Going to Court: A Guide for Domestic Violence Victims with Limited English Proficiency

Domestic violence victims have a right to understand the court system because their lives depend on it.

The Problem

Many domestic violence victims are immigrants with limited English proficiency. They are often involved in the court system, dealing with civil, family or criminal matters. They do not have an understanding of the court processes or the ability to ask court personnel for information. Often they do not even know what they should be asking. Materials about the court system are rarely available in languages other than English, so there are very limited opportunities to learn about it. This lack of understanding can result in poorer outcomes that affect the victim’s future, and increased anxiety and stress that affect the well-being of the victim and family.

The Solution

ATASK’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program addresses the specific needs of immigrant Asians building new lives following domestic violence. The classes are taught by a trauma-informed instructor with a background in mental health.

This project will develop a curriculum to advance students’ understanding of the court system and processes. Another goal is to increase students’ capacity to communicate in English with attorneys, court personnel and advocates involved in their case.

Through this curriculum, students will ask more informed questions when they are working with their lawyers, equip them with pertinent vocabulary needed during the legal process, prepare them for the encounters they will be facing in court, and reduce anxiety experienced in and leading up to court.

ATASK has operated the ESOL Program for 15 years. We have experience in developing curriculum for topics pertinent to the needs of immigrant victims. Topics include employment in the service industry sector, communicating with healthcare providers, and parenting. As a domestic violence agency, we have the content needed for this project. The ESOL instructor will develop the ESOL curriculum once funding is secured. Materials developed would be used, not just in the ESOL class, but throughout the entire agency.

Planned Use Of Funds

Funding would support the salary of our ESOL instructor, as well as the development and printing of materials needed to teach the curriculum.

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds

Shared Nation would be funding the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK), a domestic violence agency in MA that provides linguistically and culturally relevant services to Pan Asian victims of violence. Our services include a 24-hour multilingual hotline, emergency shelter, case management and advocacy, legal program and ESOL classes. Our services are provided by a multilingual and multicultural staff that collectively speaks 20 Asian languages and dialects.

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