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

New Website. New Look. New Ways to Get Involved.

Executive Director Judy H. Kluger welcomes you to our new website.

If there is one thing we’ve learned at Sanctuary in the thirty years since our founding, it’s that we can’t do it all on our own.

As we strive to create a world where freedom from gender violence is a basic human right, our staff and our survivor-leaders increasingly need your support to face the challenges ahead.

That’s why I could not be more excited to welcome you to the new

This new website offers a range of options to get involved with Sanctuary’s services for survivors of gender violence, along with our extensive outreach, training and advocacy.

You’ll find dynamic Volunteer and Pro Bono portals and interactive Events pages. You can sign up for email updates at the bottom of every page, request outreaches and trainings, and make donations with ease.

Looking for more updates about our work? You can discover insights and get the latest news right here on our brand new blog, and find inspiration in the stories of some remarkable survivors.

And – finally – you can do it all on your mobile phone or tablet.

More importantly, we’ve made it easier to get help. Large “get help” buttons are visible throughout the site, and lead to descriptive Get Help pages available in English and Spanish. A permanent escape button ensures you can exit the site quickly if someone enters the room.

I welcome you to take some time to navigate through our new site. Thoughts? Questions? Ideas? Reach out to me on Twitter at @judykluger.

And be sure to check back soon for updates!

– By Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director

Sanctuary Rejects the Trump Administration’s New Public Charge Rule

As the end of the public comment period approaches, we invite you to learn about the severity of the changes to the Public Charge rule and urge you to submit comments to DHS by December 10, 2018.

Sonia Mansoor is Senior Manager of Public Benefits Legal Advocacy and Nabah Ikram is the Immigration Specialist at Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project. They are co-chairs of Sanctuary’s Public Charge Advocacy Subcommittee. 

The “Public Charge” immigration test became the law in 1882. The public charge test is a means to deny immigrants admission or a green card to the United States if they are reliant on the government for their subsistence.

The Trump Administration proposed a more draconian version and the Department of Homeland Security published the new “Public Charge” rule on August 12, 2019. The rule would have become effective on October 15, 2019.  However, Judge George Daniels of the US District Court in NYC issued a preliminary nation-wide injunction prohibiting the administration from enforcing the new public charge rule. On January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump Administration’s new Public Charge rule to take effect after the immigration policy had been blocked by lower courts.  The nation-wide injunction on the new public charge rule has been lifted, pending further litigation. DHS and USCIS have not come out with an implementation date as of yet.

Sanctuary for Families strongly condemns the racist, classist and xenophobic new Public Charge rule. This is an attack on the well-being and health of vulnerable immigrant communities including children, pregnant women, and the elderly. The new Public Charge rule would broaden the definition of Public Charge to “someone who receives one or more public benefits.” Under the new Public Charge rule, USCIS will also consider participation in the following programs in a public charge determination:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Non-emergency Medicaid
  • Low-income subsidies under Medicare Part D
  • Housing choice vouchers, project-based subsidies, and public housing ­­­­

The new rule also adds criteria to the “totality of circumstances” evaluated in each determination and changes the weights attributed to certain “positive” and “negative” factors. Among the heavily-weighted negative factors are current or recent unemployment, current receipt of public benefits, and a lack of unsubsidized health insurance.

Key Factors To Keep In Mind:

  • As noted above, the new Public Charge rule does not affect all immigrants.
  • There is no public charge test that applies to green card holders (lawful permanent residents).
  • The new public charge rule does not change eligibility for public benefits, please do not dis-enroll before speaking to a public benefits specialist and an immigration attorney.
  • Certain categories of immigrants are exempt on a humanitarian basis including refugees, asylees, survivors of domestic violence, trafficking and other serious crimes (U-visas, VAWA Self-Petitioners), Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and some other immigrants.

Immigration Resources:

  1. Action NYC: Call 1-800-354-0365 and say “Public Charge
  3. Office of New Americans: 1-800-566-7636
  4. Legal Aid Society: 1-844-955-3425
  5. New York Immigration Coalition:
  6. Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign:
  7. Information Sessions on New Public Charge hosted by Sanctuary for Families: