A Peek at a New Resource for Domestic Violence Victims who are Limited English Proficient
Imagine for a moment that you are the victim of domestic violence and are enduring the ongoing physical and emotional violence of your abusive intimate partner. Now, imagine that during a particularly dangerous attack, you call 911 so that the police will come and help you and your children. The police arrive, but you are unable to communicate with them because you are a non-citizen and English is not your primary language. Your abuser, on the other hand, speaks English well and, instead of talking to you, the police only interview your abuser because they don’t call for an interpreter. As a result, you have no way of explaining what actually happened from your perspective. Later, a domestic violence advocate advises you to seek an order of protection in family court. You are not really sure what an order of protection is or how to get one. Your experience with the police has alarmed you and you are not sure how to even begin taking the steps you need to take to get help without language assistance.
This nightmarish scenario is the reality for many domestic violence victims in New York State who are Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning English is not their primary language and they have a limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English. An estimated 2.4 million residents of New York are LEP.
Unfortunately, many LEP victims of domestic violence are unaware that both state and federal law require the courts, the police, and other service providers to offer language assistance at no charge when LEP individuals seek help. In addition to language barriers, victims may be hesitant to access the civil or criminal justice system because they fear losing custody of their children or immigration consequences, such as deportation and removal from the United States. Lack of familiarity with the legal system, as well as economic, cultural and religious barriers may also conspire to erect additional barriers for victims in their attempts to stop the abuse they suffer.
We are pleased to report that Empire Justice Center has produced a pamphlet designed to address this problem by clearly outlining the language access rights of limited English proficient victims in Family Court and how to access other services. The pamphlet will be translated into the top 3 most common languages requested in New York’s courts. In an effort to reflect actual experiences with courts and police, as well as the real life fears and barriers to seeking help for this project, Empire Justice Center surveyed various domestic violence and legal services providers across the state and used the information to inform the text.
The new resource, “Seeking Protection from Domestic Violence in New York’s Family Court: Information for Immigrant Victims with Limited English Proficiency” is now available in English. It is easily downloadable and will shortly be available in Spanish, Russian, Simplified Chinese— in addition to English. For organizations that would like to order copies of this pamphlet in bulk, they will also be able to do so through our website. Stay tuned! In the next few days we will reveal the translated brochures!!!