Champion of Change: Dorchen Leidholdt

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Dorchen Leidholdt—whose dedicated work includes serving as the director of Sanctuary for Families Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services and founding and serving as a board member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, as well as co-chairing the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition—has been fighting violence against women since the 1970s. Her activism was stymied by a personal experience when she survived a sexual assault. “I began to realize that violence against women is an acute and systemic practice of gender discrimination,” she says. Her work escalated when she was a graduate student at the University of Virginia. “By the time I moved to New York City in 1977 I realized that ending violence against women and girls is my life’s work and mission,” Dorchen says. 

Over the past five decades Dorchen has represented hundreds of survivors of gender violence, mentored scores of young feminists and worked towards the passage of laws against a myriad of forms of gender violence. She has received numerous accolades for her activism including the United Nations Capital Association’s Human Rights Award, the New York City Bar Association’s Legal Services’ Award, the City of New York Award for Outstanding Leadership in Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence, the Women of Power and Influence Award by the National Organization for Women (New York City Chapter), the League of Women Voters of the City of New York Woman of Distinction award; the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s 30 Years, 30 Leaders award and the Edith I. Spivack Women’s Rights Award from the New York County Lawyers’ Association. “Women who have survived gender abuse and had the courage to speak truth to power about it are my role models,” says Dorchen of who serves as her inspiration. “They motivate me every day.” 

Dorchen is one of the many inspiring people selected as part of our Champions of Change campaign, which honors individuals who have made a difference in the lives of women and girls in the Metro New York area or globally.

Mary Luke