10 times we came closer to ending gender violence in 2015

In 2015, we faced successes and challenges in our continued to work to end gender violence. Thank you for joining us.

1) Passing the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA)

After nearly four years of advocacy, we finally saw TVPJA pass in New York State. This new law increases penalties for traffickers and improves protections for minor victims of sex trafficking. It took incredible hard work and collaboration on the part of organizers, legislators, survivors, friends and peers to make this happen.

2) Giving 146 women a new shot at economic stability through our Economic Empowerment Program (EEP)

In August, we held our second graduation of 2015 for participants who completed our Office Operations Workshop. Throughout the year, 146 women completed EEP programming, gaining interview skills, job search assistance, intensive IT training and MS Office certifications. On average, graduates from the program in 2015 had a starting salary of $12.90, over $4 more than New York State’s private sector minimum wage.

3) Increasing our impact by 50%

We served nearly 15,000 adults, women and children – an increase of 50% from our previous year’s service numbers. Additionally, we doubled the number of people reached through our outreach efforts, connecting with over 40,000 community members, law enforcement officials, teachers, faith leaders, and others who seek to make a difference for survivors of gender violence.

4) Getting survivors out of shelter and into housing

We run five shelters at Sanctuary, including New York’s largest transitional domestic violence shelter, Sarah Burke House. But with the housing crisis in New York City, the numbers of clients successfully transitioning from shelter to safe housing dwindled. Thanks to the city’s new LINC program and amazing advocacy by our staff and partners, 70% of our Sarah Burke House clients found safe housing – up from 32% the previous year.

5) Launching the Domestic Violence Intervention, Education and Prevention Program (DVIEP)

In March, Sanctuary launched DVIEP, placing case managers at nine Police Service Areas throughout NYC. These case managers conduct outreach and assist survivors of domestic violence living in NYC public housing – their work is critical for educating police and the community.

6) Celebrating 30 years of Sanctuary

In June, we celebrated our thirtieth year of serving survivors of gender violence in New York. While Sanctuary’s mission, scope and size have changed over time, we remain true to our orginal goal: helping adults and children live life free from abuse.

7) Raising $2.1 million and breaking records at Zero Tolerance

Our Zero Tolerance Benefit in June is a beloved Sanctuary tradition, and year after year serves as a game-changing fundraiser that keeps us going in this life-saving work. We were so excited when our supporters came through this year by helping us raise over $2.1 million at the event – breaking a record for the most ever raised at ZT!

8) Unveiling the new sanctuaryforfamilies.org

After seven years of serving us well, Sanctuary’s website was in desperate need of a face lift. In July we were so excited to launch a brand new website: the new site makes it easier to get help, learn about domestic violence, see Sanctuary’s impact, hear from our clients, and features our brand-new blog.

9) Reaching more families than ever at the holidays

With significant increases in our programming and the number of survivors we serve, we saw many high-needs families in need of joy, cheer and support this holiday season. Thankfully, our amazing donors “adopted” 139 families and fulfilled their holiday wishlists. Other supporters and volunteers made it possible for us to distribute 1,400 more gifts to additional clients in need!

10) Speaking out against hate, and envisioning a peaceful 2016

It was a remarkable year here at Sanctuary. This work is never easy, and for all the joys there were many challenges, including hateful political rhetoric that impacted many of our Muslim clients and staff. Take a moment to read Executive Director Judy H. Kluger’s New Year’s message, which speaks out against the prejudice we saw in 2015, and envisions a better year to come.

Thank you for all of your support.

A time of transition: supporting children in shelter

Shelter isn’t easy for kids, but it can lead to a world of change.

Tyler was 15, Matt was 13 and Alicia was just 9 when they arrived at the doors of the Rosa Parks Crisis Shelter with their mother Nancy.

“I remember the first day that every family comes in,” says Keyra Carpio, Children’s Activities Specialist at Rosa Parks. “When I came down to meet with Nancy’s family, the three kids were tucked into their hoodies, silently checking their phones – doing everything to block themselves out from the situation.”

Nancy and her kids left an abusive father and a lifetime of instability, and were ready to start over free from violence. But the challenges they faced were extreme – one day after arriving at the shelter, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer.

Finding safety in shelter

Rosa Parks is one of Sanctuary’s five crisis shelters, the first place families go when escaping domestic violence. Home to five families at any given time, the shelter is a tidy, bright building with a backyard, a dedicated children’s room, and separate full apartments for each family.

Residents and staff treat the shelter like a true home and care for each other like family. Rosa Parks definitely challenges stereotypical expectations of shelter in New York City.

But entering shelter, no matter how welcoming or warm, is never easy, and holds extra challenges for children and teens.

“The first few weeks are always the most difficult for children and teens in shelter, but especially for Nancy’s family,” says Keyra. “Tyler, Matt and Alicia felt insecure and uncertain from being in such an unfamiliar place, and on top of that, now their mother had to navigate advanced-stage cancer.”

Transforming children, and moms

Keyra and the Rosa Parks staff help kids and families transform every day by providing extensive children’s and youth services on-site, for all young residents. Along with a dedicated Children’s Room for play, art and homework, Keyra plans an extensive art curriculum for every kid by age group.

Art, says Keyra, helps kids open up. “Just painting a self-portrait helps kids speak and share about themselves. Engaging with pictures and art let kids explore who they are, which is critical.”

Staff advocate for the kids to get them enrolled in school, and sort out any school issues that might conflict with shelter circumstances. Tutors come to Rosa Parks to help kids out with their studies.

Fields trips to museums and theater workshops take place at least once a month, and the staff takes advantage of every opportunity to throw a celebration, from birthdays to graduations to holidays.

Trips and parties aren’t just for kids – moms take part too. After moms and kids have experienced trauma from abuse, these group activities can help them come back together and rebuild their relationships.

A community pulls together

For Nancy and her kids, the Rosa Parks community played a crucial role in their journey from fear and abuse to safety and security.

“When Nancy was diagnosed, it was a drastic change for the family, even after all they’d been through,” says Keyra. “Suddenly, the kids had to take real responsibility, because their mom could not handle it all on her own.”

Nancy had to travel from Brooklyn to the Bronx daily for chemotherapy and radiation, and there were days, in the throes of her illness, where she did not think she could get out of bed.

The Rose Parks staff helped the family develop a plan for getting chores done, getting the kids to school and Nancy to her appointments. The family’s counselors and shelter staff held regular check-ins, planning for how to keep everyone going through the most challenging of times.

Slowly, the family pulled through.

Rebuilding a family through art

As Nancy progressed in her treatment and grew stronger, she began to spend time in the Children’s Room.

Inspired by the art projects hanging on the walls, Nancy wanted to do something for herself.

“Nancy wanted to feel productive and creative again,” says Keyra. “She came up with an idea to create an ‘art journal,’ documenting the challenges and joys of her time battling cancer.”

Soon, the entire family was taking part in this temporary relief from their day to day struggles. Over six weeks, they created six paintings, each one meaningful in a different way. Together, they represent the family’s long journey to safety and happiness.

A happy beginning

Six months after arriving in shelter, Nancy and the kids moved on to a transitional shelter. Recently they found permanent housing through New York City’s new LINC program.

Nancy is cancer-free, and her children have found their confidence again.

They plan to decorate their new home with their art.

This post is one of a series about children that we are sharing during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Visit our blog for more, and find out how you can speak out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Maria was a victim of sex trafficking. Safe shelter made it possible for her to start over.

Maria was just 13 when she met Jose.

Just a teen

Maria was just 13 when Jose approached her one afternoon in a park near her home in Central Mexico. He was handsome, charming, and promised her a happier future in the United States. They journeyed together to New York and arrived at a dingy apartment in Queens. Instead of encountering a world of new opportunities, Jose promptly locked Maria up and forced her to service men – sometimes as many as 30 a day.

When she resisted, Jose beat her so severely that she later needed reconstructive surgery. He threatened to kill her sister back in Mexico if Maria went to the police.

“He controlled me psychologically. He knew where my family lived,” Maria recalls. “I was angry but what could I do? I didn’t know English. I had no money. He had my papers so I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know how to get home.”

A brave escape

Eventually, the pain became so unbearable that Maria could no longer take it. During a rare moment alone, she fled the apartment and hobbled to the police station. Officers rushed her to a hospital and contacted one of Sanctuary’s anti-trafficking attorneys. Maria’s first stop on the path to her new life was a safe house, where she stayed while receiving legal help, counseling and English lessons through Sanctuary.

A year later, she’s learning to live a life of freedom. Her physical injuries have healed, and she has gained back the 30 pounds she lost. Today, at 18, she works in a restaurant, not a brothel.

Maria’s story is not unique. Throughout New York City, countless adults and children are trafficked for sex every day. Like Maria, many are young, vulnerable and far away from home.

You can help

Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative provides high-quality counseling and legal services to support survivors like Maria in escaping violence and starting over. But with few residential shelters available to victims of trafficking in New York City, many of our clients struggle to find a safe place to stay.

You can help. Sanctuary has the opportunity to establish a shelter exclusively for survivors of sex trafficking. Your donation helps provide a trafficking victim with a month of safe shelter, food and transit while she receives services and works to make a new life.

With your support, more survivors like Maria can take their critical first step to safety. We hope you will consider making a donation today.