Sanctuary Files Brief Challenging Florida’s 15-Week Abortion Ban

Every day that it remains in effect, Florida’s HB 5 causes profound, irreparable harm to victims of gender-based violence, violating their bodily autonomy and forcing them to stay tethered to dangerous abusers.


On Thursday, March 9, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Sanctuary for Families and other advocates in the case of Planned Parenthood Southwest and Central Florida v. Florida, which challenges Florida’s 15-week abortion ban (HB 5) and is currently before the Florida Supreme Court.

At Sanctuary, we know that abortion bans like HB 5 endanger and disproportionately affect victims of domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence. Florida’s 15-week ban grants abusers more power to control their victims. It can also mean a death sentence for many women in abusive relationships — In the United States, homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant and postpartum women.

Every day that it remains in effect, HB 5 causes profound, irreparable harm to victims of gender-based violence, violating their bodily autonomy and forcing them to stay tethered to dangerous abusers. We call on the Florida Supreme Court to put the health and well-being of Floridian women first and strike down this unconstitutional bill.

Click here to read the full text of our amicus brief.

President Biden Must Respect the Right to Asylum

Our statement on the Biden Administration’s proposed asylum restrictions.

On Tuesday, the Biden Administration released its most restrictive immigration policy thus far – effectively barring most migrants who reach our Southern border from applying for asylum in the United States. Under the proposed rule, migrants who reach the US-Mexico border without a scheduled appointment to meet with a US immigration official or without having applied for protection in countries they have traveled through will be deemed ineligible for asylum, with almost no exceptions.

Every day at Sanctuary for Families, we work with hundreds of immigrant survivors — women, children, men, non-binary, and LGBTQ+ individuals — who have fled gender-based violence in their home countries and fear persecution or death if forced to return. Many of our clients fear being forced to return to partners who have brutally beaten them in the past. Others fear being forced into a marriage against their will, falling victim to family honor killings, or being subjected to female genital mutilation upon return.

The Administration’s proposed rule blatantly disregards President Biden’s campaign promise to roll back Trump’s racist, xenophobic immigration policies. Instead, it further endangers the most vulnerable — women, girls, and LGBTQ+ survivors — and those seeking freedom from violence.

Seeking asylum is a human right. The proposed rule is both inhumane and against US and international law. In 2020, the courts blocked a similar immigration policy proposed by the Trump Administration. Sanctuary hopes the courts will follow precedent and strike down the Biden Administration’s proposed rule.

We call on President Biden and Congress to respect the right to asylum, rescind the proposed measure, and work toward creating a humane system that prioritizes the safety and well-being of immigrant survivors.

Take Action This Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, take action to support survivors and keep the conversation going through October and beyond.

This year has been particularly difficult for survivors of domestic violence. From the spectacle of misogyny that was the Depp v. Heard trial to two recent Supreme Court decisions that will grant more power to abusers — the overturning Roe v. Wade and the striking down of a century-old New York law that limited the carrying of concealed firearms outside the home — victims of gender violence face more challenges than ever before.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Join advocates and survivors in New York and across the country in educating ourselves and our communities about the dynamics of abuse, and raising awareness about resources available to victims. Here are a few ways you can get involved:.

Raise Your Voice on Social Media

Help us raise awareness about the prevalence and lethality of domestic violence, as well as of resources available to survivors, by posting on social media. We have created a social media toolkit with sample captions and downloadable infographics to help get you started, but feel free to customize your messaging in whatever way is most meaningful to you.

Access our full social media toolkit here:

Check out more videos on our YouTube Channel.

Attend an Event

Join Sanctuary, fellow service providers, advocates, and supporters during the month of October.

  • October 7 |  KAFSC’s Annual Silent March against Domestic Violence, 5:00 PM @ NYPD – 109th Precinct, 37-05 Union Street, Queens, New York – The Korean American Family Service Center will be hosting a march down the heart of Flushing in solidarity with survivors of domestic violence. RSVP here.
  • October 8 | Love on the Block, 12:00 – 5:00 PM @ North Harlem – Bradhurst Avenue 154th & 155th St, New York, NY – Hosted by W.A.R.M. (We All Really Matter), come out and enjoy free food, music, clothing giveaways, bouncy houses, and 20+ resource vendors. Register here.
  • October 13 |  Move to Move Beyond Workshop, 6:30-8:00 PM @ Gibney Dance – 280 Broadway, Studio D, New York, NY – Join Sanctuary Survivor Leaders at Gibney’s Move to Move Beyond — a workshop that offers opportunities to explore personal autonomy, agency, and choice within a supportive collective. Register here.
  • October 13-14 | 2022 Family Law Conference “Justice for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence” – Join family law practitioners, survivor leaders, social service professionals, members of the judiciary, and advocates to address systemic injustices faced by survivors of intimate partner violence within New York State’s family law system.  Register here.
  • October 15 | Sisters in Purple Domestic Violence Awareness March, 11:00-12:00 PM @ W 145 Street and Lenox Avenue, New York, NY – Help bring more resources to the Bronx Community and join Returning Hope Inc. for their domestic violence resource fair. Register here.
  • October 15, | Bronx DA Walk/Run/Roll to End Domestic Violence 5K, 9:30 AM-12:30 PM In front of the Supreme Court steps at 161st Street and the Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY – Join us at a 5K hosted by the Bronx District Attorney’s office to raise awareness about domestic violence and honor the resilience of survivors. Register here.

Request a Training

Our staff and survivor leaders are available to lead virtual trainings for community members and groups – including schools, hospitals, law enforcement, courts and judges, faith communities, and cultural groups – who are interested in learning how to identify and support survivors. Learn more.

Wear Purple on Thursday, Oct. 20 and Participate in our Video Campaign 

On NYC Go Purple Day, we wear purple to spark conversation and raise awareness about domestic violence. This year, Sanctuary will be creating short videos for Sanctuary’s social media accounts to empower survivors and raise awareness about domestic violence — but we need your help!

If you are interested in joining our collective video project, please register here.

Video guidelines:

You can record the video yourself with your mobile device. Please keep the videos to a maximum of 15 seconds in length, and record in portrait mode (vertically). And most importantly, WEAR PURPLE!

  • Answer one of the following prompts, or create your own:
    • I wear purple because…
    • I stand with survivors because…
    • What I want people to know about domestic violence is…

Please make sure to include the question in the answer, for example: “I wear purple because everyone deserves the chance to live a life free from violence.

Register here to participate in the Purple Day video.

Submission guidelines:

The deadline to submit your video is Friday, October 14th.

You can upload your videos here.

We look forward to celebrating Purple Day together! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out at

Donate to Sanctuary

Your support ensures our ability to deliver counseling services, legal representation, career-readiness training, and shelter to thousands of immigrant and low-income survivors and families every year.

    MAKE A GIFT   
Take action to keep the conversation about domestic violence going through Domestic Violence Awareness Month and beyond.

Women & Girls in the U.S. Are At Risk of Female Genital Mutilation

FGM is happening in our own backyard, threatening the health and lives of more than half a million Americans.

Every year, on February 6, Sanctuary joins thousands of advocates across the world to observe the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)—A form of gender-based violence endured by more than 200 million women and girls worldwide that involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights. It is a universal practice, not prescribed by any religious teachings, typically performed on girls from infancy through puberty. Victims of FGM often suffer from severe, long-lasting physical and psychological harm, and many have lost their lives to this form of violence.

Immediate complications and health risks associated with this practice can include severe pain, excessive bleeding, swelling of genital tissue, fever, infection, urinary problems, injury to surrounding genital tissue, shock, and death. Long-term consequences can include urinary, vaginal, and menstrual issues, painful genital scarring and keloids, decreased sexual pleasure, reduced sexual functioning, and increased risk of complications during childbirth, as well as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), among other psychological problems.

Prevalence of FGM in the United States

Due to the secretive nature of FGM and the lack of resources allocated to the research of this practice, it is impossible to say for sure how many girls in the U.S. are at risk of female genital mutilation. Nonetheless, we know from experience that FGM is taking place in our own backyard, at alarming rates.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. have experienced or are currently at risk of undergoing this practice. This is more than three times higher than an earlier estimate based on 1990 data. Based on survivors’ testimony and research conducted by Sanctuary and other anti-FGM advocates, we believe that the incidence of FGM for women and girls in the United States may be even higher. Our data shows that FGM is being practiced in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, Washington, California, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Kentucky, Kansas, and Washington, D.C. It also suggests an even greater number of girls from the U.S. are taken abroad to be subjected to this violence, a practice known as “vacation cutting.” Today, however, there is no federal prohibition on this rampant violation of women’s rights in the United States.

FGM Legislation in the United States

The U.S. stands with Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and thirteen other countries in Western Europe in banning female genital mutilation. The practice was first banned by Congress in 1996 with the adoption of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (18 U.S.C. § 116). Because this federal ban fell short in addressing the issue of vacation cutting, Sanctuary and fellow advocates fought to protect American girls abroad and succeeded. In 2013, the act was amended to outlaw the transport of women and girls out of the U.S. for the purpose of FGM.

The first blow to the federal FGM prohibition came in 2018, when the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan returned a decision in the matter United States v. Nagarwala. In November of that year, Judge Friedman dropped most of the charges against the defendants, two doctors and four parents accused of mutilating the genitals of nine young girls. Five of the nine girls had been transported across state lines from Minnesota and Illinois (where state FGM prohibitions existed) to Michigan (where no state-level prohibition existed at the time). Prosecutors also estimated that Dr. Nagarwala and her accomplices may have cut as many as 100 girls.  Judge Friedman, however, declared in his ruling that the 1996 federal ban was unconstitutional:

“FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.” – Judge Bernard Friedman

The District Court’s decision was driven in part by the misguided belief that FGM cannot be a commercial activity and that the “market” for FGM was limited to the parents of the nine girls in this case. Fortunately, the STOP FGM Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and signed by President Trump in January 2021, closed this loophole by amending the FGM statute to clarify the commercial nature of the practice. The new law also increased criminal penalties for performing FGM and expanded the scope of punishable offenses.


Like other forms of gender-based violence, female genital mutilation is pervasive and cannot be eradicated based solely on state criminal laws. In addition to enacting new laws to deter U.S. families from practicing female genital mutilation, both at home and abroad, we must fight the misconceptions fueled by the profound lack of public awareness and research on the topic of FGM. Survivors from varying backgrounds—Christian, Muslim, American, West African, Indian, Pakistani, Egyptian—have courageously come forward to share their stories and advocate against the practice.  It is time we listen to them.

Special thanks to our partners at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP for supporting our research and anti-FGM advocacy efforts. 

Donate today and declare zero tolerance for FGM so that girls in 2022 and beyond can live free from violence.