former associates Erin Simmons and Donna Farag, who approached the enormous task of litigating a federal case in three months with confidence and enthusiasm.

On the eve of trial, the Skadden team suggested a mediation and ultimately brokered a favorable settlement that secured the dismissal of the case with prejudice, which means that the case cannot be re-filed,  allowing Ms. Brown to remain with her children in New York subject to modest access terms for the children’s father. The settlement also provided for a dismissal with prejudice of a family court case that was pending in the U.K.

Mackenzie Newman said,

“Working with the kids was very rewarding. They were the ones who the whole case was about.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on November 12, 2019, at the RUMI Event Space, 229 W 28th St, New York, NY as we honor the outstanding pro bono work by the team from Skadden.  You can buy tickets here

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

We Are Suing ICE

Today, Sanctuary for Families and fellow advocates announced the filing of a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Today, Sanctuary for Families and fellow advocates announced the filing of a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), challenging the legality of the ICE’s practice of making civil immigration arrests without a judicial warrant or court order in and around New York State courthouses.

The lawsuit, filed by The Legal Aid Society and Cleary Gottlieb, seeks a permanent injunction ordering the halt of ICE courthouse enforcement on behalf of an individual plaintiff, a noncitizen domestic violence survivor who needed to appear in court for an order of protection, but feared the risk of an ICE arrest coming to a courthouse. Fellow plaintiffs include Make the Road New York, Urban Justice Center, Sanctuary for Families, The Door and the New York Immigration Coalition.

BACKGROUND

Since President Trump’s inauguration, ICE courthouse arrests have skyrocketed by over 1700% in New York, leading to a widespread chilling effect on noncitizens’ willingness to initiate and participate in the judicial system. Nearly 400 immigrants—both undocumented and those with legal status—have been arrested while appearing in and around State courts since January 2017, including those accused of a crime; parents appearing in child support matters; survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes; people who are mentally ill or homeless; and LGBTQ+ individuals; among others.

Moreover, ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing State courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations across the State.

OUR STATEMENT

At today’s joint press conference, Sanctuary ED Hon. Judy H. Kluger said:

“There is no question that the presence of ICE in our courthouses is subverting justice and putting lives at risk.

At Sanctuary for Families, 70% of the clients we serve are immigrants who rely on the courts for orders of protection against their abusers, child custody and support determinations and the remedies of our criminal courts, all crucial to their and their children’s safety.

As word of ICE’s courthouse arrests spread, our non-citizen clients grew increasingly fearful of getting help from the courts.

In fact, between 2017 and 2018, Sanctuary had fewer clients who were willing to seek orders of protection, and our clients repeatedly express concerns about accessing the courts.
The threat of arrest forces immigrant victims of gender violence to make the impossible choice between their safety and the risk of deportation.

We cannot and must not stand by and allow this miscarriage of justice to continue any longer.

As a former judge, I know the importance of courts as safe havens for all who seek its remedies. The fair administration of justice depends on it. And the threat of ICE interference undermines it.

Sanctuary for Families stands proudly in solidarity with The Legal Aid Society, Cleary Gottlieb, our fellow plaintiffs, and thousands of innocent victims, as we seek a permanent injunction against ICE’s unconstitutional courthouse arrests.

Our courts must remain places where all people have equal access to justice regardless of their immigration status. The lawsuit we are filing today is a necessary step toward reaching this goal.

Thank you.”

Learn more about the impact of ICE courthouse arrests on immigrant survivors:

Weil Team Wins Major Victory for Incarcerated Survivor of Domestic Violence

At this year’s Above and Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring the pro bono work of Richard Rothman, Senior Counsel at Weil, Gotshal and Manges and Co-Chair of the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative, Nigar Shaikh, formerly an Associate at Weil and currently Counsel at Everytown for Gun Safety, and Dori Y. Cohen, Associate at Weil, for their representation of “Amy,” an incarcerated survivor of severe domestic violence.

Vanessa Gutierrez is the 2018-2019 Tow Policy Advocacy Fellow at the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services from John Jay College of Criminal Justice – CUNY.

At this year’s Above and Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring the pro bono work of Richard Rothman, Senior Counsel at Weil, Gotshal and Manges and Co-Chair of the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative, Nigar Shaikh, formerly an Associate at Weil and currently Counsel at Everytown for Gun Safety, and Dori Y. Cohen, Associate at Weil, for their representation of “Amy,” an incarcerated survivor of severe domestic violence.

Rich Rothman has long been a pro bono advocate for survivors of gender-based violence, primarily survivors of intimate partner violence and sex trafficking.  In 2017 Rich, in conjunction with Sanctuary Legal Director Dorchen Leidholdt, founded the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative (the “Initiative”)—a collaboration of professionals and survivors focused on three main goals:

  1. Representation on parole, clemency, and re-sentencing matters
  2. Systems-change advocacy to improve the rate of release for incarcerated survivors
  3. Education and training on issues related to the intersection of gender-based violence, trauma, and incarceration

Nigar Shaikh was an early member of the Initiative and was instrumental in helping the Initiative implement its three-fold strategy to assist survivors.

The Initiative strives to help survivors who have been in prison for many years.  As Rich points out,

“Many of these older convictions took place in an era where domestic violence and trauma weren’t really understood by many, but especially the criminal justice system.  The women we help are victims whose crimes are directly related to the abuse they suffered, which landed them in prison. These women pose no risk to society, and deserve to live their lives outside of prison.”

Amy was one of the Initiative’s first referrals. Like the vast majority of women in prison, Amy was a victim of horrific violence prior to her incarceration.  She grew up witnessing domestic violence perpetrated by her father against her mother and was so distraught by what she saw that she attempted suicide at the age of twelve. A year later she moved to a new school and started dating an older boy who preyed on her vulnerability. This marked the beginning of an eleven-year relationship during which Amy was subjected to increasingly violent and dangerous abuse, as well as psychological torture.  Her abuser threatened to kill her, her family, and her friends if she tried to leave him.  It was right after he threatened to kill Amy’s sister, who was visiting her, that Amy made the terrifying decision to flee.

Amy and her sister were hiding at their step-mother’s house for approximately six weeks before they began to fear that her abuser had found her.  During an argument with her step-mother and sister about how to stay safe now that she had been discovered, Amy’s relentless stress, terror, and untreated PTSD took over and, without conscious knowledge of what she was doing, Amy killed her step-mother, with whom she’d had a close, loving relationship. She was convicted in 1991 for murder in the second degree and sentenced to 25 years to life.

Amy was eligible for parole in 2015, but despite an impeccable record inside prison, a strong release plan, and deep remorse for the crime she committed, she was denied parole.  Instead of considering the many factors that warranted her release, the parole board focused solely on the severity of the crime, completely disregarding the governing statute, regulations, and case law.

Amy was referred to the Initiative for help preparing for her next parole interview in 2018. After his first meeting with Amy at Taconic Correctional Facility, Rich knew that the Initiative had to try to help her.  Soon after, he agreed to represent Amy and he recruited Nigar and Dori to complete Amy’s pro bono team.

Rich, Nigar, and Dori worked on updating and supplementing her parole packet. Understanding how important it would be to explain Amy’s extreme trauma and the effect it had on the commission of the crime, they hired a trauma expert to meet with Amy and deliver an expert report to the parole board. The team compassionately worked with Amy to prepare her for the parole board interview—an experience that is often incredibly re-traumatizing for many survivors.  With the expert support and guidance of Rich, Nigar, and Dori, Amy was finally, after more than 25 years in prison, granted parole in 2018.

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on November 12, 2019, at the RUMI Event Space, 229 W 28th St, New York, NY as we honor Richard, Nigar, and Dori’s outstanding pro bono work.  You can buy tickets here

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