Learning about social justice in the heart of New York City

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014


(Left) Samantha Peters

By Samantha Peters

This summer, I interned at Sanctuary for Families (SFFNY) in New York City, a leader in advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gendered violence. 

I completed my internship after my first year of law school at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.  The law school offers a unique opportunity to complete a Student-Proposed Internship (SPI), which allows students to work in a hands-on setting, completing a minimum of 125 hours of pro bono work in Canada or abroad, drafting legal documents, conducting research, interacting with clients and so forth. I was interested in working for Sanctuary for Families (SFFNY) because my interests are in privacy law, access to justice and criminal law and how they relate to sexual assault law, cybercrime, online obscenity and online harassment.

I delivered over 125 pro bono hours conducting general intake of domestic violence survivors seeking legal support in custody and visitation matters.  I also drafted subpoenas, petitions for custody, orders of protection, violation petitions and motions for extending orders of protection, as well as meeting with a client at the Manhattan Family Justice Center of the NYC Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence to gather evidence for trial preparation to amend an order of protection.  I also educated victims of violence and trafficking about remedies available to them, assisted them with safety planning, helped them draft petitions and advocated on their behalf at the Brooklyn Family Court.  Finally, I lobbied in Albany, New York, for the passing of the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act.

Although my time at SFFNY was incredibly short (just the month of June), my experience was far from limited. The training that I received and the events that I attended were incredible.  As a Canadian in New York, the opportunities afforded to me and the contacts that I made at various events were not only invaluable — they reminded me of why work on violence against women (including trans-women) and children is so important.  This experience even made me consider writing the New York State bar exam in hopes of continuing the work that I did during my internship, as a legal professional in that state.

Sanctuary for Families is not a nine to five job, as I learned rather quickly.  People who work there don’t stop caring when they clock out, and I certainly did not either.  SFFNY employees are passionate about social justice and it shows in their work.  I am extremely proud to have been selected to intern there and I am really grateful to the Faculty of Law for giving students great opportunities to seek out interesting legal jobs outside of typical “law firm work.”

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