FacultyFaculty/Author Profile

Dorchen A. Leidholdt

Sanctuary for Families
Director, Center for Battered Women's Legal Services
New York, NY, USA


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 legal services program for domestic violence victims in the country, the Center provides legal representation in family law, criminal, civil rights, public benefits, and immigration cases and advocates for policy and legislative changes that further the rights of abused women and girls.  Under Dorchen’s leadership, the Center has grown from two to forty lawyers and has strengthened its advocacy efforts on behalf of underserved populations. In 2014 working in partnership with more than 400 pro bono lawyers, the Center provided legal assistance to more than 6,000 women, men, and children.

The Center has spearheaded state litigation that has established new legal precedent expanding 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.” The Center has successfully advocated for laws requiring New York State courts to consider evidence of domestic violence in custody and visitation cases, adding the crimes of stalking and strangulation to the New York State penal code, and enabling domestic violence victims in same sex relationships to pursue civil protective orders. Through its Anti-Trafficking Initiative, the Center has provided direct representation to hundreds of victims of sex and labor trafficking.

Dorchen has been an activist and leader in the movement against violence against women since the mid-1970’s, counseling and advocating for rape victims, organizing against the media’s promotion of violence against women through pornography and the media, serving on the legal team for the plaintiff in a precedent-setting sexual harassment case, and representing hundreds of women victimized by practices of violence against women, including domestic violence, prostitution and trafficking, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, the threat of honor killing, and the internet bride trade.  She has lectured internationally on violence against women and has published numerous articles and book chapters and an anthology she co-edited with Dr. Janice Raymond. With Jill Goodman, she edited the Lawyers Manual on Human Trafficking and the 4th and 5th editions of the Lawyers Manual on Domestic Violence.  Dorchen has taught Criminal Procedure at City University School of Law and teaches Domestic Violence and the Law at Columbia University School of Law.

In 1994 Dorchen was awarded the United Nations Capitol Association Human Rights Award; in 1999 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”; in 2000 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; in 2002 the “Women of Power and Influence” Award by the National Organization for Women—New York City Chapter; in 2007 the League of Women Voters of the City of New York “Woman of Distinction” Award; in 2008, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s “30 Years, 30 Leaders” Award; in 2009 New York University School of Law’s Alumna of the Month Award; and in 2013 the Edith I. SpivackWomen’s Rights Award from the New York County Lawyer’s Association.

Dorchen 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.

Dorchen A. Leidholdt is associated with the following items:
CHB Chapters  CHB Chapters Chapter 11: Prosecuting a Domestic Violence Case: Looking Beyond the Victim’s Testimony, The New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence, Representing the Victim, 6th Edition (2015) - Domestic Violence: Litigating Protection Order Cases 2017, Friday, February 03, 2017
Chapter 3: Interviewing and Assisting Domestic Violence Survivors, The New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence, Representing the Victim, 6th Edition (2015) - Domestic Violence: Litigating Protection Order Cases 2017, Friday, February 03, 2017
Chapter 9: Litigating Family Offense Proceedings, The New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence, Representing the Victim, 6th Edition (2015) - Domestic Violence: Litigating Protection Order Cases 2017, Friday, February 03, 2017
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