Sanctuary Urges NYS Legislators to Stand with Survivors and Advocates

Facing nearly $20 million of cuts on existing Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) contracts, survivors of crime and the advocates who provide them life-changing services held a press conference and rally in Albany, NY, on Wednesday, February 28th, to demand the Legislature fully fund victim services, and provide living wages to DV advocates, in the state budget.

Allison Ross, Senior Deputy Director of Sanctuary’s Non-Residential Clinical Services, spoke on behalf of our agency to explain what is at stake and why we need urgent action. Read her remarks below:

Good afternoon. I am Dr. Allison Ross, Senior Deputy Director of Non-Residential Clinical Services at Sanctuary for Families, New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of gender violence.

Across the five boroughs of New York City, Sanctuary for Families operates a network of support serving over 8,000 adults and children every year. We are a cornerstone of hope for survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and related forms of gender-based violence.

Our approach is holistic. Our staff provides licensed mental health counseling; emergency and transitional shelter; legal representation; career training and placement; food assistance, and emergency client grants. Our services are not just a response but a promise of a future where safety and independence are attainable realities.

Yet, today, I stand before you with these other amazing advocates with a dire message: the lifelines we all provide are at severe risk. The specter of funding cuts looms over us, threatening to dismantle the sanctuary we’ve built for thousands of New Yorkers.

We urgently call upon our legislators to affirm their commitment to survivors and advocates in New York State. We need the Governor’s $134 million earmark to avert crippling VOCA cuts. We need you to support families escaping abuse and the organizations that serve them.

We also need a Cost-of-Living Adjustment for our dedicated staff—because, without them, our fight against domestic violence falters. Public funding is the main driver of human service salaries. Yet, under current City and State contracts, domestic violence advocates and service providers are among the lowest-paid workers in New York’s economy. This needs to change.

To falter is not an option. This is the moment for New York State to stand firm, to shield its most vulnerable. We need action, not next year, not tomorrow, but today.

The State budget must carry forward the Governor’s funding for victim services. It must include a cost-of-living salary adjustment for domestic violence advocates. Only with the Legislature’s support will organizations like Sanctuary be able to retain their dedicated staff and continue to serve thousands of New Yorkers.

Our plea is simple: safeguard our funding, support our workforce, and send a resounding message that New York will not abandon those in pursuit of a life free from violence.

Thank you.

Learn more about NYSCADV’s 2024 Budget Advocacy Day and how you can take action to support our cause.