Since 1994 Dorchen A. Leidholdt has served as the Director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families in New York City. The largest dedicated legal services program for gender violence survivors in the country, the Center provides legal representation in family, criminal, civil rights, public benefits, housing and immigration cases and advocates for policy and legislative changes that further the rights of survivors of gender violence.
Under Ms. Leidholdt’s leadership, the Center has grown from two to fifty lawyers; has developed specialized model projects (the Courtroom Advocates Project, the Immigration Intervention Project, the Economic Justice Project, the Anti-Trafficking Initiative, the Campus Advocates Project, and the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative); has led successful advocacy campaigns to strengthen New York State laws against stalking, strangulation, cyber sexual abuse, and sex and labor trafficking; and has strengthened its advocacy efforts on behalf of underserved populations, especially those in New York’s immigrant and LGBTQI communities. In 2019 working in partnership with more than 1,000 pro bono lawyers, the Center provided legal assistance to more than 5,000 women, men, and children.
Ms. Leidholdt serves as Co-Chair of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition and is a board member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, which she helped found in 1988.
Between 1988 and 1994, as a criminal defense attorney at the Legal Aid Society, she represented hundreds of women arrested for prostitution and other criminalized survivors. She has been an activist in the feminist movement for more than four decades on a wide range of issues, ranging from reproductive rights to forced and child marriage, cyber sexual abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, and female genital mutilation.
Ms. Leidholdt lectures nationally and internationally on issues of violence against women and girls and has published numerous articles and book chapters and an anthology. She co-edited the Lawyers Manual on Human Trafficking and the 4th, 5th, and 6th editions of the Lawyers Manual on Domestic Violence. She has taught Criminal Procedure at City University School of Law and teaches Domestic Violence and the Law at Columbia University School of Law. She hold a Masters Degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Snow scholar.