October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Join us to educate and advocate

Domestic violence is pervasive, and affects everyone. In the United States alone, 15.5 million children live in families where domestic violence is perpetrated.

We recognize that serving children and teens is critical to breaking the cycle of abuse. Check back throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month as we post updates from our Children’s and Youth Services Program staff about the successes and challenges in serving our youngest clients.

In the meantime, you can take action to educate others about the realities of domestic violence. Join us.

Photos and Highlights from the 2015 Abely Awards

We were proud to honor tireless advocates against gender violence.

Last week, members of New York’s legal, civic and anti-gender violence communities gathered to honor United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Judge Pamela K. Chen and Jennifer L. Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Services at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, at the Nineteenth Annual Abely Awards.

View photos from the event.

Co-hosted with Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Columbia Law School, The Abely Awards recognize individuals who make a difference in the lives of domestic violence and sex trafficking survivors.

This year’s honorees have each used their distinguished legal backgrounds to provide survivors of sex trafficking with opportunities to live their lives free from violence and control.

We were grateful to be joined by The Honorable Judith S. Kaye, retired New York judge and the first woman to occupy the State Judiciary’s highest office, who with Legal Director Dorchen Leidholdt presented the awards.

While US Attorney General Loretta Lynch could not attend the event, she accepted her award by video, recounting her experiences working with Sanctuary to prosecute traffickers during her time as US Attorney for the Easter District of New York. Watch her full video thanks:

We were also proud to honor Judge Pamela K. Chen, a federal district court judge in the Eastern District of New York, and a true pioneer in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.

We also honored Jennifer L. Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Practice at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and a longtime Sanctuary supporter and Board Member. Jennifer leads Cleary’s award-winning pro bono practice and maintains an active docket representing survivors of sex trafficking in vacatur cases.

Since 1997, the Abely Awards have celebrated the life and legacy of Maryellen Abely, a pro bono attorney at Sanctuary for Families’ Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services.

An alumna of Columbia Law School, and an associate at Davis Polk, Ms. Abely was a tireless advocate for the rights of victims of domestic abuse and one of Sanctuary’s first pro bono attorneys. She died in 1995 after a long battle with cancer.

Learn more about the Abely Awards.

Maria was a victim of sex trafficking. Safe shelter made it possible for her to start over.

Maria was just 13 when she met Jose.

Just a teen

Maria was just 13 when Jose approached her one afternoon in a park near her home in Central Mexico. He was handsome, charming, and promised her a happier future in the United States. They journeyed together to New York and arrived at a dingy apartment in Queens. Instead of encountering a world of new opportunities, Jose promptly locked Maria up and forced her to service men – sometimes as many as 30 a day.

When she resisted, Jose beat her so severely that she later needed reconstructive surgery. He threatened to kill her sister back in Mexico if Maria went to the police.

“He controlled me psychologically. He knew where my family lived,” Maria recalls. “I was angry but what could I do? I didn’t know English. I had no money. He had my papers so I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know how to get home.”

A brave escape

Eventually, the pain became so unbearable that Maria could no longer take it. During a rare moment alone, she fled the apartment and hobbled to the police station. Officers rushed her to a hospital and contacted one of Sanctuary’s anti-trafficking attorneys. Maria’s first stop on the path to her new life was a safe house, where she stayed while receiving legal help, counseling and English lessons through Sanctuary.

A year later, she’s learning to live a life of freedom. Her physical injuries have healed, and she has gained back the 30 pounds she lost. Today, at 18, she works in a restaurant, not a brothel.

Maria’s story is not unique. Throughout New York City, countless adults and children are trafficked for sex every day. Like Maria, many are young, vulnerable and far away from home.

You can help

Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative provides high-quality counseling and legal services to support survivors like Maria in escaping violence and starting over. But with few residential shelters available to victims of trafficking in New York City, many of our clients struggle to find a safe place to stay.

You can help. Sanctuary has the opportunity to establish a shelter exclusively for survivors of sex trafficking. Your donation helps provide a trafficking victim with a month of safe shelter, food and transit while she receives services and works to make a new life.

With your support, more survivors like Maria can take their critical first step to safety. We hope you will consider making a donation today.

Strategic Planning: Guiding Our Future

Our new Strategic Plan will guide us through the next five years.

Over the past six months, Sanctuary leadership, staff, clients and supporters have come together to create a vision for the organization’s future. This new Strategic Plan, our third in the past decade, will guide us through the next five years as we strive to build a world where freedom from gender violence is a basic human right.

Where we are today

We are proud to offer high quality services to more than 10,000 survivors of gender violence every year. Clients are at the center of our work; we draw on the experiences and voices of survivors when working to build our programs and reform local and national systems and policies. Our success is reflected in the sustained funding we receive from government, individual donors, and leading national funders.

To ensure we remain impactful, it is necessary to take time to critique and reflect upon what we as an organization can do better. Through this process of reflection, we have identified critical areas of focus for the future.

A roadmap for the future

Our next five years will be guided by three key goals:

1. We will address unmet client needs – in particular, empowering survivors to build economic self-sufficiency; ensuring that their children’s needs are met; and securing safe, permanent housing in the highly challenging NYC housing market.

2. We will build on our effective model of comprehensive service delivery by making it easier for clients to access services; by studying our impact; and by making results-driven decisions about our programs and operations.

3. We will amplify our advocacy and outreach efforts in order to improve the response of our communities and systems to victims of gender violence.

These goals serve to support our clients in their individual journeys to self-determination, while also enabling us to directly address legal and social structures that perpetuate gender violence. You can also view a detailed overview of the goals.

Many voices create a meaningful plan

In order to develop our strategy and goals, we sought a deep level of involvement from our board, executive leadership, and staff, and engaged in conversation with clients and partners in government, philanthropy, and the social service community. We are grateful for the thoughtful contributions of all who participated.

We invite you to consider this strategic plan and to help us fulfill our shared vision of exceptional services and progress toward a world free of gender violence.

– By Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director