Recognizing Valencia Edwards-Alleyne: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Valencia is a 2019 Pillars of Change honoree.

In anticipation of Pillars of Change on June 11th, we are highlighting Sanctuary Volunteers who will be honored at the volunteer recognition event! Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

Valencia Edwards-Alleyne has been a volunteer within Sanctuary’s Children and Family Services Program for numerous locations since 1997!

Before volunteering her time at Sanctuary, Valencia had previous experience working as a camp counselor and wanted to continue working with children in any way that could make a difference. Valencia started as a childcare volunteer, working directly with Sanctuary staff members taking care of children of clients while they attended meetings or support groups. She eventually became a group leader and now runs childcare groups independently. Valencia has continued to expand her role at Sanctuary and her professional expertise has proven a huge asset as well. Valencia has a Masters in early childhood special education and has worked as a teacher for children with special needs for almost the entire time she has volunteered at Sanctuary.

Most recently, Valencia has been volunteering with Sanctuary through the Brooke Jackman Family Literacy Program in the Manhattan Family Justice Center, while preparing to attend a second summer of Camp HOPE New York as a volunteer counselor!

Valencia has been an incredibly invaluable volunteer to the clinical staff throughout the agency; she has provided a positive and memorable time for children while parents receive much-needed services. “I hope that I help to provide the clients with a sense that their children are safe and in good hands during their meetings” Valencia explains.

First, just being a dependable person for 20 years is just a priceless contribution. For children who have experienced a lot of loss and trauma, consistency is so critical to feeling safe and that the world can be dependable” says Laura Fernandez, LMSW, Clinical Department Director.

On Thursday evenings, Valencia provides support to our Survivor Leadership Institute. The innovative program trains former Sanctuary clients, who have been out of their abusive situations for approximately one year, to provide information about gender-based violence to community groups. Survivor Leaders are living examples of how victims can recover their health, power, and self-esteem by seeking help.

“Valencia has seen my son from a very scared and confused 9-year-old in the midst of a domestic violence crisis to a put together and confident 14-year-old. She has been an integral part of helping us rebuild our lives, as I pursued my healing and training at Sanctuary, and he came to feel secure and at home in the space. She was able to create a calm oasis for him when he was a child and now that he’s a teen, she is still able to meet his needs. He has such great, warm feelings about Sanctuary, and that is largely due to the stability and peace that Valencia has created in the childcare room.”

Over the past 20 years, Sanctuary’s staff and services have grown exponentially, and Valencia has been an integral part in providing support to many of our new programs within the Clinical and Children and Family Services department.

“She is selfless and so kind. She makes my children feel safe and they trust and love her so much. Her volunteer service helps me personally so much”

We thank Valencia for her amazing commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and clients! Her impact reaches well beyond what can be captured in words.

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on June 11th, 2019 to recognize Valencia and all of our volunteers for their dedicated service. Please RSVP for Pillars of Change today!

Laura Mannix Spring, Recipient of the 2019 Zero Tolerance Award

Each year, at our Annual Benefit, Sanctuary for Families celebrates individuals who have shown time and again, their commitment to ending gender-based violence. This year we are honoring Laura Mannix Spring, Director of Studio Services at Barneys New York and Co-Chair of the Barneys New York Foundation.

Each year, at our Annual Benefit, Sanctuary for Families celebrates individuals who have shown time and again, their commitment to ending gender-based violence. This year we are honoring Laura Mannix Spring, Director of Studio Services at Barneys New York and Co-Chair of the Barneys New York Foundation.

Sanctuary will present Laura with the Zero Tolerance Award for her long involvement with the Mother’s Council, the work she has done to build a partnership between Barneys and Sanctuary, and her passion for supporting gender violence survivors.

INTRODUCING LAURA

Laura is well-known for her expertise across multiple areas, from retail sales to community advocacy and development. Since taking on her current role in 1995, she has turned Studio Services into the premier sales area for Barneys New York.

Laura is an outstanding community advocate and philanthropist. Her charities include The Kevin Frawley Foundation, a scholarship on behalf of a close friend who perished on September 11th, and The Nick Traina Foundation, which fights for awareness of mental illness. Laura has also demonstrated her serious commitment to the revitalization of Yonkers, her hometown — She does tireless fundraising for St. Joseph School in Bronxville, is involved with various local businesses, and has served on many committees and boards of the Amackassin Club.

A LONG-STANDING ALLY

Laura and Sanctuary ED Judy H. Kluger, at a Barneys New York Foundation event in support of Sanctuary for Families.

Laura has been a part of the Sanctuary family for over a decade. In a recent interview, she told us about how she first learned about Sanctuary and discussed the reasons for which she is so passionate about our work with survivors of gender-based violence.

Laura was introduced to the organization by her friends Catherine Shanahan and Stephanie Ferdman, who invited her to attend a Mother’s Council breakfast. Laura vividly recalls the impact that the speaker’s testimony had on her that morning – “His name was Paul, and he was there to represent his sister who couldn’t be there because she was murdered in front of her three children by her abuser.” Being a new mother herself, Laura could not believe that this could happen to someone:

“I was so profoundly moved and thought to myself ‘This is something that needs to change.'”

INTERVIEW

Is there any particular program or project at Sanctuary that you are most passionate about? 

I am definitely moved and inspired by Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program [EEP] and the impact that it has across generations. It has inspired me to advocate for more opportunities within businesses and companies for women who have been traumatized, women who are raising children and teaching them what it means to be strong, what it means to be a warrior.

I think EEP’s impact is two-fold: It provides survivors with the technical skills needed to secure career-track jobs and build the financial resources that are so essential to families that have suffered from violence. It also gives survivors a whole new level of confidence and satisfaction, making them feel viable and capable of lending themselves to greater things, of changing the direction of their children’s lives for the better.

My favorite events are, obviously, the EEP graduation ceremonies. Harvard valedictorians have nothing on our graduates, nothing. They are unbelievable. They are a force, and so is Sanctuary.

What changes would you like to see in how we, as a society, address gender-based violence?

I’d like to see it be less stigmatized and to have more opportunities for survivors to speak out as soon as they begin to experience abuse. We need to reach out to communities and talk about these issues in our companies, in our families, because isolation is one of the biggest problems when it comes to domestic violence.  

I also think there is little awareness of the barriers that survivors face. Leaving their abusers is simply the first step in an arduous journey – Here you are, jumping from a traumatizing situation into another daunting, uphill battle, and it seems like you might never reach the top.

Finally, we need to improve the services available to child survivors of violence. Although they have been traumatized at such a young age, hopefully, with the right treatment, they will be able to alter the course of their lives and become empowered. It is especially vital for them to understand that they are not deserving of such violence, that they are not to blame for what they have had to endure.

The theme for this year’s Annual Benefit is #WeAreSanctuary. What does being a part of Sanctuary mean to you?

What I love most about Sanctuary is that it recognizes the individual challenges faced by each survivor and addresses them accordingly – I have never been a part of an organization that was so hands-on in adapting every one of its services to fit their clients’ specific needs. #WeAreSanctuary means being a part of this community of empowered, smart, and incredible individuals who are committed to serving anyone who crosses its threshold.  #WeAreSanctuary captures that passion that I have yet to see anywhere else.

To purchase tickets to our 2019 Annual Benefit, click here.

Lynn and John Savarese, recipients of the 2018 Law Firm Leadership Award

The Honorees Every year, Sanctuary for Families honors those who have made major contributions to

The Honorees

Every year, Sanctuary for Families honors those who have made major contributions to the movement to end gender based violence at our annual Zero Tolerance Benefit. This year we were thrilled to present the Law Firm Leadership Award to Lynn and John Savarese.

Since meeting as first-year Harvard Law students, Lynn and John have devoted significant time and resources to advancing social justice. Together they have raised awareness about gender violence, secured justice for victims of abuse, and have provided unique platforms and opportunities for survivors to speak out. We are incredibly grateful for Lynn and John’s longtime support of Sanctuary and thrilled to have had the opportunity to honor two individuals whose lives’ work so connect with this year’s theme of “Breaking the Silence.”

Lynn Savarese

Originally from a small town in Texas, Lynn is a graduate of Harvard Law School. For many years she enjoyed careers in corporate law and investment banking before taking time off to raise her family and pursue volunteer work for various human rights organizations. Several years ago Lynn took up photography in earnest, and quickly garnered international acclaim for her fine arts images.

Lynn first became involved with Sanctuary as a pro bono attorney. When her interest in photography grew from hobby to profession, she partnered with Sanctuary to launch a groundbreaking photography project called the New Abolitionists Campaign.

Employing Lynn’s photographs of anti-trafficking advocates and survivors, the Campaign has become an ever-growing tool for advocacy and awareness about sex trafficking, a modern form of slavery in the United States. Photographs of New Abolitionists have been exhibited at galleries and venues across the country and have been seen by tens of thousands of people.

John Savarese

After graduating from Harvard Law School, John joined the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Over the last 25 years, John has represented numerous Fortune 500 corporations, major financial institutions and senior executives in SEC and other regulatory enforcement proceedings, as well as white-collar criminal investigations, complex securities litigations, and internal investigations. Despite the workload, John has always made time for the issues he cares about and has taken on numerous pro bono cases for Sanctuary over the years.

Most recently, John and his colleagues at Wachtell defended a long-time U.S. resident and lawful green-card holder against a protracted deportation proceeding. His team’s advocacy and effective defense enabled the client to remain in the U.S., a victory for which they were honored for at Sanctuary’s 2017 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards.

In addition to his work with Sanctuary, John is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Vera Institute of Justice, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at Harvard Law School, a member of the Board of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the former President of the Board of Trustees of The Brearley School in New York.

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With their impressive portfolio of human rights work, the Savareses have shown time and again their commitment to ending gender-based violence. We thank Lynn and John for the immense amount of time and energy they’ve given towards realizing our shared dream of a more socially just world. Our community is all the better for it.

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

 

 

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.