Our Team

The Domestic Violence Project (DVP) is a passionate group of attorneys and advocates coming together to provide holistic, comprehensive services to survivors of intimate partner violence.

DVP Management

Madeline Garcia Bigelow, Esq.

Associate Director, Urban Justice Center
Managing Director, Domestic Violence Project

Madeline is the Associate Director of the Urban Justice Center and Managing Director of the Domestic Violence Project.  Ms. Garcia Bigelow founded the Project in 2003 after having served six years at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in the Domestic Violence/ Sex Crimes Bureau, first as an Assistant District Attorney, then as Acting Supervisor of its 2221 Unit. Prior to founding the DVP, she served as Co-Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Bronx Community Office.  Ms. Garcia Bigelow’s unique skills allows her to recognize obstacles from both a prosecutorial and civil vantage point so that she can effectively advocate for client concerns from a position of power among all stakeholders. These boundary spanning skills have led to Ms. Garcia Bigelow training lawyers nationally in the American Bar Association and as a Harvard Wasserstein Law Fellow where she educated and mentored first year law students on public interests careers. 

Maria Martinez

Director of Client Services 

Maria Martinez is DVP’s Director of Client Services, bringing over 28 years of experience as a staunch leader and advocate in the movement against domestic violence. She believes that the potential for a survivor to succeed past the abuse is directly influenced by the collaborative strength found within the community of providers, and her tireless commitment for change is demonstrated through her engagement in trainings, conferences, and community events in NYC.  Ms. Martinez has served as advisor to the Bronx Borough President’s Office; thought leader in effective approaches for financial empowerment; on-site technical assistance trainer throughout NYC; participation and partnering with the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence; and leader on numerous large and small scale events to educate and raise awareness on the impact of domestic violence.  

Kristen McGuire

Director of Development

As Director of Development, Kristen McGuire (she/her/hers) leads fundraising efforts for the Domestic Violence Project. Kristen brings nearly a decade of nonprofit experience designing, implementing, and growing individual and institutional giving portfolios for diverse missions ranging from ballet education to financial security. A lifelong New Yorker, she is dedicated to helping empower underserved community members to gain the tools they need to thrive.

To learn more about supporting DVP, contact Kristen at kmcguire@urbanjustice.org

Joy Ziegeweid, Esq. 

Director of Immigration  

As Director of Immigration, Joy leads DVP’s immigration team and serves as a resource for the Project. Joy represents survivors of intimate partner violence in a wide variety of humanitarian remedies, including Violence Against Women Act self-petitions, Battered Spouse Waivers, U nonimmigrant status petitions, T nonimmigrant status petitions, asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions, and related matters in front of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Executive Office of Immigration Review. She believes immigrant survivors have incredible strength and courage, and she is honored to help them achieve legal immigration status in the United States.

Joy frequently trains on immigration legal remedies for vulnerable populations. She is active in local and national immigration advocacy and is a member of the VAWA,U,T committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Joy is a Senior Visiting Fellow at Immigrant ARC where she participates in advocacy and pro bono efforts to address immigration legal needs of Ukrainians, and she is a co-founder of Legal Information Network for Ukraine, a nonprofit that provides free legal information and consultations to people fleeing the war in Ukraine. She is a graduate of Macalester College, the University of Michigan, and Columbia Law School and is admitted to practice in New York State. Prior to joining DVP, Joy was a staff attorney at Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project, where she began her career as a Skadden Fellow.

Heather Lothrop, Esq. 

Supervising Family Law Attorney 

As the Supervising Family Law Attorney, Heather leads the family law team providing a full suite of legal services to survivors of intimate partner violence. Since starting at DVP in 2014, Heather has represented DVP clients in family offense, custody and visitation, guardianship, divorce, and child support cases. Leveraging this experience, Heather delivers trainings to government and social services partners on emerging issues in family law. Through her work as a practicing attorney and a manager, Heather is committed to realizing DVP’s mission of ensuring survivors and children live free of violence.

Heather holds a JD from American University’s Washington College of Law and a BA from Fordham University. She is active in the New York City Bar and the Lawyer’s Committee Against Domestic Violence.

Afua Afriye Fullwood, Esq.

General Counsel 

Ms. Afriye Fullwood has worked with DVP since 2011 and brings over 30 years of experience as both a lawyer and social worker. She received her law degree from Cardozo School of Law (1984) and her MSW from Rutgers University (1976) and has completed training as a Custody/Visitation and Matrimonial Mediator. Ms. Afriye Fullwood’s extensive experience includes serving as a Child Support Magistrate in Bronx Family Court for twelve years, a Hearing Officer for OATH and Small Claims Court Arbitrator, an Associate Attorney for HRA’s Office of Legal Affairs, and an attorney at Rodriquez and Fuentes PC. At DVP, Ms. Fullwood runs several legal clinics throughout NYC, screening victims for financial abuse, legal issues and overall safety and stability. 

DVP Staff

Jaritza Ayala

Administrative Assistant

Jaritza is DVP’s Administrative Assistant. She graduated in 2017 from Bronx Community College with an Associate’s degree in Medical Office Assistant. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Julissa Ayala 

Senior Legal Advocate 

Julissa is a legal advocate working on immigration cases at DVP. She graduated from Brooklyn College in 2013 with a degree in Sociology and has since dedicated a decade to working with victims/survivors of domestic violence in NYC. Julissa is bi-lingual, English/Spanish speaking and has worked as both a DV Hotline counselor and a DV Hotline Program Coordinator.

Cora H. Cheong, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Cora graduated from Tulane University Law School in 2019 and spent a year and a half at the New York City Commission on Human Rights, directly helping New Yorkers overcome discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, and immigration status from their landlords and employers by taking them to trial when they refused to address said claims. Cora also spent a year and a half with the New York City Department of Corrections Trials Division, where she prosecuted officers and captains at Riker’s Island for gross abuse of inmates at administrative disciplinary trials. During law school, Cora also interned for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice where she handled different immigration matters, including U-Visas, Asylum, and SIJS. These experiences inform Cora’s work with the Domestic Violence Project and her continued advocacy for those in need. Cora graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in 2016.

Lucia Cuenca, Esq.

Immigration Staff Attorney

Lucia is a 2020 graduate of Penn State Dickinson Law practicing immigration law. Throughout law school, she participated in internships at the Community Justice Project, Her Justice, and DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review as well as the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic. Through these experiences, Lucia worked on the intersection of immigration and victimization, public benefits, and access to health care. These experiences led to a position as a Public Benefits Fellow and, later, Immigration Staff Attorney at the Community Justice Project, where she represented immigrant victims of crime and participated in public benefits advocacy throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Lucia is licensed in New Jersey and is fluent in Spanish.

Konstantin Dukhovnyy, Esq.

Senior Staff Attorney

Konstantin graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 2019 and spent two years working for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, working primarily on child abuse and neglect cases in Kings County Family Court, where one of the primary cases he filed were domestic violence cases. His interest in family law and public advocacy began in the Child Advocacy Clinic in law school where he represented undocumented children in immigration and family court seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, as well as representing children in neglect cases in Queens County Family Court. Today, Konstantin continues to advocate for those in need as part of the Domestic Violence Project. Konstantin also obtained his BA in Political Science and Psychology from Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, Baruch in 2016.

Arthur Escobar

Legal Advocate

Arthur is a legal advocate at DVP. He graduated in 2022 from the University of Scranton with a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Teak Hodge

Marketing Coordinator

Teak (they/them) is the Marketing Coordinator at DVP. With about half a decade of non-profit experience in marketing, outreach, and communications, Teak leads DVP’s social media strategy.

Tasneem Ladjal

Law Graduate, Pending Admission

Tasneem is a law graduate working on immigration cases at DVP, pending admission to the NYS bar. She graduated from Boston College Law School in 2022 with a Master of Laws (LL.M.), where she obtained a human rights certificate and specialized in asylum and immigration law. During her time there, she worked as a student attorney in the Immigration Clinic where she represented clients with Asylum claims and U-Visa applications. Tasneem previously worked on a joint project with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group) to find private sector solutions to boost refugee economies in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Nairobi, Kenya. She also worked in Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon, providing tutoring sessions and conducting outreach missions in the camp on child marriage. Tasneem obtained her law degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), England, in 2020 and her BA in International Relations at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, in 2017. She is bilingual in French and English.

Minerva Pallet  

Senior Legal Advocate 

Minerva is DVP’s Senior Legal Advocate. She graduated from Touro College with a Bachelor  Degree in Human Service. She is bilingual English and Spanish. Minerva has dedicated several years working with victims and survivors of domestic, specializing in the field of housing. 

Rhazeel Plata

Legal Advocate

Rhazeel is a legal advocate at DVP. She graduated in 2022 from SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Criminology and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Forensic Psychology. She is bilingual in English and Spanish. Prior to DVP, Rhazeel spent time as a crime victim advocate helping survivors of domestic violence.

Johanna Ponce

Legal Advocate

Johanna is a legal advocate at DVP. She graduated in 2019 from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Child Advocacy and Policy Work. She is bilingual in English and Spanish. Prior to DVP Johanna spent time interning for a family court judge in Newark, NJ.

Melissa Portillo

Legal Advocate

Melissa is a Legal Advocate working on immigration cases at DVP. She graduated from Baruch College at CUNY with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 2015.  She is bilingual in English and Spanish. Prior to joining DVP, Melissa has dedicated several years working with immigrant families in various capacities such as legal immigration assistance, community outreach and city-wide projects.

Salar Rivani, Esq.

Senior Staff Attorney

Salar Rivani, Esq. graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2014 with a criminal law certificate. During law school, Salar was an intern for the Brooklyn Legal Aid Society. Upon graduating, Salar worked as a legal fellow for the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center where he advocated for the rights of individuals performing sex work for immigration and criminal relief. Salar then began as a staff attorney with the Domestic Violence Project, focusing on litigation on behalf of survivors of intimate partner violence in the field of Family Law and Immigration. During his time serving nonprofits, he has gained an intimate knowledge of the issues affecting communities all over New York.

Alessandra Rosales

Immigration Staff Attorney

Alessandra is an immigration attorney at the Domestic Violence Project. Prior to joining the Urban Justice Center, Alessandra clerked at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and worked at an international law firm. Alessandra is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, where she participated in the Human Trafficking Clinic and Immigrant Justice Lab and published scholarship on the intersection between disability rights and immigrant rights.

Linzy Scott

Law Graduate

Linzy is a law graduate working on immigration cases at DVP. Linzy graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in May 2021 where he took part in the immigration and civil rights clinics as a student. Prior to joining the Urban Justice Center, Linzy interned for nonprofit law organizations in Washington, D.C. and Austin, TX and worked on impact litigation against discriminatory practices in our justice system as well as the provision of general legal services to the local community.

Yulu Xu, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Yulu Xu is a family law staff attorney at DVP, and she also goes by the name Kiki. In addition to her work with survivors of domestic violence, Kiki has volunteered with several public interest law firms helping refugees and low-income tenants facing eviction, and the homeless population. Kiki is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and she is currently taking Spanish classes to build up her language skills. Kiki has studied in Russia, Korea, and Japan, and she is dedicated to serving clients of all cultural backgrounds.

Meagan Zabadal, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Meagan is a family law attorney at DVP. Prior to joining UJC, Meagan’s legal career comprised of all areas of immigration law. Meagan received her J.D. from Nova Southeastern University, cum laude, in 2019. In addition, she received an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from Charles University in Prague, the Czech Republic. Her thesis was on the topic of hate speech and minority protection, which has been published in part in several publications. Meagan’s passion for humanitarian law has evolved from her experience living and studying abroad, from her friends and family, and from her desire to help make a difference in the lives of others.

LOOKING FOR ASSISTANCE?

We serve all survivors of intimate partner violence, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, or otherwise.

Legal Clinic Schedule

Contact Domestic Violence Project

We welcome your questions and comments

Main Office

40 Rector St., 9th Floor
New York, NY 10006

Intake line: 1-833-321-4387

Email: dvp@urbanjustice.org

Hours

M-F: 9:00AM-5:00PM

By appointment only.

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