“We won’t settle for tokens.” Remembering the Great Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A giant of American jurisprudence and a relentless champion for the rights of women and minorities, Justice Ginsburg embodied the values that lie at the core of Sanctuary’s mission to end gender-based violence.

We at Sanctuary for Families join in mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneering advocate for civil rights and gender equality and a jurist of historic stature. We commit ourselves to honor her legacy by carrying on her work and protect it from being undone.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a true feminist icon and tenacious dissenter, paved the road for women in law and changed the culture for women in America. A daughter of a Russian immigrant, she began her legal career in 1956 at Harvard as one of only nine women who were famously shamed for “taking the place of a man” within a class of about 500. Two years later, she transferred to Columbia Law School, where she became the first woman ever to be on two major law reviews — the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review — and graduated in 1959 at the top of her class.

In 1963, at a time when there were less than 20 female law professors in the United States, Ginsburg landed a teaching job at Rutgers Law School and eventually received tenure. By the early 1970s, she had co-founded the groundbreaking Women’s Rights Law Reporter and transferred to Columbia Law School, where she became the first tenured female professor in 1972. That same year, Ginsburg co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Between 1973 and 1976, in her role as director, Ginsburg argued six gender discrimination cases before an all-male Supreme Court. She won five of them, transforming the constitutional understanding of gender and creating the legal framework for preventing discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg receiving Sanctuary’s 2002 Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety.

After thirteen years of service on the DC Court of Appeals, in 1993, Ginsburg became the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court. Over the course of her 27 years on our nation’s highest bench, Ginsburg brought her constitutional analysis to arduously defend women’s and civil rights. In the landmark case United States v. Virginia, Ginsburg authored the Court’s opinion which struck down the  long-standing male-only admission policy of the Virginia Military Institute and any law that “denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature — equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”

Even when in the minority, Justice Ginsburg’s analysis could bring about change. Her masterful dissent in the court’s opinion on Ledbetter v. Goodyear inspired the 2008 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a statute that put an increased burden on employers so that employees were better able to make for pay discrimination.

Most recently, she joined the majority for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that struck down parts of a Texas law that placed restrictions on the delivery of abortion services. In her concurring opinion, Ginsburg argued that it was “beyond rational belief that [such regulations on abortion providers] could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

The Honorable Judith S. Kaye, 1997 Abely Honoree, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Sanctuary’s 2002 Abely Awards.

Eighteen years ago, Sanctuary had the honor to present Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the Maryellen Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety— an award given annually to a person who has worked for the empowerment of women through the legal system and shares the compassion, energy, and dedication for which we remember Maryellen Abely, one of our first pro bono attorneys. While presenting Justice Ginsburg with the award, we offered the following tribute:

“Through intellectual force, you have changed our world. For the women and children at Sanctuary for Families, relief from the legal disabilities imposed by marriage and gender makes possible their escape from the emotional, physical and economic oppression wrought by their abusers. Without your work, ours would not be possible. For your vision, persistence and effectiveness, we confer upon you our highest honor.”

A giant of American jurisprudence and a relentless champion for the rights of women and minorities, Justice Ginsburg embodied the values that lie at the core of Sanctuary’s mission to end gender violence. It is up to us to create her legacy and to continue her work to ensure the “equal citizenship stature of [all] men and women”, regardless of race, creed, or origin. At Sanctuary for Families, we recommit ourselves to that vision in her honor.

May her memory be a revolution.

History of Abely Honorees

The Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety The Abely Pro Bono Leadership

The Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety

Since 1997, the Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety has been presented annually to a person who has made a difference in the lives of survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking and who shares the compassion, zeal, energy, and dedication for which we remember Maryellen Abely.

Previous recipients of the award are:

2019 The Honorable Toko Serita, Presiding Judge, Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court

2018 The Honorable Amiena Khan, Executive Vice President, National Association of Immigration Judges

2017 Ronnie Eldridge, Government & Community Social Justice Leader & Journalist

2016 The Honorable Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

2015 The Honorable Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney General, and the Honorable Pamela K. Chen, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York

2014 The Honorable Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., District Attorney, New York County

2013 The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York

2012 Sarah Buel, Faculty Director, Diane Halle Center for Family Justice; Clinical Professor of Law, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

2011 The Honorable Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, Administrative Judge for the Family Court of the City of New York

2010 The Honorable Carolyn B. Maloney, United States Representative, New York’s 14th District

2009 Casey Gwinn, President, National Family Justice Center Alliance

2008 Teresa Columba Ulloa Ziáurriz, Regional Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Maestra María Guadalupe Morfín Otero, Special District Attorney for Violent Crimes Against Women for the Office of the Attorney General of Mexico

2007 The Honorable Jack B. Weinstein, Senior Judge, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York

2006 The Honorable Denny Chin, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

2005 The Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, First Department

2004 The Honorable Judy Harris Kluger, Chief of Policy and Planning for the New York State Office of Court Administration

2003 The late Honorable Paul Wellstone, United States Senator, and the late Sheila Wellstone, domestic violence victims advocate (posthumously presented)

2002 The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

2001 The Honorable Sheldon Silver, New York State Assembly Speaker

2000 The Honorable Charles E. Schumer, United States Senator

1999 The Honorable Helene Weinstein, New York State Assemblywoman

1998 The Honorable Kathryn A. McDonald, Administrative Judge of New York City Family Court, and Patricia Eng, founder and Executive Director of the New York Asian Women’s Center

1997 The Honorable Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge of the State of New York

The Abely Pro Bono Leadership Award

Created in 2001, the Abely Pro Bono Leadership Award recognizes the contributions of the extraordinarily dedicated attorneys who have consistently demonstrated professional commitments to improving the lives of Sanctuary’s clients.

Previous recipients of the award are:

2019 William C. Silverman, Partner, Proskauer Rose LLP

2018 Joel Kurtzberg, Partner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP

 2017 Richard Rothman, Senior Counsel, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

 2016 Sharon Katz, Special Counsel for Pro Bono, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

 2015 Jennifer L. Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Practice, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

 2014 Brenna K. DeVaney, Pro Bono Counsel, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

 2013 Samidh Guha, Partner, Akin Gump LLP

 2012 Harlene Katzman, Pro Bono Counsel and Director, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

 2011 Josephine Lea Iselin, Attorney Emeritus, and Jill Crawley Griset, Partner, and Matt Pearson, Associate, McGuireWoods LLP

 2010 Jill M. Zuccardy, Partner, Lansner Kubitschek Schaffer & Zuccardy

 2009 Hannah M. Pennington, former Associate, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

 2008 Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, accepted by Sharon Katz, Special Counsel for Pro Bono

2007 Cynthia B. Rubin, Partner, Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer LLP

 2006 Claudia L. Hammerman and Robyn F. Tarnofsky, Partners, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

 2005 Mary Rothwell Davis, Volunteer Appellate Counsel, Sanctuary for Families’ CBWLS

 2004 Saralyn M. Cohen, Pro Bono Counsel, Shearman & Sterling LLP 2003 Ellen P. Chapnick, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives, Columbia Law School

 2003 Ellen P. Chapnick, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives, Columbia Law School

 2002 Nora von Stange, former Associate, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

 2001 Nancy L. Lazar, former Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

The Maryellen Abely Fellowship

The Maryellen Abely Fellowship, underwritten by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, funds a summer internship at Sanctuary’s Legal Center and is given annually to a Columbia Law School student who is committed to working with victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking.

Fellowship recipients include:

2019 Shuxin Qian

2018 Ammar Monawar

2017 Yiqing Shi

2016 Christina Zhang

2015 Whitney Hood

2014 Alexandra Swain

2013 Rosie Wang

2012 Alicia Lobeiras

2011 Sayoni Maitra

2010 Joy Ziegeweid

2009 Frances Kelly

2008 Mia Robertshaw

2007 Emma Glazer

2006 Carla Martinez

2005 Anya Emerson

2004 Yiwen Ouyang

2003 Erin Dougherty

2002 Alexander Karam

2001 Galen Sherwin

2000 Anne E. Glatz

1999 Rachel Wilgoren

1998 Deborah L. Fine

1997 Nihara Karim Choudhri

1996 Hilary Sunghee Seo

Special Awards

In 2005, a special Abely Leadership Award was given to Mary Ann Mailman in honor of her extraordinary contributions to Sanctuary for Families. Ms. Mailman is a past president of Sanctuary’s Board of Directors and a current member of Sanctuary’s President’s Council. She is a founder and active member of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Council and served as Co-chair until September 1, 2010.

In 2018, a special Abely Award for Extraordinary Service was presented to Kathleen Kundar for her years of devotion to Sanctuary for Families. As co-chair of the Legal Advisory Council for 12 years, Kathleen championed Sanctuary’s work, assisted our clients, and strengthened our Legal Center resources.

“Freedom is not a state, it is an act”

Our statement on the passing of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian.

On Friday we lost two pillars of the Civil Rights Movement – Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian. At Sanctuary for Families, we mourn the loss of these brave men who transformed our country through their love, compassion, and unyielding commitment to racial justice.

Our mission of ending gender-based violence is inextricably linked to the fight for racial equity. Here in New York City, we see how forces like housing segregation, underfunded schools, inequitable health care, police brutality, and unconscious bias in social services converge. These systems oppress Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, creating the circumstances that too often engender abuse and exploitation.

The work of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian and the Movement for Black Lives must continue. Words alone are not enough when it comes to honoring these freedom fighters. Here’s what we can all do:


Rep. John Lewis said, “Do your part and vote like you’ve never voted before. Believe in the power of love and together we will build the Beloved Community here in America.” Visit Vote Save America to register or make sure you’re registered, then check with your friends to make sure they’re ready for November as well.


Learn more about Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, their values and their legacies: The Atlantic – John Lewis was an American FounderThe New York Times – John Lewis Risked his Life for Justice, and OWN: A Tribute to Reverend C.T. Vivian


From the “three-fifths” compromise, continuing through the Jim Crow era, to today, the census has historically been weaponized to deprive critical federal funding to Black and Brown communities. Fill out your census and consider exploring ways you can support NYC census efforts which have been hampered by the pandemic.

Sanctuary for Families joins in mourning the passing of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian this week and we send out condolences to all who were fortunate to know them personally. As we strive to build a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right, we remember the words of Rep. John Lewis who said, “Freedom is not a state, it is an act.” With your support, our fight for freedom continues.

Standing With LGBTQ+ Survivors | NYC Pride 2020

Intimate partner violence, like other forms of abuse­, does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Intimate partner violence, like other forms of abuse­, does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

In honor of PRIDE, we’re hoping to bring attention to how intimate partner violence affects the LGBTQ+ community. We also want to remind our fellow New Yorkers that Sanctuary’s services are free and available to ALL individuals regardless of race, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, national origin, citizenship status, or marital status. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help.

Keep reading to learn more about safety planning and download our guide by clicking here.

Sanctuary at NYC Pride 2019

Intimate Partner Violence in the LGBTQ+ Community

Abuse occurs in LGBTQ+ relationships at similar or even higher rates than in the general population. According to a 2010 CDC survey, the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) is significantly higher for bisexual women (61%) compared to that of lesbian (43%) and heterosexual women (35%).[1] Lesbian women and gay men also reported experiencing levels of sexual and intimate partner abuse similar to or higher than those of their straight counterparts.

Although data on IPV in the transgender community is much more limited, studies suggest that 31 to 50 percent of transgender people suffer from intimate partner abuse at some point in their lives, compared to 28 to 33 percent in the general population.[2] One study found the prevalence of IPV experienced by trans women in the past year to be twice as high as that of trans men (16% vs. 8%), a finding consistent with the higher prevalence of intimate partner abuse among women in general.[3]

While it is often assumed that abusers are either the male or more masculine-presenting partner in a relationship, it is important to note that violence can be perpetrated by any individual regardless of their physical or personal attributes.[4]In the CDC study, for example, bisexual and heterosexual survivors, of various genders, overwhelmingly reported having only perpetrators of a different gender.

At Sanctuary for Families, we recognize that LGBTQ+ individuals’ experiences of abuse are too often ignored or dismissed. We also know that members of this community face unique barriers to seeking help because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression. These may include the risk of rejection and isolation from family and friends; fear of being outed by their partner in retaliation; misconceptions about abuse in same-sex relationships; homelessness and trauma from police brutality; lack of confidence in service providers due to potential homophobia; limited availability of or awareness about LGBTQ-specific or LGBTQ-friendly services; among others. Trans people, in particular, have been impacted by COVID-19, including increased unemployment and homelessness, while also struggling to find adequate medical care and support.

Every day, we at Sanctuary strive to create a welcoming environment that fosters compassion and mutual respect where all survivors can find safety and stability as they rebuild their lives in the aftermath of abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out.


Safety Planning: A Guide for Survivors, by Survivors

English | Español | Français | Deutschالعربية | 中文 | 한국어 

The following Safety Planning Guide was created by members of Sanctuary’s Survivor Leadership program and has been reviewed by multiple clinicians. The guide draws from survivors’ and clinicians’ expertise, as well as from safety planning models from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Sanctuary for Families, and Love is Respect.


Download this guide with safety tips from survivors.

What Is a Safety Plan?

A safety plan is a set of steps you can take to reduce the risk of harm in unsafe situations with an abuser or family member. With the changes in our environments due to coronavirus, we advise survivors of gender-based violence to consider the following safety tips created by survivors.  Sanctuary for Families’ team of Survivor Leaders put this list together in hopes of providing digital tools for safety during this time.

Why Should I Create a Safety Plan?

It can be hard to think and react in a time of emergency or high stress, especially with the added stress and uncertainty of coronavirus, so it is helpful to create a plan in advance. It is also important to update your safety plan often, as circumstances can change.  Abusers often try to have power and control over a survivor’s life, and a safety plan is one way a survivor can have power and control over their own situation, as much as they can.  Having a plan can empower you to make the safest decisions you can for your situation.

You are the Expert

You know your situation better than anyone, so please individualize your safety plan to what feels safest for you.  If something does not feel safe, trust your instincts.  For example, it may not be safe to complete a safety plan in writing, but you can still review one in your head and memorize it as best you can.  It can also be helpful to go over your safety plan with a trusted friend or relative.

Digital Safety

Please try to use a safer computer or phone that someone abusive does not have direct or remote (hacking) access to.  Digital stalking is one way for abusers to try to exert power and control. Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call instead. If you use email or texting, please use a safer computer or phone and an account your abuser does not know about.

For more information on computers, the internet, and digital safety, click here.

Increased risk of harm due to COVID-19

As many of us are practicing social distancing and quarantine, there are many additional risks for survivors and their safety, such as:

  • Isolation: Abusers can use this time to further isolate survivors from their loved ones. They may also use this as a time to further restrict a survivor’s movement in person, controlling where they go and when. They might also control a survivor’s interactions online, limiting their access to the outside world.
  • Restricting Access to Information: Abusers may also restrict access to the news and other outlets, making themselves the source of all information.
  • Increased Abuse: The abuse may worsen during this time as survivors may be spending more time in contact with their abusers. Survivors may also experience new or different types of abuse during this time.
  • In-Person and Digital Stalking: Abusers might try to exert their power by trying to monitor, control and stalk survivors in person and digitally.
  • Financial Abuse: Many individuals are experiencing financial burdens due to being unable to work, and abusers may further financially exploit survivors during this time.
  • Parenting: Survivors who co-parent their children with their abusers may be facing unique challenges during these times, such as barriers to visitation and/or increased exposure to the abuser due to lack of accessible childcare.  For example, in order for a survivor to work, he/she/they may need to utilize their abuser for childcare.


1. Buddy System Code Word

Identify at least two people that you can contact with a “code word” to let them know if you are in trouble. Plan in advance what they should do if you send them the code word.

2. “Safest Room”

If there is an argument, identify an area of the home you can move to where there are no weapons and there are ways for you to leave the house, apartment, or building, such as a door or window to exit the house/apartment. For some survivors, especially those quarantined at home with an abuser during coronavirus, no room may feel safe, so we call it the “safest rooms”. If you can at least identify the lowest risk areas, you may be able to reduce harm.

3. Planning with Children

  • Code Words: If you have children, decide how to communicate urgency. For example, when one survivor’s daughter was little, the survivor would open her arms and the daughter knew that meant to come running to her for safety.  Some survivors also create a “code word” with their children that means they should go to the “safest room” in the home that you have already decided upon.
  • Emergency Numbers: If for some reason you are not able to make emergency calls and you have children, give them the safety number/s, if they are old enough. Please see the Resources section listed below for some emergency phone numbers.

4. Notifying the Police Before an Emergency

Ahead of time, you can notify your local police station of your concerns. Let them know the history and your concern of being in isolation due to coronavirus. It may be useful to speak with the Domestic Violence officer.

5. Exit Plan

In case you have to flee, create an exit plan ahead of time with someone who could support this need. Is there a trusted friend/relative who you can stay with if needed?

6. Supplies, Food & Medication

Check your supplies and food. If you need food and do not have the money, check your local pantry, temple/church/mosque/etc., or other community organizations. Remember to keep your medication in the safest, easily accessible location in case of emergency.

7. Emergency Bag

Pack an emergency bag with an extra set of keys, clothes for you and your children, a pay-as-you-go cell phone, medications, copies of important documents, etc.

8. Important Documents

Make copies or take pictures of your important documents for yourself and send them to a trusted friend or relative. Important documents may include IDs, social security cards, immigration documents, birth certificates, health insurance information, and Orders of Protection.  As mentioned earlier, be mindful of sending anything via phone or computer.  Please use whatever method is safest for you.

9. Seeking Social Support

With social distancing and quarantining, survivors can feel even more isolated, and abusers may use further isolation as a power and control tactic. Identify trusted friends, relatives or even online support groups where you can still connect virtually.  If you have a friend who may be experiencing abuse, be sure to reach out to them even more during this time.

10. Creating a “Peaceful Space”

Many survivors are feeling forced to spend more time with an abuser during the coronavirus outbreak because they may feel unsafe leaving the home, as well as unsafe staying in the home. If you cannot leave your home, try to create a “peaceful space” for yourself in your home (if that is safe for you). You can draw pictures of a more peaceful place and put them on a wall to help you take an emotional break to visualize a more peaceful place.  This is also an activity you can do with your children.  You can also write positive affirmations and put them up on the wall to remind yourself of your worth.

11. Holding onto Your Plan

Consider keeping a list of your safety plan in your phone or wherever might be safe for you. Please consider what is safest for you. If you choose to write your plan somewhere, consider listing only key words that help you remember the plan, but that would not be clear to your abuser. If this is not safe, try to memorize your plan, focusing on memorizing at least one key emergency number on your list of resources.


All of the following resources are accessible, despite the coronavirus outbreak.

  • 9-1-1: In case of an emergency at any time, please call 911.
  • Emergency SOS on iPhone: Here is a link to a shortcut to using Emergency SOS to quickly and easily call for help and alert your emergency contacts if you have an iPhone: How to Use Emergency SOS on your iPhone
  • Emergency Location Sharing on Androids and iPhones: Here is a link for how to set up emergency location sharing on your phone, in case you want to share your location with a trusted friend or relative in case of emergency: How to Use Emergency Location Sharing
  • Sanctuary for Families Hotline: Sanctuary for Families’ Hotline is still accessible from Monday-Friday from 9 AM- 5 PM. Please call us at 212-349-6009
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Violence Hotline is still accessible 24/7. Please call them at 1-800-799-7233
  • National Human Trafficking Hotline: The National Human Trafficking Hotline is still accessible 24/7. Please call them at 1-888-373-7888 or text them at 233-733
  • Suicide Hotline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is still accessible 24/7. Please call them at 1-800-273-8255

By: Monica Harris, Survivor Leader & Shobana Powell, LCSW, Director of Survivor Leadership Institute.

Reviewed by: Flore Baptiste, Carmen Guzman Lombert, Survivor Leader, Cristian Eduardo, Survivor Leader, and Hazell Imbert, LMHC, Counselor in Residential Services.

[1] Walters, M.L, J. Chen, and M.J. Breiding. “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation.” Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013.

[2] Brown, Taylor N.T., and Jody L. Herman. “Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse among LGBT People.” Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, 2015.

[3] Clements, K., M. Katz, and R. Marx. “The Transgender Community Health Project.” San Francisco, CA: University of California San Francisco, 1999.

[4] Human Rights Campaign. “Common Myths about LGBTQ Domestic Violence,” October 18, 2017.