The Domestic Violence Project (DVP) is a passionate group of attorneys and social workers coming together to provide holistic civil legal and clinical services to victims of domestic violence.
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.
Afua Afriye Fullwood, Esq.
MSW 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). Ms.Afriye Fullwood’s extensive experience includes serving as a Child Support Magistrate in Bronx Family Court for twelve years, a Hearing Office for OATH and Small Claims Court Arbitrator, an Associate Attorney for HRA’s Office of Legal Affairs, a Hearing Officer for OATH and Small Claims Court Arbitrator, and an attorney at Rodriquez and Fuentes PC. Curretly, at DVP MsFullwood runs several legal clinics throughout NYC, screening victims for financial abuse, legal issues and overall safety and stability.
Atossa Movahedi, Esq.
Director of Legal Services & Development
As the Director of Legal Services & Development,Atossa both oversees the legal team and heads development efforts of the project. Atossagraduated from New York Law School after earning her Master’s degree in Foreign Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C. where her focus was in human rights and transnational crime/corruption. Her objective is to provide a voice for those who may not have the power or ability to be heard. Atossa currently litigates and family law matters in Family and Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and supervises the legal division. She has been a faculty presenter with the Public Law Institute and has also presented CLEs to Judges and Attorneys on DV & Disability, Ethics, Family Law and Representing Male-Identified Survivors. Her experience working with survivors comes not only from her experience at DVP but also from her experiences interning with NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services LegalDepartment and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Crimes Against Children Bureau. She is fluent in Farsi.
Director of Client Services
Maria Martinez is DVP’s Director of Client Services, bringing over 21 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.
Supervisor of Client Services
Vilma Caraballo has an Associate’s degree in Paralegal studies and Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Throughout her 18 years of professional experience she has worked in many capacities, advocating for children in foster care, supervising visits at the Bronx Family Court, case management, counseling victims/survivors of domestic violence, and helping to obtain legal status for numerous victims in the United States. As a former program manager of a domestic violence shelter, she was honored for her exemplary leadership, devotion, and passion exhibited in her work. She ensured that all the families residing in the safe dwelling were protected, received all services needed, and lead empowering/self-sufficient lives before exiting the shelter.
Lucia Rivieccio, LCSW-R
Chief Clinical Consultant
Lucia comes to DVP from Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families where, as Chief External Affairs Officer, she oversaw strategy, development, communications, and government affairs. Lucia brings with her over 10 years’ experience with STEPS to End Family Violence, first as Clinical Director overseeing non-residential and ATI services and then succeeding the Founder, Sr. Mary Nerney, as Director. During her tenure she oversaw implementation of evidence-based practices; expansion of community- and Rikers-based services; and the development of a Reentry program for formerly incarcerated women. She is a member of the Board of Directors, and former Chair, of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Lucia received an M.S. in Social Work from Columbia University and an A.B. from Smith College, and holds a post-master’s certificate in Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis. In addition to private practice and several years as an Adjunct Lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work, her experience includes services to children and families in crisis at Manhattan and Queens Children’s Psychiatric Centers, Good Shepherd Services, and NY Presbyterian. She began her career at Little Flower Children’s Services as an Adoption Caseworker. Lucia’s career includes a sabbatical in 2000–2001 during which she traveled extensively in India and South-East Asia. She volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India and observed the economic empowerment work of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in India, Nepal, Indonesia, and North-East Thailand.
Joy Ziegeweid, Esq.
Supervising Immigration Attorney
As supervising immigration attorney, Joy oversees DVP’s immigration team and serves as a resource for the project. Joy handles a diverse immigration caseload including asylum, U nonimmigrant status petitions, T nonimmigrant status petitions, Violence Against Women Act Self-petitions, Battered Spouse Waivers, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions, and related matters. 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 is active in local and national immigration advocacy and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She is a graduate of Macalester College, the University of Michigan, and Columbia Law School, where she was named a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and served as an editor on the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Joy is admitted to practice in New York State, the Eastern District of New York, and the Southern District of New York. Prior to joining DVP, Joy was a staff attorney and former Skadden fellow at Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project. She is fluent in Russian.
Heather Lothrop, Esq.
Heather graduated from American University Washington College of Law in 2014 and has been serving as a legal fellow with DVP since the fall. While in law school, Heather interned with the Sexual Assault Legal Institute in Maryland and was a student attorney in her law school’s Domestic Violence Clinic. As part of the clinic, Heather spent a semester working in DC US Attorney’s Office in their Sexual Offense Domestic Violence Unit. All of these experiences have given Heather the foundation for the works she does with DVP. Heather obtained her BA in English from Fordham University in 2007.
Salar Rivani, Esq.
Senior Staff Attorney
Salar began working at the Urban Justice Center with an approach focused around human rights in September 2014. He started as a legal fellow with the Sex Workers Project. There, he worked on vacating criminal convictions for trafficking survivors and obtaining T-visas for the same. While in law school, Salar interned at the Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Practice in Brooklyn helping represent indigent clients in Kings County Criminal Courts. These opportunities have created the base from which Salar works with at DVP. Salar has a bachelor’s degree from University of Southern California ‘08 and graduated from Brooklyn Law School ’14 with a certificate in Criminal Law.
Marjorie P. Cohen, Esq.
Senior Staff Attorney
Marjorie is a Senior Staff Attorney with the Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project, practicing both family and immigration law. Prior to her work at DVP, she was an attorney at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley representing victims/survivors of DV in Westchester County Family Court and IDV on family law matters. Marjorie also worked as a pro bono attorney for Public Counsel in San Francisco, where she co-authored a report, “Fostering Educational Success” that examined school climate and foster youth. Marjorie’s experience also includes four years prosecuting abuse/neglect matters at NYC Administration for Children’s Services in Bronx County. She is licensed to practice law in NY, CA and NJ. Marjorie received her Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School in 2009 and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004 with a B.A. in Political Science.
Chelsea Whipp, Esq.
Ms. Whipp has served as an immigration researcher, advocate, law clerk and now lawyer in private and social justice firms. Currently at DVP, she represents victims of domestic violence on their immigration matters. Ms. Whipp attended Boston University Law School and is admitted to the bar in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Johana Vesga, Esq.
Johana obtained her law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 2014. While in law school, Johanafocused her practical experience on serving immigrant survivors of crime. She interned at various non-profit organizations throughout New York City and was a student attorney in the school’s asylum clinic. After graduating law school she joined Catholic Charities Community Services as an immigration attorney. There, she superviseda statewide multilingual immigration information and referral services hotline and provided direct legal representation to clients. Before joining the Domestic Violence Project, Johana was a Staff Attorney in the Anti-Trafficking Initiative of Sanctuary for Families, where she represented immigrant survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Johana is a member of the New York State Bar Association and a native speaker of Spanish.
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 three years to working with victims of domestic violence in NYC. Julissa is bi-lingual English/Spanish and has worked as both a Hotline counselor and a Hotline Program Coordinator.
Ashley is an Immigration Legal Advocate at DVP. She graduated from SUNY Purchase in 2015 with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and New Media. She is bilingual in English and Spanish. Prior to joining DVP, Ashley worked at a Domestic Violence Shelter in Brooklyn.
Minerva is DVP’s Aftercare 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.
Catalina Portillo, Esq.
Catalina is a graduate of Moldova State University and Fordham University School of Law, where she specialized in International Law and Justice. She also studied in France where she earned a Master Degree in Human Rights Law and a Master Degree in International Administration. Prior to becoming an immigration attorney in New York, Catalina practiced international and human rights law at the United Nations and various NGOs across Europe and the United States. Having lived and worked in different countries, Catalina has a keen understanding of the struggles immigrants might encounter on their path. Thus, she works zealously to offer dedicated legal assistance to every client. Catalina is admitted to practice in the State of New York and she is a member of the New York State Bar Association. In addition to English Catalina is fluent in French, Russian and Romanian.
Law Graduate, Pending Admission
Naomi graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2019, and began working with the Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project as a legal fellow in the fall of that year before beginning work as a full time staff attorney with DVP in January 2020. While in law school, Naomi interned with the New York Legal Assistance Group’s Legal Health Project as well as their Disability Advocacy Project, representing clients at Social Security Appeals Hearings. Naomi was also a student attorney in two Brooklyn Law School clinics where she assisted and represented clients with unemployment benefits and asylum applications. Naomi also interned with the Legislative Division of the New York City Council in the summer of 2018. These experiences taught her the importance of advocating on behalf of those in need, and inform her work with DVP. Naomi obtained BA in Political Science with a minor in Geography from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CSI in 2016.
Law Graduate, Pending Admission
Carla is a law graduate providing immigration legal assistance to survivors of intimate partner abuse. She recently graduated from New York University School of Law obtaining her Master of Laws “LL.M.” in International Legal Studies. Carla focused her studies on Immigration and Asylum law and volunteered for immigration clinics while at NYU. Carla is an attorney admitted to practice law in Venezuela, and her admission to the NYS bar is pending. She is bilingual in Spanish and English.
Law Graduate, Pending Admission
Sobiha recently graduated from Brooklyn Law School. During law school, she developed a passion for immigration law and since then has sought opportunities to serve immigrants in New York City. During her 3L year, she worked as a Public Interest Public Service Fellow at Legal Aid Society, where she represented detained immigrants in removal proceedings. Sobiha graduated from City College of New York in 2016 with a B.A. in International Studies, Political Science, and History.
Yesenia is a Legal Advocate with the DVP project. She graduated from John Jay College with a B.A. in International Criminal Justice and Sociology. Before joining DVP Yesenia was a counselor providing comprehensive crisis intervention and self-empowerment counseling to survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.
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.