Sanctuary Announces New Co-Chair of the Pro Bono Council

Sanctuary for Families’ PBC is excited to announce that, as of December 2020, Victoria Abraham, associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, is serving as PBC Co-Chair.

Sanctuary for Families’ PBC is excited to announce that, as of December 2020, Victoria Abraham, associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP,  is serving as PBC Co-Chair along with Sharon Barbour, associate at Cohen & Gresser, LLP, who has served as PBC Co-Chair since January 2019.

Victoria succeeds Louisa Irving, who served as Co-Chair of the PBC from January 2018 to October 2020.  We are very grateful for Louisa’s outstanding dedication and leadership over the past two years.

About the PBC

The PBC was formed in 2003 as the Associate’s Committee, later changed to the Pro Bono Council and currently known as the PBC, with the goal of bringing together young professionals committed to supporting and promoting the work of Sanctuary through active community engagement, pro bono projects, and client-centered events. The PBC currently has approximately 25 active members. Each fall, the PBC hosts the Above and Beyond benefit, an event that supports the Legal Center by honoring the pro bono lawyers and other volunteers who have worked on behalf of Sanctuary’s clients during the past year. This year’s Above & Beyond event raised over $200,000 in support of the Legal Center.

Introducing Victoria

Victoria has been passionate about gender equality and gender-based violence since college. She first learned about Sanctuary while at Harvard Law School during a class on sex equality taught by feminist scholar and activist Catharine MacKinnon. After graduating and joining Skadden as an associate in the Mergers and Acquisitions group, she connected with Sanctuary and became part of the PBC in 2016.

Victoria studied journalism and Canadian Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and it was her experiences working at a radio station in Gulu, Uganda after graduating that inspired her to pursue a law degree.

“Working and living in Uganda made me realize that I wanted to have a more substantive understanding of how the law shapes society,” she recounts. “In my reporting, I came across situations where it seemed like Ugandan women and girls seemed to not be able to enjoy the same rights of citizenship as Ugandan men and the law seemed essential for understanding why that was the case.” Through her work at the radio station reporting on various aspects of life in Gulu, Uganda, Victoria realized that she was not satisfied with only telling someone’s story but that she also wanted to have tangible, lasting positive impacts on people’s lives. Her experience in Gulu inspired Victoria to spend her 1L summer at the Women’s Legal Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, where she had the opportunity to work on a class action case on the denial of Anti-Retroviral treatment to women working in the sex industry.

She has continued to passionately pursue this goal through her pro bono work, where her focus is predominantly on immigration matters. Her fluency in Russian enables her to work with LGBTQ asylum seekers and Violence Against Women Act clients from Russia and former Soviet Union countries.

“Working with pro bono clients is very rewarding because you get to help an extremely strong person who has gone through a lot. It’s so rewarding to build relationships with clients and give them a chance to make their life what they want it to be.” — Victoria.

Victoria also brings new insight to her pro bono work through her background in journalism, as demonstrated by her empathetic approach to interviewing clients and crafting compelling stories that are true to their experiences.

An active member of the PBC, Victoria served as Co-chair of the Above and Beyond Gala for the past two years and is eager to take on this new leadership role. Her goals for her time as PBC Co-chair include positioning the PBC as an anti-racist arm of Sanctuary and increasing the council’s diversity. She also hopes to increase membership engagement across the board. Ultimately, she wants the PBC to be a vibrant, constructive community that showcases all of Sanctuary’s invaluable work.

Please join us in welcoming Victoria as PBC Co-chair!

giving tuesday; facebook; fundraiser

Giving Tuesday Is Almost Here—Plan Your Fundraiser Today!

Sanctuary’s clients have felt the effects of this pandemic more than most, and we hope you’ll think of them on this special day.

Giving Tuesday is just around the corner! 

During this time of great stress and isolation, Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to come together with people from around the world in the spirit of generosity. Sanctuary’s clients have felt the effects of this pandemic more than most, and we hope you’ll think of them on December 1st—the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

If you’d like to increase your impact, you can create a Facebook fundraiser to get your friends and family involved in our mission to end gender-based violence. It’s an easy and effective way to get the word out about our work.

Create my facebook fundraiser

Facebook is matching up to $100,000 for every non-profit in the U.S. You can make an incredible difference with just a few minutes’ work. 

  1. Click here to create your own Facebook fundraiser.
  2. Click ‘Select Nonprofit’ and search for Sanctuary for Families. You’ll know it’s us by our logo!
  3. Set your goal and tell your friends why you’re supporting Sanctuary or why supporting survivors is important to you.
  4. Start sharing your fundraiser Monday evening and all through the end of the day on Tuesday!

100% of donations made through Facebook go to the nonprofit organization; which means every dollar goes to our cause.

Sanctuary for Families is dedicated to the safety, healing, and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Through comprehensive services for our clients and their children, and through outreach, education, and advocacy, we strive to create a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right.

Our Work Does Not End With This Election

A statement by Sanctuary ED Judy Harris Kluger.

2020 has challenged us as individuals, as communities, and as a democracy.

When the coronavirus hit New York City this spring, we isolated ourselves from loved ones and tried to manage our anxiety and grief. Over the summer, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other unarmed Black and Brown people demanded that we confront the devastating impact of systemic violence in our communities and institutions. Now this election is challenging us as a country and a democracy.

Regardless of the outcome, Sanctuary for Families will continue to uphold our mission of ensuring freedom from gender violence. Today and always, we stand for equity, safety, and justice for all.

Gender violence does not begin, nor will it end with this election. Gender violence is the product of a multitude of failures. It is a product of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. And it is the product of underfunding education, healthcare, social services, and public assistance programs. These issues did not begin four years ago.

We have much work ahead of us. For over 35 years, Sanctuary has provided the tools and resources survivors need to build safe and healthy lives free from violence. We will continue to serve and advocate until we live in a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right.

When the results are in and all the votes are counted, I hope you too will continue to stand up for our country, our democracy, and survivors of gender violence.

  DONATE TODAY 

Warmly,

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger
Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families

COVID-19 & Gender Violence: Sanctuary’s Response

Since COVID-19 hit New York City—the pandemic’s initial epicenter in the U.S.—the survivors Sanctuary serves have reported urgent concerns triggered or exacerbated by the public health and economic crisis, and the resulting quarantine.

Since COVID-19 hit New York City—the pandemic’s initial epicenter in the U.S.—the survivors Sanctuary serves have reported urgent concerns triggered or exacerbated by the public health and economic crisis, and the resulting quarantine. As New York State’s largest provider of trauma-informed, holistic services for these families, Sanctuary’s services are perhaps more important now than ever before.

Learn more about the range of challenges experienced by abuse survivors during this difficult time, and Sanctuary’s rapid, multi-pronged service, outreach, and advocacy response, below.

Urgent Needs

In addition to the trauma of abuse, survivors have experienced an array of challenges, including:

  • Job loss, food, and housing insecurity
  • Court closures preventing or delaying life-saving legal remedies like orders of protection
  • Dangerous visitation situations
  • Stressors and technology challenges around remote schooling, and other childcare issues
  • Increased economic abuse such as stolen stimulus checks
  • Heightened racism and xenophobia
  • Abusive partners restricting reproductive and other healthcare access
  • Immigrant clients’ fears of reporting virus symptoms or seeking emergency police or medical assistance.

Amidst a global spike in domestic violence, Sanctuary has seen a sharp increase in calls to our legal and clinical hotlines, double and triple the rates of previous years. We expect an even greater surge of need as restrictions are lifted and survivors have greater opportunities to seek out help. Throughout the crisis, the message survivors frequently heard and, in too many cases, internalized—from police, the court system, the media, or their abusers—is that their abuse did not constitute a serious “life or death” emergency compared to the medical crisis of the pandemic, leading them to believe that help was not available or accessible.

Sanctuary’s staff and survivor leaders have worked tirelessly to counteract these messages, to help ensure survivors’ safety and access to our essential services.

Our Response

Sanctuary for Families pivoted rapidly to continue providing nearly all our holistic, life-saving services after stay-at-home orders went into effect in mid-March, converting all but our shelter services to remote within a matter of days. Over the past 6-½ months, more than 5,100 adults and children have received services, including the following:

  • Crisis intervention, safety planning, and case management via phone and video calls: Over 3,900 sessions to over 600 clients.
  • Licensed mental health counseling via secure, interactive telehealth services: 35 clinicians have provided over 4,700 counseling sessions to over 500 adults, children and families.
  • Conversion of our intensive, full-day career training to remote learning, purchasing and delivering laptops, software, and Wi-Fi hotspots to 40 trainees last spring (and 60 more this fall), and relaunching trainings within just a few weeks of quarantine order.
  • Continued operation of our five shelters at capacity, with residential aides onsite 24/7 to ensure residents’ safety, and enhanced cleaning/safety protocols to protect their health.
  • Expanding our clinical and legal helplines, staffing the legal line full-time with attorneys so that callers always get a live response (when they may have few free moments to call) and increasing helpline hours—responding to nearly 900 calls.
  • Significantly expanding our direct cash assistance program, distributing more than $250,000 to over 425 families to date for emergency food, supplies, rent, medicine, clothing, and more.

Innovative Outreach

Sanctuary also rapidly developed new initiatives designed to connect with and provide resources to often-isolated abuse survivors and children, who may be cut off from regular avenues of access to assistance:

  • Our clinical and legal helplines launched a website chat feature to enhance accessibility during COVID-19 and beyond—particularly crucial for survivors quarantining in dangerous situations and unable to safely call for help.
  • Sanctuary clinicians and survivor leaders published two guides: a quarantine safety planning guide for domestic violence survivors and a guide for survivors of human trafficking to cope during COVID-19, which have been translated into multiple languages and reached more than 160,000 individuals online.
  • The Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project trained over 80 pro bono attorneys to help survivors seeking orders of protection from remote courts—receiving over 250 referrals and obtaining nearly 180 protection orders to date—and has begun training law students to assist survivors this Fall.
  • Targeted outreach to raise awareness of our new and ongoing services, as well as the rights of survivors during COVID-19, including ads on social media, ethnic news sites, taxis, and public areas at hospitals and other sites, including a powerful We’re Still Here video featuring staff and survivor leaders.
  • We hosted a week-long, trauma-informed virtual summer camp for 25 teens affected by domestic violence, which saw high attendance and active participation.
  • Volunteer and in-kind programming have continued with a virtual tutoring program, remote interview prep and career days for career training participants, and our annual backpack and school supplies drive for almost 600 children returning to school this Fall.
  • Through an initiative overseen by the NYC Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and privately funded by Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and Jay-Z, the Robin Hood Foundation, and more, Sanctuary was selected to administer nearly $500,000 in unconditional micro-grants to abuse survivors from domestic violence service providers citywide.

Thank You

The generous support of numerous companies, foundations and private donors have helped us meet the urgent needs of abuse survivors and their children during this unprecedented crisis. Even with the successful delivery of our services over the last seven months, with the pandemic still a major threat and so many New Yorkers facing deep economic uncertainty, the demand will only continue to grow. As our helplines continue to receive nearly 3x the number of calls and our staff field ongoing requests for emergency assistance, we must be prepared to address the anticipated flood of new clients and cases we expect when the city begins to reopen and survivors begin to have greater freedom to seek confidential help as stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.

We hope that you will continue to partner with us to help abuse survivors during the pandemic and beyond.