Domestic and sexual violence are pervasive problems that impact individuals throughout our country. Studies show that the Latino community members fall victim at high rates and face unique challenges in the fight against violence, language being one of them.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the 2011 American Community Survey, over 37.6 million residents speak Spanish at home. While there have been some inroads in bilingual/bicultural victim advocacy, with 17 state sexual assault, domestic violence (or dual) coalitions adding an “Español” tab with web content in Spanish, many states with millions of Latin@s fall short of providing necessary bilingual victim advocacy.
Too many victim assistance agencies still cannot adequately address the needs of Spanish-dominant sexual and domestic violence survivors. This reality was made painfully clear in the “Domestic Violence Counts 2013 Report” from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Bilingual advocacy” is one of 35 possible services that can be noted as provided by survey respondents. However, 55 programs reduced or eliminated bilingual advocacy in 2013 according to the report.
Some agencies have implemented short-cut measures such as nonhuman online translations and the use of volunteer or contracted interpreter services. Yet confianza (trust) that is critical for survivors of violence from marginalized communities, cannot be gained through interpretation or a poorly translated handout.
Latina leaders have been at the helm of addressing these problems and of creating services, programs, and strategies that contemplate the needs of the Latino community through the appropriate cultural lens that is required to provide the best care and assistance. Only the hiring of bilingual/bicultural advocates can assure ongoing outreach to countless survivors who are not even aware of available victim services, and the engagement of Latin@ communities as partners in prevention.
This Hispanic Heritage Month we celebrate their leadership and support their efforts.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline has Spanish-speaking advocates available to assist survivors of violence. 1-800-799-7233
The RAINN hotline automatically connects a caller with the nearest victim assistance agency. 800-656-4673