Sanctuary Announces New Pro Bono Council Co-Chairs

The Pro Bono Council (PBC) brings together young professionals who are committed to supporting the work of Sanctuary, and the Legal Center in particular.

Sanctuary for Families’ Pro Bono Council is excited to announce its two new co-chairs— Ben Schatz of the Center for Appellate Litigation and Mia White of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Freshfields).

The Pro Bono Council (PBC) was formed in 2003 with the goal of bringing together young professionals who are committed to supporting and promoting the work of Sanctuary, and the Legal Center in particular. The PBC currently has approximately 35 active members, a network of approximately 150 professionals, and five subcommittees focusing on LGBT initiatives, membership, special projects, the annual Above & Beyond benefit, and technology.

Ben and Mia officially took over at the beginning of 2016 and have been meeting with Sanctuary leadership and brainstorming projects for the upcoming year. On February 10, 2016, they hosted their first meeting as PBC co-chairs.

Ben and Mia are dedicated public interest advocates and Sanctuary supporters. Ben started doing pro bono work with Sanctuary for Families while an associate at Cahill Gordon & Rendel LLP. He was inspired to partner with Sanctuary after Stacey Zyzyck, a former Cahill Gordon colleague, gave an amazing presentation about the pro bono work she was doing with Sanctuary. Ben took on several pro bono cases, became Cahill Gordon’s pro bono liaison for Sanctuary, and received a 2015 Sanctuary for Families’ Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement award.

For Ben, the best part about being a member of the PBC is the opportunity it provides to contribute to the incredible work of Sanctuary’s committed advocates, and to the success of its deserving clients.

Mia first learned about Sanctuary during a Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP) presentation as a student at Columbia Law School, and was introduced to the PBC by a fellow Columbia Law graduate, Shira Kaufman, who has since joined Sanctuary as a Staff Attorney. Prior to beginning her successful legal career, Mia worked at a non-profit organization called Ozone House as a Community Education Director.

Mia is passionate about the PBC because it brings together Sanctuary’s dynamic and energized supporters and channels their excitement for social justice into meaningful engagement with Sanctuary and their communities.

As co-chairs, Ben and Mia want to focus on empowering every member of the PBC with the knowledge and resources to serve as ambassadors for Sanctuary. In particular, they are creating an online presence for the PBC, inviting pro bono attorneys and volunteers to share success stories at PBC meetings, and leveraging members’ professional networks to enhance new initiatives through the special projects subcommittee.

Get Involved

The PBC welcomes all professionals committed to helping victims of gender-based violence who are interested in supporting and promoting the work of Sanctuary. The PBC hosts full membership meetings every other month at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP at 7:00 PM.

Anyone interested in getting involved with Sanctuary and its pro bono work should attend a meeting to see this dynamic group of professionals in action – and to get involved themselves!

Please contact PBC co-chairs Ben Schatz ( and Mia White ( to learn more about joining the PBC.

Nicole Fidler is the Pro Bono Supervising Attorney at Sanctuary for Families. Learn more about our Pro Bono Program.

10 Ways to Help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship

Many people struggle with how to assist a friend in an abusive relationship. Clinical Director Laura Fernandez shares how you can help.

Domestic violence happens to 1 in 4 women in the United States, and abuse can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, orientation, faith or class.

But because we rarely speak about domestic violence, many people struggle with how help when they suspect a friend is in an abusive relationship. We spoke with Laura Fernandez, Sanctuary’s Clinical Director, who shares some suggestions for how you can assist a friend facing domestic violence. Laura says:

1) Be a non-judgmental listener. It’s tempting to wonder “Why does she stay with him? Why is she letting him do that?” But if you want your friend to feel comfortable approaching you for advice, it’s important that you listen to her story, and avoid being judgmental of her decisions. If she feels judged or embarrassed, she may hesitate to return to you for help.

2) Ask what you can do. Don’t assume that your friend needs help or needs you to take certain actions. Asking him how you can help is the most effective way to ensure you really are meeting his needs.

3) Validate that the abuse is wrong. Not every form of abuse involves physical violence, and your friend might not be sure that her partner’s behavior is abusive. If your friend’s partner is exhibiting behavior that raises red flags, confirm for her that those actions are not a part of a healthy relationship.

4) Share information. Victims of domestic violence are often isolated by abusers and can’t get important safety information, or aren’t aware that resources are available. Compile a list of hotline numbers and community resources, show your friend the Power and Control Wheel, or look up how to make a Safety Plan. Arm your friend with resources so that when he is ready to leave, he can.

5) Let your friend feel in control. Abuse is all about the dynamic of power and control that an abuser holds over a victim. Your friend may already be feeling powerless in her situation – don’t exacerbate that feeling by telling her what to do. Empower her to make the best decisions for herself.

6) Offer to be there. Your friend may need to go to court to file an Order of Protection, or may decide to visit a Family Justice Center to get help. These steps can be difficult and even scary for someone trying to get out of an abusive relationship. Offer to accompany your friend to these important meetings – having someone he trusts nearby may make all the difference.

7) If you see something, say something. You may notice your friend has a black eye, bruises on her arms, or other physical injury – don’t stay silent. It’s important to ask her what happened (in a calm and non-judgmental manner), check that everything is ok, and show that you care.

8) Provide a safe space for belongings. If your friend is at risk of injury or thinking about leaving soon, offer to store important documents, a bag of clothes, and other necessities in your home so he can easily access when he leaves.

9) Never say “I told you so.” Studies show that the average survivor of abuse tries to leave seven times. Your friend may leave, and return, and it may happen more than once. This can be incredibly frustrating to witness, but it is important not to express that frustration to your friend. Provide her with support so that she can get out and stay out when she is ready.

10) Take care of yourself. It’s not easy to see a friend or loved one experience abuse – it can be frustrating and deeply saddening. Because of that, it is important to take care of yourself when assisting a friend in an abusive relationship. Even when it seems like your efforts aren’t making a difference, know that just the act of listening and being a friend is an important – and potentially lifesaving – intervention.