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LOCAL News :: Children : Gender and Sexuality : Race & Ethnicity : Women

Rappahannock Council for Domestic Violence Bi-lingual Services Program

In mid-December 2005 the Rappahannock Council for Domestic Violence (RCDV) celebrated its development of a bi-lingual program to assist persons affected by domestic violence, with an emphasis on assisting and providing services for members of the Latina/o community in Fredericksburg, VA. With support from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, “La Positiva? Union Radio, and members of Fredericksburg’s police force, RCDV held its first committee meeting for the bi-lingual program. Due to the growing Spanish-speaking population in the Rappahannock area, the necessity for a program such as this was clear. Sylvia Torres, Hispanic/Latino Victim Services Coordinator at RCDV, explained that prior to the development of this program, very few members of RCDV knew Spanish well enough to respond to calls from members of the Latina/o community.
One of the biggest obstacles in reaching the Spanish-speaking community in the Fredericksburg area has been outreach. Not only was language a barrier to utilizing services offered by RCDV, but often members of the community were unaware of these services. During the meeting, one Latina survivor of domestic violence gave a testimony of her experiences trying to seek assistance. She explained that the police would not take her call because she could not explain her situation in English, and that she was unable to learn English, as she worked 12 hour days and had many domestic responsibilities as well. Additionally, she explained that the police refused to recognize her case as abuse, since there were no visible marks and no alcohol or drugs were involved. Experiences such as these initiated the development of the bi-lingual program at RCDV.

These language and cultural barriers severely limit the ability of those affected by domestic violence to communicate and gain access to resources. This not only is a burden to the Latina/o community dealing with domestic violence but the community as a whole. In a domestic violence situation when one person is dependent on the other in all spheres of their lives, it becomes even more challenging when someone is left on their own and then unable to communicate their needs due to the language barrier. It is absolutely critical that those affected by domestic violence receive the kind of support offered by RCDV, therefore it is necessary that RCDV’s services are offered in Spanish.

Sylvia Torres explained her beginnings with RCDV with the recognition of these problems affecting members of the Latina/o community experiencing domestic violence, and that a program such as this was necessary in assisting these people. In fall 2005 RCDV submitted a proposal and received a grant for developing this program, including legal services, medical services, and counseling. They are now working on translating all of their documents into Spanish as well as providing Spanish classes to the current staff in order to respond to calls. In addition, RCDV is working on community awareness, specifically with law enforcement and those in emergency medical centers. Their main effort in doing this is to make connections with those usually responding to reports of domestic violence, and to refer them to RCDV’s trained staff, who recognize that not all forms of domestic violence are necessarily physical.

RCDV is comprised primarily of volunteer advocates, and they are continually looking for new additions to their staff. There are endless ways to provide assistance and support for the organization ranging from clothing, food or monetary donations to court advocacy or volunteering at the shelter.

The most essential goal of RCDV is to inform members of the community, both Spanish speaking and English speaking, that the center provides a number of necessary resources and services to assist anyone affected by domestic violence.

Sylvia Torres, Hispanic/Latino Victim Services Coordinator
sylviat (at) rcdv.com

Kathy Anderson, Executive Director
kathy (at) rcdv.com

24-Hour Hot Line: (540) 373-9373
Toll Free Line: (540) 734-7238
Website: www.rcdv.com

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance: www.vsdvalliance.org/
Union Radio - “La Positiva? (1350 AM): (540) 361-1278

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