DVP Staff

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 ProjectMs. 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 Ms Fullwood 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 Sevics & Development, Atossa both oversees the legal team and heads development efforts of the project. Atossa graduated 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 Legal Department  and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Crimes Against Children Bureau. She is fluent in Farsi. 

Maria Martinez

Director of Client Services 

Maria Martinez is DVP’s Director of Advocacy and Community Organizing, 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.

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.

Denise Torres, LCSW

Director of Grants & Operations

Denise is a researcher, evaluator, educator, writer, and clinician with over 30 years of experience across the for-profit and non-profit sectors. An LCSW with forensic and substance abuse specialty certifications, the unifying theme of her work and publications has been to give voice to and foster community with and within stigmatized and silenced populations. Combining a broad range of skills, content expertise, and practical experience with a compassionate forthrightness, she embraces the interstitial and liminal spaces as sites of creativity, power, and transformation.

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.

Senior Staff Attorney

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.

Noora Barakat, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Noora received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2015. During law school, Noora defended youth charged with crimes in Washington, D.C. through Georgetown’s Juvenile Justice Clinic, and she interned at the New York Legal Assistance Group and Legal Aid Society in New York City. These experiences spanned the areas of criminal law, domestic violence and family law, housing, and government benefits law, which expanded Noora’s skillset and understanding of issues faced by indigent clients. She also interned at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she researched and wrote about civil rights issues in preparation for federal litigation. Prior to joining DVP, Noora worked with local and international NGOs in Jordan, conducting legal research on gender-based violence and advocating for refugees. Noora obtained her B.A. from Tufts University, and she is fluent in Arabic.   

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.

Chelsea Whipp, Esq. 

Staff Attorney

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. 

Staff Attorney 

Johana obtained her law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 2014. While in law school, Johana focused 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 supervised a 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. 

Christina Elhaddad, Esq. 

Staff Attorney 

Christina Elhaddad obtained her J.D. from the American University Washington College of Law (WCL) and is an immigration attorney barred in New Jersey and awaiting admission in New York. Christina was a student attorney in the Women and the Law Clinic at WCL where she represented a client on a SIJS case.  After law school, and as a former Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn, NY, Christina helped start the organization's legal department and expand its immigration legal services available to many minority communities in South Brooklyn. The services included affirmative and defensive asylum, VAWA applications, removal proceedings in criminal immigration matters, and many other complex issues. Christina is fluent in Arabic, French, and Spanish.

Aida Estevez-Felipe

Legal Advocate

Aida has been with DVP since 2014 as an advocate working closely with victims of domestic violence and providing case management services, safety planning and general advocacy.  Prior to working at DVP, Aida worked at a domestic violence shelter.  She is bilingual in Spanish and English. 

Minerva Pallet 

Aftercare Advocate

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. 

Julissa Ayala

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 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. 

Claudia Pepe

Legal Advocate

Claudia is an Immigration Legal Advocate with DVP. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2015 with a B.A. in International Studies and Spanish Literature. Before joining DVP, Claudia taught English in Mexico through the Fulbright Program and worked with a legal aid non-profit called OneJustice to plan free immigration and expungement clinics. She is fluent in Spanish. 

Stephanie Avila 

Financial Empowerment Advocate 

Stephanie is DVP's Financial Empowerment Advocate.  She graduated from the City College of New York with the BA in Psychology and a minor in Business.  As a Financial Empowerment Advocate of DVP, Stephanie provides resources to help families learn how to manage their financies and make wise econoimc choices.  Her goal is to educate many families across NYC in both English and Spanish on financial literacy, in order to allow them to achieve their goals. 

Maritza Sanchez 

Legal Advocate 

Maritza graudated from College of Staten Island with a BA in Social Work and is currently pursing her MSW specializing in Clinical Services at Fordham University.  Maritza has been working with victims of violence since 2015, in Spanish and English, providing case management, safety planning and general advocacy. 

Taylor Blackston

Housing Advocate

Taylor graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a B.A. in Communication. During her senior year at Penn, Taylor led the outreach committee for Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), a sexual violence education and advocacy group on campus. After college, Taylor went back to her hometown and participated in the Challenge Detroit fellowship, which is a yearlong program that provides pro-bono consulting services to local non-profit and public organizations on community outreach and design projects. As a Housing Advocate with DVP, Taylor screens clients of the New York Family Justice Centers for housing legal needs.

Ashley Pinilla

Legal Advocate

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.   

Marina Stojanovic

Law Graduate, Volunteer 

Marina graduated from the University of Toronto in 2012 with an H.B.A. specializing in Political Science and with a minor in Classical Civilizations. She attended the University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Windsor in Canada, obtaining both her US and Canadian JDs in 2017. Before attending law school Marina worked as an intake worker/program secretary at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Centre, a non-profit in Toronto focused on assisting new immigrants and refugees to Canada with settlement, health care, and language services. During law school she did a judicial internship at the 35th District Court of Michigan and also worked as a summer associate at private firm in Toronto. Marina started working with the Domestic Violence Project in August of 2017 after moving to New York from Toronto and is awaiting her New York bar results and admission.