Wilson Sonsini: Sanctuary Pro Bono Partner Spotlight

Sanctuary has had the pleasure of partnering with talented Wilson Sonsini professionals on matters ranging from uncontested divorces to parole preparation for incarcerated survivors to asylum cases to immigration relief for survivors of trafficking.

Sanctuary for Families’ Pro Bono Project has the honor of working with hundreds of extremely dedicated and expert pro bono attorneys per year. As part of our new Pro Bono Spotlight, we’ll be highlighting some of the great work done by Sanctuary pro bono attorneys!

*Please note that this blog contains descriptions of physical and sexual abuse that could be triggering*

Since first partnering with Sanctuary in 2016, law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati (WSGR) has become a steadfast supporter of survivors of gender-based violence through its truly robust and diverse pro bono practice. In the last year alone, Wilson Sonsini attorneys contributed over 2,000 pro bono hours, making the firm one of our top ten most active pro bono partners. Sanctuary has had the pleasure of partnering with talented Wilson Sonsini professionals on matters ranging from uncontested divorces to parole preparation for incarcerated survivors to asylum cases to immigration relief for survivors of trafficking. We are deeply grateful for their support and excited to highlight some recent successes Wilson Sonsini’s teams have secured for survivors.

Parole preparation, Ms. M 

Associates Alexia Syrmos and Fran Jennings, and partner Chul Pak recently worked with an incarcerated survivor, Ms. M, as she was approaching her appearance before the Parole Board. Ms. M was granted parole in February and released to be with her family this past March.

Ms. M was serving a 5-year sentence, lowered from the original 15 years, for fatally stabbing her ex-husband with a knife when he and two other people attacked Ms. M and her then-girlfriend in the street. Ms. M’s traumatic experiences of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband were never discussed at the time of the plea.

As previous blog posts have mentioned, in New York State, incarcerated individuals are not entitled to legal representation in their parole hearings. The burden falls entirely upon them to convey their remorse and rehabilitation, while simultaneously discussing a highly traumatic incident in their lives and responding to difficult questions from the Parole Board. As such, Sanctuary has been partnering with law firms to prepare individuals in advance for their parole hearings, both by conducting mock interviews and by putting together parole packets advocating for the client’s release.

We reached out to Alexia, Fran, and Chul to hear about their experiences working with Ms. M on this case. Alexia responded, “Working with Ms. M has, without any reservation whatsoever, been the highlight of my legal career. Ms. M is one of the kindest, most thoughtful individuals that I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. Throughout the entirety of this process—a deeply personal, uncertain, and painful one—Ms. M was a beacon of hope. Even over the phone, you could feel positivity radiating off of her. Ms. M is the sort of person who can find a silver lining in everything. She’s always so quick to laugh and extend grace to others, no matter the circumstance.” Alexia noted that she is “beyond excited to see the things that Ms. M accomplishes in the next few years.”

Publication divorce, Ms. B

Associates Zak Kravat and Adam Toporovsky, now an Assistant U.S. Attorney, recently successfully obtained a publication divorce for their client, Ms. B, from her physically and verbally abusive ex-husband. Matrimonial cases provide our clients with critical relief in the form of severing legal ties from their abusers. Publication divorces are a slightly unusual form of an uncontested divorce (a divorce in which there are no issues to be litigated) in that, as a client’s spouse cannot be physically located, the legal team must file a motion requesting that the court allow service of the divorce papers by publication in a newspaper. Staff at Wilson Sonsini, especially Zak, have been incredibly generous with their time and energy on these types of matrimonial cases and have built significant expertise in this area.

“I have been fortunate to work with at least 100 different pro bono attorneys during my time here at Sanctuary for Families. Though they have all been memorable and I’ve been very appreciative of all of the individual pro bono attorneys, I must say it’s been a singular and distinctive honor working with Zak on the multiple cases he’s worked on (at least half a dozen off the top of my head). Even if the case became very complicated and lengthy, he never complained or gave up. He’s been determined, legally creative, and treats each client with the utmost respect, patience, and warmth. It’s a pleasure and honor to work with Zak. I wish I could award him an even greater honor and recognition of all he means to us here at Sanctuary. Thank you Zak.”

Francisco Santiago
Deputy Director, Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project

T-Adjustment of Status, Ms. R 

This February, Sanctuary’s client, Ms. R, received word from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that she had been granted a green card and had officially become a Lawful Permanent Resident. As a survivor of trafficking who assisted law enforcement in the investigation of her trafficker, Ms. R had been eligible for T nonimmigrant status (also known as a T visa). Wilson Sonsini Senior Counsel Jason Mollick headed the pro bono team that represented Ms. R on her T-visa case, with the assistance of Justin Cohen, former associate at WSGR and current litigation counsel at Google (and devoted member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Committee!). When Ms. R became eligible to adjust her status, Jason continued to work with her, ultimately helping her to obtain her green card. Jason has worked extensively on cases with Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative, representing clients not only on their Adjustment of Status cases, such as this one, but with the manifold other legal issues that arise for trafficking survivors, such as by filing motions to vacate criminal charges and on applications for employment authorization documents so that survivors can work legally.

Jason reflects, “Working with Ms. R has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying parts of my career. We not only assisted her in attaining valid legal status, but also witnessed first-hand how legal assistance can help someone rebuild their life, start a family, and secure a future. It has been an honor to partner with Sanctuary for Families in this task.”

Director of Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative Jessica-Wind Abolafia writes, “Over a period of seven years, Jason Mollick led a team that not only helped Ms. R and her husband to obtain T visas, but successfully represented Ms. R as a victim witness in a federal investigation, vacated her criminal convictions in two states and four jurisdictions, and assisted her and her husband to secure lawful permanent residency – ensuring unity and permanency for Ms. R and her family. Jason’s dedication, compassion, attention to detail, supervision of the team and trauma informed practice is exemplary.

“I thought for a long time there was no justice. When I met the team they really tried to make me feel comfortable. With everything going on in the world, they made me feel safe to apply for immigration status and to trust in the system. I felt supported. I am so grateful for what they did for me and my husband. I have returned to feel that yes, there is justice.”

– Ms.R, Sanctuary Client

We are deeply grateful to the Wilson Sonsini staff who have supported our work, both the people briefly mentioned in this post and so many others who have also been instrumental in assisting survivors of gender-based violence. We look forward to our continued partnership!

Join the Wilson Sonsini team in standing with our clients. Your gift supports Sanctuary’s life-saving work with survivors of gender violence.

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Cleary Gottlieb: Sanctuary Pro Bono Partner Spotlight

Sanctuary teamed up with Cleary Gottlieb to submit an amicus brief highlighting how Florida’s proposed 15-week abortion ban would disproportionately endanger survivors of intimate partner violence.

Sanctuary for Families’ Pro Bono Project has the honor of working with hundreds of extremely dedicated and expert pro bono attorneys per year. As part of our new Pro Bono Spotlight, we’ll be highlighting some of the great work done by Sanctuary pro bono attorneys!

*Please note that this blog contains descriptions of physical and sexual abuse that could be triggering*

Florida’s House Bill 5 (HB 5) is the latest in a string of proposed state laws restricting access to safe abortions and reproductive care. This controversial bill, which proposes a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, is currently before the Florida Supreme Court—the highest state court in Florida— in the case of Planned Parenthood Southwest and Central Florida v. Florida. This law, like any law curtailing reproductive rights, gives abusers another powerful tool by which to control their victims. Sanctuary’s Reproductive Rights Working Group, co-chaired by Sanctuary attorneys Anne Glatz and Luba Reife, recently teamed up with Cleary Gottlieb to submit an amicus brief highlighting the danger this proposed ban would disproportionately pose to survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). We reached out to authors Jennifer Kennedy Park, Sarah Gutman, Lilianna Rembar, and Caroline Soussloff—all of whom are Floridian or have Floridian family members themselves—to learn what participating in this project meant to them.

Partner Jennifer Kennedy Park explained, “I was raised in Florida and still have family living there so I was horrified at the passage of HB5.  … Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, we’ve seen the terrible impact of the reversal of Roe v. Wade.  As we feared, states are passing increasingly restrictive and dangerous bans on abortion—with no regard for women’s lives, health or autonomy. I personally, along with thousands of other law firm partners, committed to fighting for reproductive freedom in a call to action in the American Lawyer that, to date, more than 2,650 women partners from nearly 200 law firms have signed on. This brief is part of that commitment.” Associate Sarah Gutman added, “Abortion bans like Florida’s HB5 harm all people, but the devastating consequences will fall heaviest on those who are already the most marginalized. That’s why it’s so important for all of us—including law firms—to work to protect and expand access to abortion. It can literally be a lifesaver.”

While clear logical links exist to suggest that pregnant people in abusive relationships will be disproportionately impacted by such legislation – for example, the fact that many abusers attempt to restrict their partner’s birth control options as a means of imposing control and restricting their bodily autonomy – the statistics nonetheless are truly staggering. Women who have experienced IPV are nearly three times more likely to report that their partner made it difficult to use birth control, increasing the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Sarah Gutman noted, “I was particularly glad that [the amicus brief] highlights the links between gender-based violence (GBV) and denial of abortion access.  Abortion bans and GBV are different sides of the same coin—both are attacks on bodily autonomy.  They create barriers to full social, economic, and political equality regardless of gender.” As the amicus brief explains, in addition to facing universal barriers to care, such as financial restrictions, etc., pregnant victims of IPV are frequently subjected to harassment, surveillance, intimidation, or interference by their abusive partners while attempting to access reproductive health services. Research also shows that pregnant people subjected to GBV are more likely to seek abortion or prenatal services later into their pregnancy than others. Given that most people do not know that they are pregnant until six or seven weeks into the pregnancy, a ban at 15 weeks would force a survivor of IPV to consider their options and make all necessary arrangements to overcome these challenges in a very short period of time. Associate Lilianna Rembar adds, “Forcing pregnant Floridians to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, the 15-week ban will especially harm victims of gender-based violence who face physical, psychological, and financial adversities, along with other barriers to obtaining abortions.”

“Forcing pregnant Floridians to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, the 15-week ban will especially harm victims of gender-based violence who face physical, psychological, and financial adversities, along with other barriers to obtaining abortions.”

-Lilianna Rembar, Associate

Due to sexual violence or reproductive coercion, IPV increases the risk of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, which in turn increase the risk and severity of IPV. Resulting pregnancies from these abusive relationships threaten to create lifelong legal ties tethering the victim to their abuser and are often used as tools of control themselves. Additionally, pregnancy places victims of IPV at severely heightened risk of an escalation of physical violence: Femicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant and post-partum women in the United States, which has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries. Pregnant and postpartum women in the United States are more than twice as likely to die by homicide than by any other cause. Associate Caroline Soussloff reflected, “I was galvanized to learn that the leading cause of death in pregnant women in the United States is homicide—I hope that Florida’s judges and politicians will be too. I hope that fact, and the other data and stories included in our brief, will help to root their decision-making in the experiences of the one in four American women who obtain abortions.”

“The pro bono team from Cleary Gottlieb exceeded expectations at every step of the process. Faced with a very short deadline, the Cleary team immediately jumped into action and impressed us with their keen insights and erudite, nuanced grasp of the issues. The end result was a compelling and highly persuasive brief that concisely but thoroughly illustrated the impact of reproductive rights restrictions for survivors and victims of gender-based violence in general, and the impact of HB5 on Floridians subjected to GBV in particular.”

Anne Glatz
Senior Staff Attorney, Sanctuary for Families

We are incredibly grateful to Cleary Gottlieb for representing Sanctuary for Families in this advocacy. The brief, which was submitted on March 9, was signed by organizations and individuals including Legal Momentum, The National Organization for Women Foundation, The Rapid Benefits Group Fund, Women for Abortion and Reproductive Rights, Margaret A. Baldwin, JD, Professor Cyra Choudhury, Professor Donna K. Coker, Professor Zanita E. Fenton, Doctor Kathryn M. Nowotny, PhD, and Jodi Russell. We are thrilled to work in collaboration with these outstanding individuals and organizations and are committed to conducting continued advocacy from the perspective of GBV service providers as the reproductive rights landscape continues to change in dangerous ways for survivors.

Join the Cleary team in standing with our clients. Your gift supports Sanctuary’s life-saving work with survivors of gender violence.

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Photo of person's hand wearing purple glove and holding a purple ribbon, symbol of fight against femicide and gender violence

The Silent Epidemic of Femicide in the United States

Every day, nearly 3 women are killed by an intimate partner — making the United States one of the deadliest countries for women and girls.


Last summer, New Yorkers were rattled by the devastating, senseless murder of Azsia Johnson — a 20-year-old victim of domestic violence who was shot while walking her three-month-old baby on the Upper East Side.

Contrary to initial speculation, this was not a random killing — a few days after the shooting, the child’s father was arrested and charged with Azsia’s murder. According to her mother, Azsia’s ex-boyfriend physically abused her while pregnant with their child and continued to stalk and threaten her for months. Though shocking and infuriating, Johnson’s case is sadly just one of many instances of fatal violence against women

Femicide is prevalent in the U.S.

In the United States, femicide — the gender-based killing of women — is often thought of as an issue affecting low-income countries. This could not be further from the truth; of all femicide cases in high-income countries, 70% occur in the U.S

To put that into perspective, on a global scale, the U.S. ranks 34th for intentional female homicides at a rate of 2.6 killings per 100,000 women.

Moreover, in the US, almost three women are killed by an intimate partner every day. Just as in the case of Aszia Johnson, women in the U.S. are predominantly killed by men they know, and largely by current or former intimate partners. Of all intimate partner female homicides in 2018, 92% of victims were killed by a man they knew, and 63% were killed by current husbands, boyfriends, or ex-husbands.

These staggering statistics demonstrate the misogyny behind these violent deaths — In the United States, like in so many countries across the world, women are being murdered because they are women.

The link between gender and violence in the U.S. becomes even more apparent when looking at the demographics of male homicides. Men are significantly more likely to be killed by a stranger than women; strangers kill 29% of male homicide victims compared to only 10% of female victims. And while it is true that some men are murdered by their female partners, intimate partner violence accounts for only about 5% of male homicides. Too often, these occur in the context of women acting in self-defense against their abusive male partners.

Furthermore, when compared to male homicides, femicides tend to be more violent and intimate in nature women are less likely than men to be killed in a shooting, but more likely to be beaten, stabbed, or strangled

Trans women and women of color face a disproportionate risk

When considering femicide and its implications, we must acknowledge the barriers and disparities affecting marginalized women and how these increase the risk of violence. 

Though femicide is a pervasive problem for all women, the reality for women of color is even bleaker — men are murdering Black women and girls at a rate almost three times higher than white women. For indigenous women and girls, the homicide rate is six times higher than it is for their white counterparts, and current or former partners are responsible for 94% of those homicides. Despite being murdered at higher rates, Black and brown murdered and missing women are not receiving the same media attention and resources as white women.

The transgender community is also profoundly affected by femicide, especially trans women of color. 2021 was the deadliest year globally for murders of trans people, and 96% of those victims were trans women or transfeminine people. Of the known cases of anti-trans murders from 2013-2018, approximately 1 in 6 are suspected of having been committed by an intimate partner.

A variety of factors contribute to the disproportionate violence against trans women. With trans people experiencing police violence at a 3.7 times higher rate than cisgender survivors, trans women may be hesitant to come forward and report abuse due to institutionalized transphobia within law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Moreover, they may be wrongfully denied treatment or service at domestic violence shelters because of their gender identity — according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 22% of trans people were verbally harassed, physically attacked, or denied equal treatment or service at a domestic violence shelter or rape crisis center.

Abusers may take advantage of the unique struggles trans women face and use coercive control to maintain power and manipulate their victim, such as; threatening to “out” them, telling them they are not a “real” woman, withdrawing hormones and medication, or threatening to call the police on them.  Additionally — with nearly one-third of trans people experiencing homelessness — trans women may be financially dependent on their abuser and, as a result of discrimination, lack the family support necessary to leave an abusive relationship. 

Together, these factors perpetuate a cycle of violence where trans survivors are continuously silenced by societal and institutional transphobia.

Gun violence & other risk factors

The number of women killed in the U.S. is steadily rising2,997 women were murdered in 2019 compared to 1,691 women in 2014

Firearms significantly contribute to the fatality of crimes related to intimate partner violence. Abusers with guns are 5 times more likely to kill their victims. Every month, an average of 70 women in the U.S. are shot and killed by an intimate partner

While intimate partner violence is a global issue, the intersection between gun violence and intimate partner violence is uniquely American. In 2015, 92% of all women killed with guns in high-income countries were from the United States.

Undeniably, allowing abusers access to firearms dramatically increases the fatality of attacks against women.  Simply owning a gun makes an abuser five times more likely to kill their partner, and using one to threaten or assault their partner makes the victim’s risk of being killed 20 times higher.

There are a variety of other factors that can increase the risk of femicide. Physically-abused women who are also suffering sexual violence are more than seven times more likely than other abused women to be killed; women who have been choked by their partner are seven times more likely to be killed than other abuse victims. Ultimately, the more red flags are present, the higher the risk of femicide.

Recognizing these early warning signs is crucial in preventing femicide. Nonetheless, a 2022 investigation shows that law enforcement agencies continuously ignore and dismiss red flags in domestic abuse cases due to insufficient training on identifying red flags, underusing lethality assessments, and lack of follow-through.

Femicide in the United States cannot remain a silent epidemic — we must raise awareness, identify red flags early, and take action to prevent and decrease violent crimes against women. 

You are not alone

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help. Sanctuary’s services are free and available to all survivors living in New York City, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital or immigration status.

Our services include:




Tushna Gamadia: Sanctuary Pro Bono Partner Spotlight

A spotlight on Sanctuary Pro Bono Partner Tushna Gamadia and her outstanding work representing survivors of gender-based violence for over 16 years.

Sanctuary for Families’ Pro Bono Project has the honor of working with hundreds of extremely dedicated and expert pro bono attorneys per year. As part of our new Pro Bono Spotlight, we’ll be highlighting some of the great work done by Sanctuary pro bono attorneys!

*Please note that this blog contains descriptions of physical and sexual abuse that could be triggering*

Few could rival Tushna Gamadia’s dedication and generosity in providing her time, brilliant advocacy, and support to survivors of gender-based violence. Tushna, Of Counsel at Morrison & Foerster LLP for almost ten years and former associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP for eleven years, has been contributing to Sanctuary’s mission for an astounding sixteen years. During this time, Tushna’s representation of survivors has truly run the gamut, from uncontested divorces to name changes to an array of immigration matters such as asylum, SIJS, U-visas, VAWA self-petitions, and adjustment of status cases. Simultaneously, she has been a long-time member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council (PBC), an ardent supporter of Sanctuary’s holiday Adopt-a-Family and gift card programs, as well as a steadfast volunteer at Sanctuary’s annual Above & Beyond Awards ceremony and Zero Tolerance benefit. Tushna has consistently answered the call to action to support Sanctuary and survivors of gender-based violence in whatever way she can. It is our pleasure to highlight Tushna for this month’s Pro Bono Spotlight.

In her non-pro bono work, Tushna is a real estate lawyer who notes that her favorite part of work is spending all day interacting with people—be it clients, colleagues, or nonprofit service providers.

“I have always believed there should be equal justice and access to the law for everyone, not just if you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford a lawyer. That is part of the reason I became a lawyer in the first place.”

-Tushna Gamadia

On why she works with survivors of gender-based violence, Tushna explains, “I have been so inspired by my pro bono clients. They have such courage; they refuse to give up despite having been through so much, literally through hell and back oftentimes. They keep believing that if they just persist and work at it they can make a better life for themselves and for their children. I want to work with people like that, whom I learn from and whom I consider role models.” Tushna notes that despite frequent language barriers, trauma, and the stress of juggling childcare with making a living, her clients have always been gracious, found ways of communicating effectively, and shared with her their senses of humor and their stories.

Tushna Gamadia

In one memorable case, Tushna represented a teenage girl in her Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) proceeding and witnessed her client recount the years of abuse and neglect she had experienced to the judge. Tushna recalls how stoic and steadfast this young client had been throughout the preparation of the case, but how she finally broke down for the first time during trial when faced with compassion from the judge. Despite everything she had endured, she was determined to go to college, get a job, have an apartment, and live an independent and fulfilled life. According to Tushna, it was one of the happiest moments of her life when the judge in Bronx Family Court granted the client’s petition and issued an Order finding her eligible for SIJS and appointing her former stepmother her guardian. Based on those findings, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service granted the client permanent residence and she was able to remain in the U.S. and achieve her goal of graduating from college..

Incredibly, Tushna’s work with Sanctuary is not the only pro bono work she does. Pre-pandemic, Tushna was a regular participant in the New York City Family Court Volunteer Lawyer Program since 2014, helping pro se litigants understand their cases and advising them on their next steps, and during the height of the Covid crisis, Tushna led Morrison Foerster’s Real Estate Group’s participation in the Small Business Legal Relief Alliance, counseling clients primarily on their rights and obligations under their leases and how to negotiate with their landlords.

Says Jennifer Brown, Senior Pro Bono Counsel at Morrison Foerster, “The breadth of Tushna’s concerns and commitments was vividly illustrated when she won MoFo’s firmwide pro bono award in 2020—an award which is given to only one attorney per year. The award includes directing a $10,000 donation from our firm’s foundation and Tushna asked that the funds be shared by four organizations, including Sanctuary.”

“It has been my absolute privilege to work with and get to know Tushna during my time at Sanctuary. I am frequently inspired by the depth of her compassion and the amazing, trauma-informed lawyering she provides to our clients. And she’s just generally a kind and wonderful person to know!”

Nicole Fidler
Director, Sanctuary for Families’ Pro Bono Program

In her free time, Tushna enjoys taking long walks with her dogs, being out on the water and outdoors generally, and reading and cooking.

We are so grateful to Tushna for her incredible work on behalf of survivors.

Join Tushna in standing with our clients. Your gift supports Sanctuary’s life-saving work with survivors of gender violence.

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