NY Must Do More for People in Prostitution, but Full Decriminalization Is Not The Answer

Our statement regarding the recently-introduced bill aimed at fully decriminalizing the sex industry in New York.

As service providers, advocates, and survivor leaders, we believe that people bought and sold in the sex trade should not be arrested, prosecuted, or criminalized. Though Senator Salazar’s and Assembly Member Gottfried’s bill (S.6419/A.8230) does decriminalize prostitution for victims of the sex trade, it also decriminalizes the most heinous and exploitative elements of this industry: sex buying and pimping. For this reason, Sanctuary for Families strongly opposes this bill. We urge legislators and advocates to dig deeper before supporting legislation that will promote pimping, sex buying, and the expansion of the sex industry.

Prostitution causes severe long term psychological and physical harm. An estimated 90% of people in prostitution in the United States are trafficked. Decriminalizing the system of prostitution would, in effect, sanction human trafficking because it would decriminalize all components of the sex trade. It would render illegal businesses, currently run by organized crime, legal. Brothel and illicit massage parlor owners would be deemed bonafide business owners or managers, and the profits they make off the sale of the bodies of women, children, the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups would be legitimized.

We are better than this. We must ensure victims are protected, but cannot do so while extending the same protections to sex traffickers. Unfortunately, this bill does not take this nuanced approach, and it, therefore, should not become law in New York.

Warmly,

Hon. Judy H. Kluger
Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families

Sanctuary’s Comments on the Proposed Title IX Rule

The Proposed Rule makes survivors of sexual misconduct even more disadvantaged in seeking relief for the harm they have suffered than any other category of complainants in school disciplinary proceedings. Sanctuary urges the Department to withdraw the Proposed Rule in its entirety.

On November 16, 2018, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed several changes to Title IX regulations introduced under the Obama administration. The proposal has been open for public comment over a 60-day period that ends on January 30, 2019.

Sanctuary for Families appreciates this opportunity to submit comments to the Department of Education. We thank Gibson Dunn for drafting Sanctuary’s official comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding sexual misconduct in educational programs. 

Background

During the past decade, rates of sexual violence have skyrocketed on college campuses across the country. More than one in five women undergraduates experience an attempted or completed sexual assault during college. The epidemic of sexual violence against women on campus led to widespread calls for more robust and fair procedures to govern how schools address complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.  In 2011, the Department of Education issued guidance, known as the “Dear Colleague Letter,” that required schools to address sexual violence on campus and to implement procedures that would place the complainant and the accused on equal footing in Title IX proceedings.  The Dear Colleague Letter, which was implemented by colleges and universities across the country, was widely praised as striking the right balance between protecting the accused and facilitating the reporting and fair evaluation of complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.

The Department rescinded the Dear Colleague Letter on September 22, 2017 and announced that it would engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking to draft new Title IX regulations.  On November 29, 2018, the Department issued the Proposed Rule[1], which sets forth an extensive set of restrictions and requirements for schools in responding to complaints of sexual misconduct. The Department says that the Proposed Rule is intended to “promote the purpose of Title IX” by requiring schools to address sexual misconduct and to ensure that investigations of sexual misconduct are “fair and impartial” and that “due process protections are in place for individuals accused of sexual harassment.”

Our Comments on the Proposed Rule

The Proposed Rule is nothing short of a wholesale effort to eviscerate Title IX as a mechanism to address sexual misconduct on campus. The Department’s arguments to the contrary are not credible.  The Proposed Rule singles out sexual misconduct—the one type of misconduct on campus that disproportionately impacts females students—and rigs Title IX proceedings in favor of the accused by creating barriers to reporting, limiting what sexual misconduct schools can address, and requiring schools to adopt procedures that put complainants at a significant disadvantage and all but guarantee that the accused prevail. The Proposed Rule would also conflict with and consequently preempt existing state laws that seek to do the opposite: require schools to address sexual misconduct on campus and protect survivors. In short, the Proposed Rule makes survivors of sexual misconduct even more disadvantaged in seeking relief for the harm they have suffered than any other category of complainants in school disciplinary proceedings.

First, the Proposed Rule represents a dramatic departure from prior guidance and existing civil rights laws by limiting the circumstances under which schools may address complaints of sexual misconduct.  Under the Proposed Rule, a school may only address sexual misconduct under Title IX if it meets a narrow definition of “sexual harassment,” occurs within defined geographic areas, and is reported to the correct school employee.  If all of these conditions are not met, then schools are allowed—and in many cases, required—to ignore the report, no matter how serious the sexual misconduct.  By narrowing the definition of “sexual harassment” and limiting the circumstances in which a school may respond to complaints of sexual misconduct pursuant to Title IX, the Proposed Rule enables perpetrators to engage in sexual assault and sexual harassment with impunity.

Second, for the narrow range of sexual misconduct that schools can address, the Proposed Rule mandates that schools implement procedures that favor the accused and that will discourage reporting of sexual misconduct on campus.  This is particularly troubling, given that sexual misconduct on campus is already widely under-reported.  The Proposed Rule requires survivors to satisfy a heightened evidentiary burden while providing significant advantages to the accused—most notably, a presumption of no misconduct, the ability to subject the complainant to cross-examination by an advisor of his choice, and more expansive appeal rights than those provided to the complainant.  Although the Proposed Rule states that such procedures are necessary to ensure that Title IX proceedings are “fair and impartial,” these procedures, in fact, only rig the proceedings in favor of the accused and subject survivors to re-traumatizing investigatory processes and heightened and unnecessary procedural hurdles.

Third, the Proposed Rule would preempt state laws that provide greater protections for survivors.  The Proposed Rule’s broad restrictions on the types of sexual misconduct complaints that schools may address and requirement that schools implement procedures that favor the accused would preempt state laws that currently mandate schools to address a wider range of sexual misconduct on campus and to implement procedures in disciplinary proceedings that place the complainant and accused on equal footing.  As a result, the Proposed Rule serves to not only prohibit schools from using Title IX to address many complaints of sexual misconduct but also guarantees that state laws protecting students from campus sexual violence cannot be enforced.

Taken together, these provisions, if enacted, will fundamentally impair the rights of survivors in favor of protecting the accused.  On its face, the Proposal seeks primarily to protect the reputation and interests of the accused—by shielding a broad range of sexual misconduct from the reach of Title IX, all but guaranteeing that the accused prevail in Title IX proceedings, and preempting state laws that provide protections to survivors.  What is clearly not of concern in the Proposal is the growing epidemic of sexual violence on campus.  The Proposed Rule also ignores the long-lasting, pernicious effects of sexual violence on student survivors:  survivors commonly struggle with depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and anxiety attacks, and frequently face trauma-induced educational problems, such as declines in academic performance, loss of scholarship funds, delayed degree completion, and transferring schools.

The Proposed Rule—and its slavish protection of the interests of the accused—is premised on a myth that men on campus are the victims of a wave of false reports filed by women.  The data disproves this myth.  Studies of false reporting of sexual assault cases generally place the rate between 2% and 10%. The reality is that there is an epidemic of sexual violence on campus and incidents of sexual misconduct in schools are widely under-reported.  If enacted, the Proposed Rule would allow this very real epidemic to worsen, putting even more women on campus at risk of being sexually assaulted, and would undermine the abilities of schools to take effective action to address sexual violence on campus and hold perpetrators accountable. Sanctuary urges the Department to withdraw the Proposed Rule in its entirety.

 


   [1]   The Proposed Rule refers to “sexual harassment,” which it defines as “an employee of the [school] conditioning the provision of an aid, benefit, or service of the recipient on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct; or unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the [school’s] education program or activity; or sexual assault.”  Because the Proposed Rule’s definition of “sexual harassment” also includes sexual assault, Sanctuary will use the term “sexual misconduct” in these comments to encompass both sexual harassment and sexual assault.

 

 

Interview with Janice Mac Avoy, 2018 Recipient of the Zero Tolerance Award

THE HISTORY In 1973, in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the United States’

THE HISTORY

In 1973, in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the United States’ Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Forty-five years later, the national debate sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision wages on. As traditionally conservative states continue to pass legislation aimed at closing abortion clinics, more and more women have broken the silence around what has historically been deemed a “taboo” topic. These women, many of whom have had abortions themselves, believe that it has been their ability to control their own bodies through access to safe and legal abortion that has allowed them to become the successful and independent women they are today.

Sanctuary is proud to honor one of these women, Janice Mac Avoy, as the 2018 recipient of the Zero Tolerance Award for her work in the legal battle to uphold abortion rights for all women.

JANICE MAC AVOY

Janice Mac Avoy is a New York-based partner at the law firm of Fried Frank, where she is a member of the Real Estate Department and the Litigation Department, head of the Real Estate Litigation Practice Group, and co-chair of the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee. She is a member of the American Law Institute and the Association of Real Estate Women, a former member of the Board of directors of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and current board member of Sanctuary for Families and the Center for Reproductive Rights, as well as a member and voting representative of the CRE Finance Council.

Janice Mac Avoy is a partner at the Fried Frank law firm in New York.

Janice graduated summa cum laude from Washington University and received her JD from Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and associate editor of the Columbia Law Review.

Two years ago, Janice was the lead signer on an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the United States Supreme Court in the Whole Women’s Health case – an important Supreme Court case addressing Texas’ restrictive abortion laws, which would have closed 75% of the abortion clinics in the state.  Janice wrote an article for the Washington Post discussing her role in the amicus brief and how the right to abortion changed her life and why it needs to be upheld. Recently, Sanctuary got the chance to interview Janice and find out more about her personal and legal connection to the ongoing battle over women’s right to abortion:

INTERVIEW

How did you first get involved with Sanctuary for Families?

I first got involved with Sanctuary about thirty-one years ago, when I was a student at Columbia Law School. During my time there, I participated in a family law clinic to get orders of protection for women who had been subjected to domestic assault. Ultimately, about fifteen years later, I was very involved in Fried Frank’s efforts to fund the beginning of  the Courtroom Advocates Project at Sanctuary, which formalized the practice of students assisting victims of domestic violence obtain orders of protection. I started doing pro-bono work with Sanctuary right out of law school, and I have continued working with Sanctuary ever since.

What is/are you connection(s) to domestic violence?

I have always tried to be an advocate for victims of domestic violence since law school, and I continue to work with Sanctuary and other service providers to help victims of domestic violence escape their abusers.  I have worked on almost 500 divorces, mostly for victims of domestic violence.  I also believe that in order for women to fulfill their potential, they need to control their bodies, not only by being free of physical abuse or exploitation, but also by choosing when or if to have children.  In addition to the friend of the court brief in Whole Women’s Health, which was signed by me and over 100 female attorneys who had exercised their constitutional right to have an abortion, I have also acted as counsel to other organizations that have submitted friend of the court briefs to the United States Supreme Court and other courts in support of protecting abortion rights, including the National Abortion Federation, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and other medical professionals who support women’s access to safe, legal abortion.

The issue of a woman’s right to have an abortion is not an abstract one; it is a very real issue for women from all walks of life. The women lawyer’s brief got a lot of press, and I realized I had to keep speaking out on the issue, which then led to the Washington Post article, the CNN article, and a number of public speaking engagements discussing how critical it is to talk about abortion.  The importance of access to reproductive rights is vital to a woman’s ability to control her destiny. Much of my work and the work done at organizations like Sanctuary is all about empowering women to be free of the patriarchal systems that currently dominate our political and social landscapes.

 

Pro-choice activists hold signs as marchers of the annual March for Life arrive in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The theme for this year’s Zero Tolerance benefit is “Breaking the Silence.” What made you want to break the silence around what has for so long been deemed the “taboo” topic of abortion?

When the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights contacted me about being the lead signer on the Whole Women’s Health brief, I was very nervous about public reaction, but I knew I was going to do it anyway. I decided I wanted to talk to my family before agreeing to do it.

We all sat around the dinner table – me, my husband, my daughter, who was 16 at the time, and my son, who was 13. I sat them down and told them: “This is a big deal. My name is going to be out there, so it could affect you too.” My husband responded by saying that it was my decision and he supported whatever I wanted to do, and my daughter said that she would be disappointed in me if I didn’t do it. Everyone was incredibly supportive of my decision to speak out about my abortion. I even spoke with my mother, who absolutely supported my wish to speak out. “I wish I had the choices that you had,” she told me.

The firm’s support was also a big help. After the brief and before the decision, so many at Fried Frank were supportive in not only publicizing the firm’s role in the Supreme Court brief, but also furthering our efforts within the context of gender rights.

What do you hope other women can gain from your story, and those of other women who have broken the silence surrounding abortion rights?

We need to stop being ashamed. No matter what the issue is. Sanctuary has played an important role in breaking the silence on domestic violence and sex trafficking, and I hope to continue breaking the silence on abortion.  Women shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed because they chose to have an abortion, just like they should not be shamed if they decided to have a child. This issue needs to be talked about. We have to take the shame away, and breaking the silence is a primary way to do that.

For a summary and photos of our 2018 Zero Tolerance Benefit, click here.

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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