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Serving Victims' Language Needs

Interpreter Services

If you don't have multilingual members on your team, you have a responsibility to use qualified language interpreters and make certain that interpreters do not breach victim confidentiality. Establishing clear standards and guidelines can positively guide the interpre­tation process. Consider victims' country of origin, acculturation level, and dialect when you arrange interpretation services. You also may want to collaborate with qualified interpreters in your jurisdiction to develop training opportunities related to sexual assault trauma, confidentiality, and cultural concerns.

An interpreter is needed whenever there is an interaction with an individual, family, or group who do not speak English well or who indicate that they will need an interpreter to participate. Providing interpretation services requires advance planning. To prepare your program, agency, or organization for working with individuals and families from diverse language backgrounds, consider the importance of SARTs to victims; the number of LEP persons eligible for or likely to seek services; how often victims come into contact with SART agencies and organizations; and available resources and costs.

When using interpreters, talk directly to the victim, not to the interpreter. Use short, simple statements, ask one question at a time, and speak in plain language. Make sure to plan in more time with the victim because using interpreters can double the time needed for interviews.

When selecting interpreters, consider whether21

  • Interpreters are proficient in the languages of victims they typically serve.
  • Interpreters speak the same dialects as victims they typically serve.
  • Victims or interpreters seem unwilling or embarrassed to speak.
  • Victims and interpreters understand the questions asked.