Recognizing Yuqing Wang: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Yuqing is a 2018 Pillars of Change honoree.

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week! Every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer who will be honored at our Pillars of Change Volunteer Recognition Event on May 10th. Learn more and register for Pillars of Change.

As an international student at NYU, Yuqing Wang was curious about life in New York City outside her campus and searched for volunteer opportunities on where she found Sanctuary for Families.

As a native Mandarin speaker, Yuqing utilizes her language skills as a volunteer interpreter for Sanctuary’s Queens Trafficking Intervention Pro Bono Program (QTIPP). In this role, Yuqing supports Sanctuary staff, pro bono attorneys, and clients every Friday at Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court by providing interpretation for client intakes and screenings.

“Interpretation for our clients is not as simple as translating words from one language to another,” explains Lauren Chung, Administrative Assistant, Anti-Trafficking Initiative.

“Many of the clients within the QTIPP program are vulnerable immigrants from East Asia and it is very difficult for them to recount experiences of abuse and trauma.”

Despite this, Yuqing approaches these intakes with extreme sensitivity and she becomes the client’s voice for the duration of the intake. “I can recall many cases in which a client walked into the office nervous and walked out with a smile on their faces. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about volunteering,” Yuqing explains.

In just over a year of volunteering at Sanctuary, Yuqing has translated for over 60 client intakes, working with over 50 pro bono attorneys from Sanctuary’s law firm partners. As an experienced trauma-sensitive interpreter, Yuqing has also been assisting the Anti-Trafficking Initiative with developing an interpreter training for future volunteers.

Yuqing’s talents have not gone unnoticed by Sanctuary staff:

“We have come to rely on Yuqing’s insightfulness – if there’s an intake that we anticipate will be particularly sensitive, we do our best to have Yuqing interpret for that intake, trusting that her presence will ease the client.”

For Yuqing, volunteering at Sanctuary has been rewarding both personally and professionally. One thing Yuqing did not expect was the relationships she would develop with other people working on the project:

“I met Maggy last year, who is a retired lawyer and we have collaborated many times. She was incredibly kind and was happy to share her experiences with me and give me advice. If not for this volunteer opportunity, I would never have gained this friendship.”

Yuqing always brings the focus of any conversation about her work back to the clients she works with. For Yuqing, the most rewarding part of her work is ‘seeing that someone in difficulty is more relieved after our interview’.

We sincerely thank Yuqing for her compassion, sensitivity, and insight and hope she will continue working with Sanctuary for a long time to come.

We look forward to celebrating Yuqing and four other amazing volunteers at Pillars of Change on May 10, 2018! You can join us at Pillars of Change by registering now. We hope to see you there!

Recognizing Diana Steele: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Diana is a 2018 Pillars of Change honoree.

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week! Every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer who will be honored at our Pillars of Change Volunteer Recognition Event on May 10th. Learn More and register for Pillars of Change.

Diana Steele has been volunteering with Sanctuary’s Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project since 2014, when she was connected to Sanctuary through the Attorney Emeritus Program.

Diana’s goal had always been to work in public interest law. Prior to her long career in corporate taxation, she had worked in nonprofit organizations such as The Legal Aid Society and the ACLU.

It was this deep commitment to public interest that inspired Diana to dedicate her time to Sanctuary for Families upon retiring.

“I had always wanted to get back into doing something more consistent with my initial public interest goals, and Sanctuary’s mission clearly fit that goal”, she explains.

In her time as a Sanctuary volunteer, Diana has become an invaluable member of the Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project team, a group of attorneys and advocates who provide survivors of gender violence with legal representation to obtain divorce, child support, child custody, and other relief to which they are entitled.

“Diana does research and writing on complex legal issues that arise in our cases.  She has handled everything from researching details about service of process in foreign jurisdictions to drafting arguments for appellate briefs,” explains Amanda Norejko, Director of the Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project.

Diana’s skill and productivity was evident from the beginning and her research and writing has played a central role in supporting a wide range of clients’ legal needs. Some of Diana’s achievements include collaborating on winning briefs in cases before the Appellate Division, providing research for manuals used to train new attorneys in housing law, and stepping in to support time-sensitive case while the primary attorney was on vacation.

“Diana is incredibly productive, enabling us to meet tight deadlines on major legal briefs. We have come to rely on her consistently excellent work product and she never disappoints us.” – Amanda Norejko.

Diana’s commitment to Sanctuary is undeniable, “The most rewarding parts of volunteering at Sanctuary are working with the dedicated, bright, and hardworking legal staff and witnessing the tremendous courage and resilience of Sanctuary clients.”

Pillars of Change is an opportunity to honor extraordinary volunteers like Diana, who bring skill, experience, and passion to our staff and hope and opportunity to our clients.

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on May 10, 2018 to recognize Diana and four other incredible volunteers for their service. You can join us at Pillars of Change by registering now!

Challenging Gender Violence on College Campuses

Sanctuary’s new Campus Gender Violence Initiative is providing resources to students in cases of campus sexual assault at universities across New York City.

Alyssa interned with Sanctuary over the summer and is currently a student at Holy Cross.

Over the past few years, sexual assault, rape, and intimate partner violence (IPV) on college campuses have become widely-discussed topics, especially for young people. College students, parents, and people of all ages have raised their voices in disdain over the way schools handle or mishandle cases of campus sexual assault. The issue most recently came to a head in September when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, an Obama-era letter of guidance to universities across the country on how to investigate cases of sexual assault and better protect the rights of survivors.

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), “Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” These are staggering numbers. Unfortunately the issue is perpetuated by backward and often misogynistic and discriminatory attitudes towards victims. Phrases like “boys will be boys” and “s/he was asking for it” are still all too common, making it painfully difficult for both women and men to reach out for the help they deserve and need.

Countless organizations have been established in the name of awareness and preventative efforts against sexual assault and IPV, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s “It’s On Us” Campaign and the One Love Foundation. During my time here at Sanctuary for Families, I came to learn that this non-profit puts forth its own kind of effort to help survivors. I was given the opportunity to talk to one of the women who heads this initiative, Rebecca Zipkin.

The Campus Gender Violence Initiative

Sanctuary’s concern with campus sexual assault grew as the nation’s concern with it grew. Lauren Hersh—former Director of Anti-Trafficking Advocacy and Policy and Sanctuary—and Legal Center Director Dorchen Leidholdt noticed that there was no legal assistance readily available for student survivors and decided that Sanctuary should do something about it. It was from this need that Sanctuary developed the Campus Gender Violence Initiative to provide resources to students in cases of campus sexual assault at universities across New York City.

Zipkin, who works alongside staff attorney Alexi Meyers, said that it is rare for student survivors to attain a lawyer for their case. This is why Zipkin and Meyers want student survivors to know that they deserve resources and that places like Sanctuary are able to provide them.

Sanctuary’s Campus Gender Violence Initiative began with a pilot program at Columbia University, through which Sanctuary staff attorneys would counsel and guide students through the campus disciplinary hearing process when bringing sexual assault allegations against other students. Under a federal grant, Sanctuary is now in the planning phase to expand this work to other schools in the New York area, in collaboration with the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. Known as the Campus Advocates Project, this pilot will train and mentor law students to advocate on behalf of sexual assault survivors in university disciplinary hearings, a model pioneered by Sanctuary through its now 20-year-old Courtroom Advocates Project based in Family Court. The Campus Advocates Project will be training 25 New York based law students in the coming fall.

The Need

So far, Sanctuary’s Campus Gender Violence Initiative has assisted over 30 survivors and according to Zipkin, “We have just finished two cases that resulted in the expulsion of the perpetrators, which is very unusual, so we consider that very successful.”

Like Alexi and Rebecca, there are countless people who dedicate their work and their time to raising awareness of sexual violence; but there is still more to be done. According to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, women of color are at the greatest risk for violence. Zipkin agrees that this is the case,

“We have actually seen that the vast majority of our clients are people of color, foreign-born people, [and] young women who would not be able to afford a lawyer otherwise.”

On the other hand, most of the perpetrators do have private attorneys, often paid for by the parents. This leaves survivors at a disadvantage, especially those who are not able to obtain a lawyer at all.

Zipkin also points out that since this issue is primarily referred to as “campus” sexual assault, it ultimately makes people think that it is a “less serious crime or something that just happens at college when two kids get too drunk.” This, of course, is far from the reality: “It’s rape. It’s rape whether it happens at college or whether it happens one year after college at work, or forty years after college. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are, it’s all the same,” says Zipkin.


The best way to ensure preventative measures are being taken, according to Zipkin, is to advocate for more education. Most young people don’t learn about sexual violence until the first few weeks of college when they go through orientation. Even after that, most students never hear or talk about it again. This lack of knowledge is not only detrimental, it is unfair to young people.

The best way to prevent sex crimes from occurring is to adamantly teach people from a young age how wrong it is. Just as it is ingrained in society that murder is wrong, sexual and gender violence should not be tolerated. Our culture must change..

Due to the current sociopolitical climate and the changes that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is making to Title IX policies, students and survivors everywhere are on the edge. In response to these uncertain times, Zipkin says,

“I am hopeful that because of the student advocacy and how empowered students have been—especially student survivors—and the demands that they are making on their schools that no matter what [the administration] does, these schools will not roll back these protections. In the end, they are serving the students.”

Above & Beyond 2017

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards,

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards, we worked closely with our Pro Bono Council and event co-chairs to publish eleven stories – each featuring a different team and case. This collection showcases the extraordinary lengths to which so many of our pro bono partners go in order to serve our clients.

To learn more about our Pro Bono Council and related advisory groups, click here.

Cahill Associate Fights for Mother and her Special-Needs Son

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP: Margaret Barone

“My son and I have been enormously blessed . . . with the valuable assistance of Margaret whom I can only thank forever with all my heart as a mother and as a woman and as a minority.”

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Cravath Attorneys Support Mother and Child’s Effort to Flee Domestic Violence

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP: Amal El bakhar, Rachel Fritzler, and Rachel Skaistis

“I believe we have a responsibility as lawyers to represent those less fortunate, and help do what we can to bend the arc a little further toward justice.”

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Davis Polk Team Changes Lives of U-Visa Applicants with Impact Litigation

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: Surya Gopalan, Sharon Katz, Caroline Stern, and Scott Wilcox

“They left no stone unturned in preparing the strongest possible case for our clients.”

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Davis Polk Team Wins Custody Victory Against Abusive Father

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: Alyssa Beaver Gomez, Molly Greer Gurny, and Amanda Meyer

“We no longer live our lives in fear of violence but in freedom we’ve never experienced before. I can never thank them enough for what they’ve done for us and how they’ve changed our lives.”

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Debevoise Team Secures Freedom and Protection for Survivor of Abuse and her Family in Multi-Year Trial Process

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP: Anna Domyancic, Lesley Douglas, Ashley Fillmore, Sean Hecker, Rhianna Hoover, John Pierpont, and Marisa Taney

The team’s work was life-changing for Rebecca. When Rebecca learned of their nomination for this award, she told Sanctuary that the Debevoise team members were her “heroes.”

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Paul Weiss Team Wins Major Victory for Victim of Domestic Violence

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP: Michael Nadler, Allison Penfield, and Elizabeth Sacksteder

“This decision is great case law and a major win for Sanctuary and for Paul, Weiss. But above all and most importantly, this is a tremendous and well deserved victory for Susan!”

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Schulte Roth & Zabel Team Successfully Advocates for Domestic Violence Survivor Against Abuser and Aggressive Opposing Counsel

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP: Mari Dopp, Carly Halpin, and Taleah Jennings

“This was uncharted territory for myself and some of my supervisors . . . a lot of the issues raised in the process were really novel for us. There was no blueprint. But the Schulte attorneys were completely undeterred by this.”

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Simpson Thacher Team Fights for Trafficking Survivor Whose Testimony Led to Successful Prosecution of International Trafficking Right

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP: Carola Beeney, Hilary Chadwick, Kristina Green, Harlene Katzman, Matthew Levy, Jonathan Lieberman, Lara Pomerantz, Mark Stein, and Alyssa Watzman

“I am grateful to the Simpson Thacher legal team for helping me with such a long and complicated case. It has been so many years, but Simpson has supported and protected me at every turn. Thanks to them, I have been able to start a new life with my husband and daughter.”

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Stroock Team Comes to the Rescue of Labor Trafficking Survivor

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP: Joy Baskin, Kevin Curnin, Jonathan Konig, Ben Smyser, and Claude Szyfer

“This legal team is tenacious! While other teams would have rightly been proud to help secure a guilty plea from a husband-wife team of heartless labor traffickers, Stroock went the extra mile in ensuring that their formerly enslaved client got true justice in the form of compensation.”

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Wachtell Team Works Tirelessly to Stop Client’s Deportation

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz: Courtney Heavey and John Savarese

“helping Michael remain in this country where he worked so hard to build a life for himself and keeping him united with his family was an incredibly rewarding experience and I am so thankful to have been a part of this case.”

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WilmerHale Team Reunites Mother and Children in International Abduction Case

Wilmer Hale LLP: Vilmarie Alcaraz, Margaret Artz, Hanna Baek, Todd Blanche, Sanket Bulsara, Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, Musetta Durkee, Matthew Galeotti, Lauren Kennedy, Sharon Cohen Levin, William Roth, Joshua Vittor, and David Yin

“It was a difficult time to be without my daughters for two years, but I never lost hope that my children would be back in my arms sometime. Sanctuary and WilmerHale listened to me, helped me, and were by my side every step of the way although I was in Mexico and my legal team was in New York.”

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