Interpreting for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Cases

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Interpreting for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Cases

Between 1990 and 2013, the number of individuals with limited English proficiency in the United States grew by 80%. This represents 9% of the total U.S. population. And more than one in every five people in the US currently speaks a language other than English at home. Our civil and criminal justice systems must effectively respond to all people seeking safety and justice through the courts, including those with limited-English proficiency.  Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault can face special challenges as they navigate the justice system. A survivor with Limited-English proficiency (LEP) can encounter even greater obstacles to finding help, recovery and justice.  This introductory course— Interpreting for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Cases— seeks to equip court and legal interpreters with fundamental knowledge and insights about domestic violence and sexual assault that will enhance their ability to help LEP survivors make their voices heard.  


Interpreting for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Cases consists of self-paced interactive modules (generally 20-45 minutes in length) guided by a virtual coach.  Participants can move through the course with several navigational tools and may return to various learning points.  The first two modules of the course offer a learning experience for interpreters as well as other professionals in the justice system who may encounter domestic violence and sexual assault survivors with limited English proficiency.  Subsequent modules will have a greater focus on the interpreter’s role and the critical skills and specific knowledge needed to most competently interpret in domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

In modules 1 and 2, participants will be immersed in a first-person encounter and interactive learning to:

  • Recognize the unique dynamics of domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Understand the impact that language differences, culture, immigration status, and trauma may have on LEP survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their efforts to access safety and justice
  • Experience an LEP survivor’s journey through the civil and criminal justice systems
  • Understand the challenges and language barriers LEP survivors may encounter in the court process
  • Recognize the critical points where knowledgeable and culturally-appropriate court interpretation and translation are needed

Estimated Time to Complete Course
Module 1: 30 min.
Module 2: 45 min.

NOTE: This course awards a certificate of completion upon successfully passing an assessment quiz for each module of the course.

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) produced this course with support from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), U.S. Department of Justice.  NCSC thanks our project partners, subject-matter experts, and OVW staff for their valuable substantive contributions to content and their expert guidance on overall course development.  They include: Marjory Bancroft, Director and Founder of Cross-Cultural Communications; Cannon Han, former Director of Interpretation Technical Assistance and Resource Center (ITARC), and Wendy Lau, Director of ITARC, for the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence; Jean Bruggeman, Executive Director of Freedom Network USA; Lois M. Feuerle, Oregon Health Authority Council on Health Care Interpreters; Isabel Framer, President and CEO of Language Access Consultants, LLC; Julie Aldrich, Program Specialist, and Neelam Patel, Team Lead Program Specialist for Training and Technical Assistance for OVW. 

This product was supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K050 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.