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.