Dorchen A. Leidholdt has served as the director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at the Sanctuary for Families in New York City since 1994.
The largest dedicated legal services program for domestic violence victims in the country, the center provides legal representation in family law, 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. The center has spearheaded state litigation establishing precedent to expand the protections available to domestic violence victims petitioning for orders of protection and federal litigation preventing child protective agencies from charging battered mothers with “engaging in domestic violence.”
Leidholt has advocated for laws requiring New York State courts to consider evidence of domestic violence in custody and visitation cases. Through its anti-trafficking initiative, the center has provided direct representation to hundreds of victims of sex and labor trafficking and has helped found the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, of which Leidholdt is a co-chair.
An activist and leader in the movement against violence against women since the mid-1970s, Leidholdt has lectured internationally on an array of issues regarding gender violence. She co-edited the fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of the Lawyers Manual on Domestic Violence and the first edition of the Lawyers Manual on Human Trafficking.
A former public defender, Leidholt previously taught criminal procedure at the City University School of Law. Her numerous awards include the United Nations Capitol Association Human Rights award; the New York City Bar Association’s Legal Services award; and the City of New York award for outstanding leadership in breaking the cycle of domestic violence; the New York University School of Law Public Interest Law Foundation award for outstanding contributions in public interest law; and the Lawyers Committee Against Domestic Violence “In the Trenches” Award.
Leidholdt holds a law degree from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Snow scholar, and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia.