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The Importance Of Interpreters In The Prevention Of Domestic Abuse

May 27, 2020by admin
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The United Kingdom is a vibrant, multicultural and linguistically diverse community, whereby new people from various backgrounds arrive into the country each and every day. Not only does this represent pivotal opportunities in terms of the country’s economic, social and cultural growth, but unfortunately, it also poses particular challenges in regards to trying to communicate with the significant proportion who are non-native speakers of English. In particular, this can have profound implications when an individual falls victim of domestic abuse or of some other form of gender based violence because they may be unable to seek the support or guidance due to language barriers. Even if a non-English speaker decides to pursue assistance without a professional mediator, this can lead to miscommunications or misunderstandings which can, in turn, skew or diminish the severity of the situation. This accentuates how professional and qualified interpreters play a crucial role in the prevention of any sort of domestic abuse or gender violence as well as of the safeguarding of vulnerable victims.

The Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) conveys how for the year ending March 2019, an estimation of at least 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (ONS, 2019). This figure is bound to be higher as it includes neither male victims nor those who kept their stories under the radar.   

Interpreting For Victims Of Domestic Abuse

According to Women’s Aid, “domestic abuse” is defined as “an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer”.

People of all cultures and backgrounds suffer from domestic violence and abuse. Unfortunately, when a victim is unable to speak sufficient English to communicate directly with authorities, this will have a significant impact on their ability to protect themselves and access support. This is the reason for why it is mandatory that interpreting services are readily available, easily accessible, accurate, gender-sensitive, confidential as well as fit for purpose. By facilitating access to trusted and reputable language service providers, this will provide life-changing opportunities to protect victims and safeguard them from future abuse.

Domestic AbuseIn addition, for those who are new to the country or who have not yet learnt to speak adequate English, they may have to confront additional obstructions that may prevent them from accessing the relevant domestic abuse support channels. For instance, cultural restraints, isolation within the household or community, a lack of a wider support network, unfamiliarity with British systems and facilities along with the fear of possible consequences regarding immigration status and children may all present emotional and systematic challenges to the victim. This is why they are heavily reliant on professional interpreting services to accurately relay, without any judgement, information and what they are experiencing to the appropriate authorities and support facilities.

Interpreting For Women Who Have Experienced Gender Based Violence

According to the European Institute For Gender Equality, gender based violence is “violence directed against a person because of their gender. Both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of victims are women and girls”.

This form of violence which is executed predominantly onto women and girls includes different acts that are perpetrated primarily by family members, such as forced marriage, harassment, restriction of financial or educational resources, female genital mutilation and so called “honour crimes”. In a foreign country, the difficulty of not knowing the local language aggravates the feelings of isolation and helplessness to the point whereby the victim can eventually be dissuaded from seeking help and taking legal action if necessary. That is why it is essential for language service providers to respond comprehensively to the communication difficulties that arise between the country’s foreign victims and public services in order to guarantee full emotional, psychological and physical safety. Essentially, easy access to interpreters grants victims the freedom to take the necessary measures so that they are able to progress on their journey to safety and survival.

Interpreting For Refugees & Asylum Seekers Who Fled Domestic Abuse Or Gender Based Violence

Additionally, many women who seek asylum in the UK do so as a result of having previously experienced gender-based violence in their household or even in the context of political persecution. Particularly for those who have an uncertain immigration status, or for those claiming asylum, the role of a professional interpreter to advocate on their behalf is vital. This is because any miscommunication or distrust can, unfortunately, prevent the correct details of an individual’s immigration case from being appropriately assessed and, in turn, complicate the procedure of getting them the necessary help, resources and guidance that they desperately need. This disadvantaged position leads to greater vulnerability and this is why language service providers need to act and bridge the gap between victims and access to support facilities. Interpreters can contribute to the prevention of further abuse, isolation and vulnerability as they are the component link between refugees or asylum seekers and organisations that provide domestic abuse, legal or other types of assistance.

How Can Language Service Providers Help In The Prevention Of Domestic Abuse And Other Forms Of Gender Based Violence?

Overall, foreign victims of domestic abuse and gender violence within our communities go largely unnoticed and unreported. Overcoming language barriers through professional public service interpreters will not only allow victims to approach support facilities and authorities, but it will also equip such support channels with the necessary language services so that they can inform possible victims of their services and the ways in which they can help.

Professional interpreting service providers should have systems and procedures in place that ensure exceptional services for cases of domestic abuse and gender based violence, including:

  • Clear recruitment procedures

  • Qualified linguists (for example, Diploma in Public Sector Interpreting or equivalent training, qualifications or experience)

  • Passed an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check

  • A comprehensive training programme which includes safeguarding victims of domestic and gender related abuse

  • Offer the service user the choice of having a male or female interpreter and whether they would like the session to be Face-to-Face or via a remote method (Telephone Interpreting or Video Interpreting)

  • Reassurance to all service users regarding the interpreter’s purpose and their professional duty to respect confidentiality

  • Interpreters who remain impartial and non-judgmental

For More Information

If you have found any of the above information as distressing in any way, or if you would like to seek support, please visit the following links:

National Domestic Abuse Helpline:
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