Forced Marriage Initiative Staff
Casey Swegman – Forced Marriage Initiative Project Manager
Casey joined the Tahirih Justice Center’s Washington, DC area office in June 2013 as the Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate. As the Forced Marriage Initiative Project Manager, Casey provides direct social services to individuals facing forced marriages, fields technical assistance requests nationally, and coordinates the National Network to Prevent Forced Marriage. Casey was the principle content drafter and developer of the Forced Marriage Initiative website and she engages in extensive domestic outreach and training on this issue. Casey also serves as a liaison to agencies and service providers in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, strengthening the capacity of the local community to respond to cases of forced marriage. In addition, Casey organized, promoted, and participated in a six city nationwide awareness raising tour to promote understanding of the issue of forced marriage in the United States and train service providers in best practices for responding to cases of forced marriage. Prior to joining the Tahirih Justice Center, Casey served as the Special Needs Care Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Baltimore, MD where she provided intensive crisis and medical case management to newly arrived refugees and their families.
Hellitz Villegas – Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate
Hellitz joined the Tahirih Justice Center’s Washington, DC area office in August of 2018. As the Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate, she provides direct social services to individuals facing forced marriage, responds to requests for technical assistance nationally, conducts education and outreach, and maintains the Forced Marriage Initiative’s online presence.
Hellitz came to the Forced Marriage Initiative with over 8 years of experience in the social advocacy setting, working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as a hotline advocate with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville’s Rape Recovery Team as well as holding several positions with Hubbard House, a local domestic violence center in Jacksonville, Florida, where she facilitated support groups, conducted intakes for children ages 4-18 as part of the Helping At Risk Kids program and served as a Resident Advocate in the Hubbard House emergency shelter, providing care to shelter residents and responding to crisis calls on the hotline. Hellitz also has experience as a Criminal Court Victim Advocate, assisting clients with intake, protection orders and relocation as well as providing external referrals.
Other staff at the Tahirih Justice Center who contribute to the Forced Marriage Initiative
Archana Pyati – Director of Policy and Programs
Archi joined Tahirih in 2014. In her position, she spearheads national advocacy initiatives, forging and mobilizing diverse, bipartisan coalitions to press for laws, regulations, and policies that better protect immigrant women and girls from violence. Archi is also currently a participant in the NoVo Foundation’s “Move to End Violence” initiative, a two-year highly competitive and selective leadership training experience for leaders in women’s rights. Prior to Tahirih, Archi was the Deputy Director of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families in New York, where she served hundreds of women and girls fleeing gender-based violence. Before that, she was an Equal Justice Works fellow and a senior associate at Human Rights First, where she counseled detained immigrants and lobbied for policy changes to protect immigrant women and girls. Archi graduated from Brown University and University of Michigan Law School, where she received two competitive fellowships to work overseas and was named Outstanding Woman Law Student of the Year by the Woman Lawyers Association of Michigan.
Anusce Sanai – Family Law Attorney
Anusce is a graduate of the New England School of Law in Boston and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Anusce joined Tahirih in November, 2012 as the Family Law attorney, representing clients in connection with their domestic relations needs. Prior to joining the Tahirih Justice Center, Anusce practiced as a solo practitioner handling a variety of cases including family law, real estate law and estate planning. She has helped clients in a variety of matters, acquiring efficient strategy to achieve the best results. During her academic career, she was Associate Editor and Symposium Coordinator of the New England Journal of International and Comparative Law, which allowed her to be involved in current issues that affect both national and global legal matters.
Jeanne Smoot – Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy
Jeanne is a graduate of Harvard University Law School and Harvard-Radcliff College, and obtained a master’s degree from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. As Senior Counsel, Jeanne is principally focused on leading the development of legal and policy proposals to address forced marriage in the United States. For over 10 years, Jeanne led Tahirih’s public policy team, fighting to reduce vulnerabilities of immigrant women and girls and empower them as survivors. She most recently helped lead successful efforts to defend and expand protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and in the passage of a Senate bill to reform immigration laws.