AMARA LEGAL CENTER

Empowering our clients to live self-determined lives

aka Amara Legal Center   |   Washington, DC   |  http://amaralegal.org/

Mission

The Amara Legal Center provides free legal services to individuals whose rights have been violated through commercial sex - whether that involvement was by choice, coercion, or circumstance. Amara recognizes that while there are different paths that lead a person into commercial sex, many individuals face a common set of legal issues. Amara serves survivors of sex trafficking and any other individual harmed by commercial sex in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. We are committed to fighting tirelessly to provide excellent legal representation to our clients, to connecting survivors with vital social services, and to raising public awareness of the legal issues facing our clients.

Notes from the nonprofit

The Amara Legal Center fights tirelessly for the rights of our clients. We are one of the leading forces in the DC metro area advocating for the rights of those who have suffered a violation of rights while involved in commercial sex, whether that involvement was through choice, coercion or circumstance. We strive to provide world-class legal services to our clients all at zero cost to our clients. Additionally, we engage in advocacy and awareness-raising work which is changing the landscape of our region through stronger laws, more compassionate systems actors, and ultimately safer and more empowered clients. We hope you'll join us in this incredible movement to make the voices of those impacted heard throughout our country.

Ruling year info

2014

Executive Director

Carole Bernard

President, Board of Directors

Sakala Rutherford

Main address

1629 K STREET, NW SUITE 300

Washington, DC 20006 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

46-3819394

NTEE code info

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The specific legal needs of people harmed through involvement in commercial sex include victim advocacy, name change, protective orders, divorce, custody, expungement, and vacatur. Criminal legal services are critical for many of Amara’s clients as victims continue to be charged. We call these clients victim-defendants. Further, without access to free legal help, clients often cannot secure employment, housing, educational opportunities or successfully reunite with their families.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Expungement of Criminal Records

Many of Amara's clients have criminal records for prostitution or related charges, even if their involvement in the commercial sex industry was against their will. These records can restrict survivors from finding legal employment, receiving publicly funded housing, and from other social services. Amara assists clients in filing petitions of expungement.

Population(s) Served
Victims and oppressed people

Amara helps clients obtain restraining orders against abusers, including traffickers and/or buyers

Population(s) Served
Victims and oppressed people

Amara helps clients regain custody of their children, who may be in the custody of pimps, family members, or the state. Amara also represents clients in divorce cases from their abusers.

Population(s) Served
Victims and oppressed people

Many clients require witness advocates in criminal cases against their pimps or buyers. Some clients need a criminal defense attorney as a result of charges brought against them. Amara works with all clients to navigate the criminal justice system and prepare them for testifying in court.

Population(s) Served
Victims and oppressed people

Amara works hard to make tailored advocacy plans for each of our clients, using the resources available in the legal system to fight for our clients' rights. Once common example is the provision of the following types of legal services for our transgender clients: name changes, filing discrimination claims with the Office of Human Rights, and assisting in the creation of living wills and advanced directives.

Population(s) Served
Victims and oppressed people

Many clients require witness advocates in criminal cases against their pimps or buyers. Some clients need a criminal defense attorney as a result of charges brought against them. Amara works with all clients to navigate the criminal justice system and prepare them for testifying in court.

Population(s) Served
Victims and oppressed people

Amara helps clients re-gain custody of their children, who may be in the custody of pimps, family members, or the state. Amara also represents clients in divorce cases from their abusers.

Population(s) Served
Victims and oppressed people

Amara works hard to make tailored advocacy plans for each of our clients, using the resources available in the legal system to fight for our clients’ rights. One common example is the provision of the following types of legal services for our transgender clients: name changes, filing discrimination claims with the Office of Human Rights and assisting in the creation of living wills and advanced directives.

Population(s) Served
LGBTQ people
Victims and oppressed people

Where we work

Awards

One of the Best Small Charities 2020

Catalogue for Philanthropy

Affiliations & memberships

Combined Federal Campaign 2020

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Women and girls, Men and boys, LGBTQ people, Victims of crime and abuse, Sex workers

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

COVID-19 and the resulting closures limited the ability of our client population to access Amara's legal services.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We propose to address the need for trauma-informed culturally competent legal services for individuals harmed through their involvement in commercial sex by providing these services: 1. Civil Legal Services, 2. Criminal Legal Services, 3. Case Management, 4. Advocacy, 5. Safety Planning, 6. Awareness and Outreach, 7. Community Education, 8. Professional Training, and 9. Financial or Material Assistance.

The outreach, education, and awareness services will meet the described need by providing professional training to community based organizations and providers on human trafficking and sexual exploitation to ensure providers are able to identify victims and point victims to resources. Amara advocates for policies informed through our clients’ experiences, for example pre-arrest diversion and accessible name change petitions.

Amara engages in victim advocacy to ensure clients understand their rights as victims and engage in the legal system as much as they want and are legally able. Many of our clients want to bring charges against exploiters who stalk them, post nude photos, or commit other crimes against them. Amara attorneys assist clients in filing those charges and navigating the criminal justice process. Amara clients are sometimes subpoenaed to grand jury hearings as victims of human trafficking. Our attorneys ensure clients understand their constitutional and victim rights, the legal and non-legal implications of their testimony, future hearings and trial dates, and the roles of the various individuals involved.

Amara offers name changes because our clients rely on this service for safety planning, and our growing transgender population seek name and gender markers to conform with their gender identity. Similarly, civil protective orders offer clients a modicum of safety from their trafficker, former sex buyer, or a violent partner. Amara offers custody and divorce representation because sometimes our clients’ spouses are their traffickers, and often our clients lose custody of their children during their exploitation and seek reunification or visitation with their children.

Often victims are charged criminally because they are not identified as victims. Amara’s criminal legal services will allow those individuals access to an attorney who understands dynamics of trauma bonding, trafficker manipulation, and returning to prostitution due to trauma.

In addition to these legal needs, our clients have social needs such as medical, mental health, housing, benefits, transportation, and legal services Amara does not provide. Therefore, Amara also provides case management to our clients and work with our partners to ensure our clients are aware of and have access to the full continuum of care.

Since 2014, Amara has been a leader in providing legal services for survivors of sex trafficking and sex workers and advocating for victims’ rights. Amara’s staff have a combination of experience, expertise, and vision that position Amara to effectively achieve the stated desired outcomes. The following outlines critical capacities within the Amara organization and planned expansion to increase service.

Criminal and Civil Court and Advocacy - With substantial court experience, Amara’s attorneys have a track record of success for their clients and are well respected in the community. The bulk of Amara’s legal services are family law, criminal law, and victim advocacy within the criminal justice system. Amara also provides representation in obtaining civil protection orders, name change representation, and post conviction relief. Further, Amara attorneys routinely conduct advocacy on behalf of clients in court, government and within social service agencies.

Training and Awareness - Amara provides ongoing training and technical assistance to partner organizations. Amara has provided nearly 40 trainings to legal and social service providers to help them identify and serve sex trafficking victims. In addition, Amara has held awareness and education events and participated in community engagement activities.

Amara staff members know each client has specific legal and practical needs based on the form or forms of trauma they experienced. It can be extremely overwhelming for a trafficking victim to make sense of the legal proceedings they must follow, or the steps they must take to obtain social services. Our attorneys are adept at helping clients navigate the judicial system and work diligently to connect clients to resources that are vital for trauma victims after leaving their abusers/traffickers. In addition, every Amara staff member has had exposure to working with marginalized populations and people who have experienced trauma. This awareness is part of what leads our staff members to work at Amara.

The trauma-informed care Amara provides while administering legal services is paramount and informs our role as a leader in the victims’ rights advocacy community. Amara’s holistic approach to providing comprehensive direct services for its clients is made possible by close partnerships with local social service organizations to provide a continuum of care. This partner referral network ensures each client’s needs are heard and responded to appropriately, and that services are not duplicated. Clients are able to enter this continuum through any organization and gain access to the range of services they need. Amara ensures that every staff member attends various trainings in order to provide excellent, trauma-informed legal services to every client with whom they interact.

Since its founding in 2013, Amara Legal Center has provided free trauma informed legal services to over 800 clients. In 2020, Amara successfully responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by transitioning all operations to remote/virtual platforms, continuing to provide high-quality legal services to our existing clients and making our services available to new clients. Over the course of the calendar year, staff attorneys served 141 clients with 191 case matters; conducted 24 educational training sessions for community organizations and social service partners; and continued their advocacy and coalition work with policymakers and stakeholders across the DC metropolitan region. Of particular note, Amara produced a DC Vacatur Tool Kit and began raising awareness with DC attorneys about the availability of criminal record relief for trafficking survivors. Amara also made considerable progress advancing vacatur for trafficking survivors in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with legislation expected to be taken up by the General Assembly in 2021.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Amara provides legal services to survivors of sex trafficking and sex work.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Case management notes,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    We have not had to make substantive changes in response to feedback.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    It has not substantially changed our relationship with our clients, but it has empowered them to speak up about their needs and interests.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback,

Financials

AMARA LEGAL CENTER
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

AMARA LEGAL CENTER

Board of directors
as of 3/16/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Sakala Rutherford

Fannie Mae

Term: 2018 - 2021

Cynthia Fox

Self-employed

Radha Patel

Federal Public Affairs, McGuire Woods Consulting

Sakala Rutherford

Fannie Mae Underwriting, Pricing and Capital Markets

Lori Sims

Program Management Analyst, Department of Homeland Security

Matthew Lannan

Transaction Tax Manager EY

Rachel Ament

Copywriter, Sensis

Katelyn Crawford

Team Lead, Human Solutions, Inc.

Brittany Mobley

Deputy Chief of Staff, Juvenile Services Program

Rachel Martin

Employee Benefits Investigator

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 03/16/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American/African
Gender identity
Female

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American/African
Gender identity
Female

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 03/16/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.