Victims of Domestic Violence Who Don’t Speak English are Helpless by carlos matías
If you are a woman, live in Alaska, suffer sexual abuse or domestic violence, and don’t speak English, you’re helpless. In Anchorage, a group of volunteers assists victims and has been asking authorities for interpreters for two decades, as required by law. But they must hire them themselves.
Every year, official and private reports indicate that Alaska is the state with the highest rate of domestic and sexual violence in the country: 48%, according to a survey by the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) among 13,000 women. The Criminal Justice Commission has repeatedly addressed the issue.
There is an Office of Victims’ Rights, with the main phone number 907-754-3460 or 1-844-754-3460. And there are other phones. Emergency: 911. Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: 907-586-3650. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3244 (TTY) if you are hearing impaired. But if you don’t speak English fluently and with correct pronunciation, these numbers won’t do you any good. No one will understand you.
The Witness and Victim Assistance Program promises the free assistance of an interpreter at the fiscal office. The program is funded by the Office on Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal law mandates the availability of interpreters or translators. But it appears that the laws don’t reach Alaska.
In practice, the Administration has no interpreters in the 49th state of the Union, the “Last Frontier,” which we might call “the language frontier.” The situation has been described to Sol de Medianoche by Ninetta Regalado, a woman of Latino origin who has been part of a volunteer aid group for more than 18 years, in which they spend their time and money without any compensation from public funds, municipal, state, or federal. “Any public or private entity that receives federal aid is supposed to have interpreters available, as required by law. But that’s not the case,” she says, “although there are some clinics that do.”
A few years ago, Ninetta had to help a Latina woman who didn’t speak English (“many don’t,” she notes) and who had called the “Hot Line” with no one understanding her cry for help. “The husband was an abuser who had thrown her out of the house along with her five-month-old baby. At first, she was helped by an Alaska Native woman who was her neighbor.They called me and I took her in. But we both felt threatened and intimidated by the abuser, who prowled around my house.”
And the police? “The police did not protect them. In some villages and communities, there have been cases in which the police themselves and some ‘troopers’ stationed in nearby military bases were the abusers.” In native populations and among women of Hispanic or foreign origin, as well as in the most disadvantaged classes, sexual and violent abuse is more frequent. “We have been asking for official interpreters for more than 18 years,” says Ninetta, “but since there are none, we have to hire them ourselves. Over time, we have acquired a good number of languages, from Spanish (which is the majority language of the victims) to African Swahili.”
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska