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Serving Victims' Language Needs

According to 2007 Census data, approximately 55 million people older than age 5 in the United States, or 19.7 percent of the population, speak a language other than English at home, a number that has "increased steadily for the last three decades."19 In addition, dialects differ from country to country and community to community, which underscores cultural differences among people speaking the same language.

These demographic changes have important implications for SARTs—teams can no longer assume that victims speak English or that print materials written in English will be accessible to all victims. Today, in nearly every part of the country, SARTs must be able to communicate in one or more languages other than English.

To meet varied language needs, consider the following questions adapted from Linguistic Competence in Primary Health Care Delivery Systems: Implications for Policy Makers:20

  • Does your mission statement include a reference to providing linguistically and culturally competent services?
  • Do you have policies and procedures in place that support diverse and linguistically competent services?
  • Does your fiscal planning include efforts to ensure the provision of translation and interpretation services?
  • Are victim consent forms, brochures, and pamphlets in formats that meet the language needs of your community's victims?
  • Do your policies and procedures evaluate the quality and appropriateness of interpretation and translation services?
  • Do you have community outreach initiatives to persons with limited English proficiency (LEP)?
  • Do you have a process for reviewing the emerging demographic trends of the jurisdiction?

In other words, you will need to make an institutional commitment to language accessibility and culturally competent services before you can begin planning and implementing language assistance guidelines. Integrate language services into your guidelines and protocols; don't just see them as a supplemental project or a special services component.

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