10 Tips for Interpreting for Victims of Trauma

Interpreters… what do you need to know when interpreting for victims of trauma?⁠ A lot! Thankfully, there is a training program to prepare interpreters to work with survivors of violent crime and natural disasters, with a strong focus on domestic violence and sexual assault — Breaking Silence: Interpreting for Victim Services.⁠ It will prepare you with the best practices and tools when interpreting in these delicate and complex situations.⁠

10 Tips on Preparing to Interpret for Survivors of Trauma:⁠

  • Inform yourself as much as possible beforehand.⁠
  • Have boundary rituals (e.g., put on a special bracelet or scarf for assignments that means something to you and offers mental reassurance).⁠
  • Prepare to interpret body parts and terms for violence.⁠
  • Practice interpreting coarse and obscene language in a mirror (to be sure you don’t display discomfort).⁠
  • Establish a “distress” signal with the provider (who can call for a break).⁠
  • Plan for visualization of peaceful imagery.⁠
  • Rehearse deep breathing (before, during and after the encounter).⁠
  • Prepare for possible interpreter distress.⁠ ⁠
  • When there’s silence in the room, stay silent. ⁠
  • Ask your agency about vicarious trauma resources for you!

Above all, make a conscious decision to display warmth and compassion.⁠

When interpreting for survivors of trauma, the BEST thing we can do as the interpreter is letting their voice being heard.⁠