How to Obtain an Order of Protection During COVID-19

As courts have gone wholly virtual due to COVID-19, Sanctuary is helping New Yorkers experiencing domestic violence petition orders of protection in Virtual Family Court.

Shelter-in-place orders and other COVID-19-related measures—while essential to slowing the spread of this disease—have put thousands of New Yorkers at greater risk of harm from domestic violence. Many survivors are currently trapped at home with their abusers, feeling isolated and fearful of reaching out for help. Others are worried about the status of their current Orders of Protection or are unsure as to how to secure one in the midst of this crisis, especially now that the courts have gone wholly virtual.

In light of these challenging circumstances, Sanctuary has been actively working with government officials, the courts, and law enforcement to guarantee survivors’ ability to seek relief through the Justice System. When the Courts announced the shift to virtual hearings for emergency matters, Sanctuary attorneys moved quickly—working with the Office of Court Administration to clarify the standards for securing Orders of Protection—and connecting with District Attorneys’ offices and law enforcement to ensure that orders are served and enforced accordingly. Beginning Monday, April 13, Sanctuary Attorneys and pro bono partners will also be providing assistance to survivors seeking Orders of Protection through our new Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP).

OBTAINING AN ORDER OF PROTECTION IN VIRTUAL COURT

As per administrative orders from March 19th and 22nd, ALL Orders of Protection in effect before the COVID-19 outbreak will continue to be active. This applies to both criminal and family court orders.

However, if a family member or current or former intimate partner is abusing, harassing, threatening, and/or intimidating you, or has committed a crime against you, you can still petition for an Order of Protection (OOP) in Virtual Family Court by doing the following:

1. Petitioning for an Order

Contact Sanctuary for Families or your borough’s Family Justice Center and indicate you are seeking an Order of Protection (click here to see our contact information). We will connect you with an attorney who will help you draft and file a petition for an OOP in Virtual Court. If you are asked to leave a message, someone will respond to your call shortly.

Upon reaching us, you’ll be given the option to connect with our attorneys via phone, Skype, Zoom, or any other platform of your preference. Together, you will draft the petition and the attorney will then file it through Remote Filing E-Share or instruct you on how to file it independently. Petitions can be filed until 4 pm. 

When drafting the petition, our attorneys will make sure to indicate your language of preference. LanguageLine interpreters will be available to assist during this drafting process if needed.

As a reminder, all of our services are confidential and free of charge.

2. After Filing the Petition

On the same day that the attorney files your petition, the Court will contact you with details on when your case will be heard. This usually happens within a few hours of filing. Make sure to stay by your phone all day to avoid missing the call.

During this phone call, you will be given a specific time for your hearing, the phone number you’ll be dialing in on that day, and the PIN code needed to enter the virtual courtroom. Make sure you write down this information and save it somewhere safe.

3. Your Hearing

Appearing in virtual court will take approximately 15 minutes, and the process will feel similar to participating in a regular conference call.

After you dial in and enter your PIN code, you will virtually enter the courtroom with a virtual judge, virtual clerk, and virtual court reporter.  Depending on the arrangements you’ve made, the attorney and a language interpreter may or may not be participating remotely in this call.

If the attorney is present, the Court will ask them to state their appearance. After this, the Court will ask you, the petitioner, to state your appearance and swear you in. The judge will then review your petition and may or may not ask you and/or the attorney some questions before issuing the Temporary Order of Protection (TOP). The judge will inform you of your next court date, which will also be in virtual court, or, in your borough’s Family Court, if courts are back in operation. Your Temporary Order of Protection will remain active until the next court date. Please make sure to discuss the process of receiving a Final Order of Protection with the attorney. 

4. Serving the Order

Once the judge issues the TOP, you will receive a copy of the order via email the same day. PLEASE REMEMBER: The TOP must be served on your abuser for it to be valid. If your abuser does not have notice of the fact that you received a temporary order of protection against them, they can’t be arrested for violating it!

The attorney can help you serve the TOP on your abuser and provide you with a signed affidavit after doing so. You can also have a friend, family member, or other individual serve the order on your abuser, as long as they are over the age of 18. Whoever serves the order will have to fill out and provide you with a signed affidavit of service for your records.

You may register to be notified when your Order of Protection is served at https://oopalert.ny.gov/oopalert/

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

Sanctuary’s Legal Helpline: 1.212.349.6009 x8000, available M-F, from 9 am-5 pm.

NYC Family Justice Centers, available M-F, from 9 am-5 pm.

  • Manhattan FJC: 212-602-2800
  • Brooklyn FJC: 718-250-5111
  • Bronx FJC: 718-508-1220
  • Queens FJC: 718-575-4545
  • Staten Island FJC: 718-697-4300

REMEMBER: YOU ARE NOT IN THIS ALONE

Our services remain available! If you are in need of support, please call 212-349-6009 between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday, or visit https://sanctuaryforfamilies.org/get-help/

 

An update from Sanctuary for Families regarding COVID-19

How we’re supporting survivors and staff during this public health crisis.

Dear Sanctuary Community,

As the coronavirus spreads and fear increases, I wanted to share how we, at Sanctuary for Families, are approaching this crisis. This blog will be updated as the situation in New York evolves and our programs adapt.

COVID-19 impacts all of us but for victims of gender-based violence, the effects are compounded by the numerous challenges they already face.

  • Calls to self-quarantine may deter victims from seeking help, compelling them to cope at a time when stress levels are heightened.
  • Economic stress due to layoffs and lack of work elevates the risk of domestic violence
  • School closings are forcing many of our clients who are parents to secure childcare so they can continue to work, often for employers in the service-sector who offer little flexibility or sick time.
  • Immigrant survivors, who are already reluctant to access public services for fear of deportation, may avoid reporting symptoms or visiting Urgent Care. Those from countries with higher rates of infection may also experience more discrimination.
  • Families living in shelter or over-crowded apartment complexes with more shared spaces are having a harder time with social distancing.

Our clinical, shelter, economic empowerment, and legal services are critical for survivors, and Sanctuary is committed to ensuring they continue to have the access they need.

Program Updates

General

  • The health and safety of our clients and staff are our top priority.
  • In the interest of public health and safety, all staff whose job responsibilities allow are working remotely.
  • Program staff throughout the agency are reaching out to clients and providing services remotely, including counseling and legal assistance.
  • Our main office, shelters, and the EMPOWER Center remain open with limited staff.
  • Our hotlines have expanded hours, 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday.
  • The Family Justice Centers are closed but continue to refer survivors seeking help to Sanctuary and other NYC providers.

Counseling

  • Counselors, case managers and support staff are reaching out to all clients on their caseload to offer phone sessions.
  • Counselors are offering traditional counseling sessions through a HIPPA compliant tele-counseling platform to clients interested and able to participate.
  • Counselors are also offering more frequent phone check-ins to assess how survivors are coping with the pandemic.
  • Staff are safety planning with high risk clients and are in contact with our residential team to ensure we are up to date on shelter vacancies as emergencies arise.

Shelter

  • We are following the City’s guidelines for shelters.
  • Staff continue to go in person to the dwellings to meet with clients and address important case management needs like referrals for public assistance, completion of housing applications, legal referrals etc.
  • Face masks are being distributed, food is being stockpiled, and our operations team is cleaning frequently.
  • Our childcare and after-care staff are working with parents to engage their children who are out of school.

Economic Empowerment Program (EEP)

  • Survivors in the current EEP cohort are receiving laptops and hotspots so they can continue their training remotely.
  • Staff are providing crisis intervention services and are safety planning with high risk clients.
  • Staff are checking in on survivors in internships, if they’re able to work remotely, and those who been placed in jobs to ensure they are being supported.

Legal

  • All temporary orders of protection that have been issued by criminal and civil courts have been extended until the next court date.
  • Emergency Family Court hearings are being held virtually as of Thursday, March 26.
  • Eviction proceedings and all pending eviction orders have been suspended.
  • New York City’s immigration Courts remain open and filing deadlines for detained and non-detained cases remain in place.
    • Attorneys are struggling to put filings together remotely and are risking exposure by going to the post office or appearing in court.
    • USCIS has temporarily suspended routine in-person services, at least through May 3.

Our team is closely monitoring the virus’ spread and is developing contingency plans to protect staff and clients should the situation in New York continue to escalate.

We are also taking measures to minimize contact within our broader Sanctuary community. At this time, we are refraining from on-boarding new volunteers and accepting in-kind donations.

How You Can Help

Donate

If you would like to support survivors during this challenging time, please consider a making a donation to general donation page or our Fund for Vulnerable Families.

Your support will cover the cost of:

  • Basic hygiene items and help us meet the emerging needs of our clients
  • Food for our shelters and survivors who are struggling to cover the costs of stockpiling essentials
  • Remote learning platforms, laptops, and wifi hotspots for survivors
  • Video conferencing tools for our service providing staff
  • Deep cleanings which will help us protect our staff and clients

Help Spread the Word

Visit our COVID-19 Resources & Information page

We’d also appreciate any resources you see that may be of use to survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, and related forms of gender-violence. Email Info@sffny.org or tag us on social media!

We Couldn’t Do This Without You

Thanks to people like you, Sanctuary has consistently supported survivors in times of crisis throughout our 35-year history. We are confident that this will be no different. By staying vigilant, taking the necessary precautions, and supporting each other, we will get through this together.

Wishing you and your loved ones health and safety.

Warmly,

Hon. Judy H. Kluger
Executive Director

Sanctuary Applauds Gov. Cuomo for Granting Clemency to Monica Szlekovics

Read our press release

After 23 years in prison and incredible advocacy by Sanctuary partners Davis Polk & Wardwell, Monica Szlekovics has been granted clemency for the crime she was compelled to commit in 1996 due to years of abuse from her ex-husband. In granting her clemency, the State acknowledges the extenuating circumstances of her conviction and the traumatic impact of domestic violence on its victims.

Read our press release below:

 Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, New York State’s leading advocate and service provider for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence, issued the following statement:

“In granting clemency to domestic violence survivor Monica Szlekovics, who served 23 years of a 50-year to life sentence, Governor Andrew Cuomo has not only recognized her incredible personal transformation and achievements while in prison, but he has also acknowledged the extenuating circumstances of her conviction and the traumatic impact of domestic violence on its victims.”

“Sanctuary for Families views Monica’s clemency as a victory for survivors of intimate partner abuse everywhere.  We applaud the Governor for his insight, compassion and courage in making this important decision.”

Monica’s clemency case was handled by an extraordinary team of pro bono attorneys at Davis Polk & Wardwell, led by Special Counsel for Pro Bono Sharon Katz and Pro Bono Attorney Dara Sheinfeld, and including associates Jennifer Kalmanides and Peter Bozzo, former associates Brooklynn Moore and Jaryn Fields, and former legal assistant Emma Schwartz.  Partner Tatiana Martins also provided valuable assistance.  The team worked closely with outside co-counsel, Sara Bennett, whose prior clemency experience proved invaluable.  The team engaged with numerous leaders in the domestic violence community, who strongly advocated for Monica’s release.  The case was referred to Davis Polk by the Initiative for Incarcerated Survivors of Gender Violence, founded in 2017 by Dorchen Leidholdt, the Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Legal Center.

Like so many women across this country, Monica suffered years of excruciating and escalating domestic violence at the hands of her now ex-husband.  He choked her, threatened her with guns, beat her mercilessly—rupturing her eardrum and bruising her from head to toe, and subjected her to ongoing psychological torture.  Years of abuse led her to fear that her husband would kill her. Eventually, he kidnapped her at gunpoint and forced her—through a combination of physical threats, force, emotional abuse, and psychological manipulation—to accompany him on a violent crime spree in Rochester in search of an estranged girlfriend, who, herself, had previously fled from his violence.

Monica was sentenced to 50 years to life for her participation in crimes masterminded and instigated by her abusive husband.  At his trial, which post-dated hers, the prosecutor characterized Monica as “a pathetic, battered woman,” and acknowledged that her husband was a dangerously violent man who was “manipulating her, controlling her [and] dominating her.”

During her 23-year incarceration, Monica transformed herself from a broken, battered, drug-addicted young woman into a self-aware, confident agent of change.  Among other accomplishments, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, cum laude, became a responsible and valued employee of the prison’s college program, consistently volunteered her time to mentor other women, and flourished as a talented and published writer and artist.

It’s #GivingTuesday! Create Your Facebook Fundraiser Today

Mark your calendars for #GivingTuesday on December 3rd!

On Tuesday, December 3, people from all around the world will join together to celebrate Giving Tuesday – a day of global charitable giving. We hope that you’ll choose to support Sanctuary’s life-saving work on this special day.

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 US. You can make an incredible difference with just a few minutes’ work.

  1. Click the button above to create your own Facebook fundraiser today.
  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 support us.
  4. Start sharing your fundraiser this evening and all through the end of the day tomorrow. Remember to thank your friends and family as they give

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.