*** Press Release ***
October 30, 2007
San FranciscoLaunches Mobile Language Interpretation Project
for Domestic Violence Survivors
(San Francisco, CA) On Tuesday, October 30, in honor of October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Chief Heather Fong, City Administrator Ed Lee, and Commissioner Dorka Keehn of the Commission on the Status of Women, joined with AT&T, Language Line Services, and community-based organizations to announce a new tool in the effort to provide assistance to domestic violence survivors who speak English with limited proficiency–mobile phones.
As Kathy Black, Executive Director of La Casa de las Madres, a program for battered women, teens, and their children, explained, Our monolingual and bilingual domestic violence clients are in even more danger when they can't tell the police about what is going on for them.
Responding to a key finding from the Department on the Status of Women's report, Safety for All: Identifying and Closing the Gaps in San Francisco's Domestic Violence Criminal Justice Response, and an Executive Directive issued by Mayor Newsom, The City Administrator Ed Lee met with community-based organizations providing support and services to victims of domestic violence and San Francisco's criminal justice agencies to explore ways to address the problems limited English proficient domestic violence survivors have getting the help they need from the criminal justice system.
This collaboration between criminal justice agencies and community providers is a critical step in closing the gaps that may leave some of our residents feeling vulnerable or unsafe, noted Mayor Newsom. Furthermore, this interpretation tool acknowledges the city's diversity and reinforces our commitment to providing city services that are more culturally competent.
AT&T is donating phones that will be used by San Francisco's Police Department, Department of Emergency Management (9-1-1), District Attorney's Office, Adult Probation Department, Public Defender's Office, and Sheriff's Department. "A wireless phone is a nice thing to have for connecting with others during life's day-to-day interactions. But when it comes to domestic violence, nice-to-have becomes must-have. A cell phone can be a lifeline," said Sylvia Samano, vice president of AT&T External Affairs in the Bay Area. "Through this innovative partnership, all of us at AT&T hope these wireless phones play at least a small part in helping your overall mission to eradicate domestic violence. Because, sadly, domestic violence knows no boundaries."
The phones will directly connect with Language Line Services. If an English speaking Police Officer responds to a domestic violence call and discovers that the victim does not speak English, she or he will be able to use the phone to immediately access an interpreter who can provide live translation. Louis Provenzano, Language Line Services' President and Chief Operating Officer, noted that over the company's 25-year history and millions of interpreter calls, a key solution to helping those in need is by doing so in the languages they prefer& their own. Our company literally evolved from the good work of San Jose police officers on the street, communicating with Vietnamese speakers in the early 1980s through language interpreters, added Provenzano. Today, we welcome the opportunity to serve the City of San Francisco and its various communities of limited English speakers in over 170 languages.
A mobile phone that connects directly to Language Line Services is such a simple solution; it's amazing that none of us thought of it earlier. We are particularly pleased that AT&T and Language Line Services have joined us as partners in this effort, said City Administrator Ed Lee, who has made language access for San Francisco residents a departmental priority. The rapid connection to interpreters will insure that District Attorneys can more easily interview domestic violence survivors, Adult Probation Officers may work more closely with victims to make sure that batterers do not re-offend, and patrol officers on the street can help a victim in crisis right away.
San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong summed up many people's perspective when she said, Deploying bilingual police officers to work with Limited English Proficient victims is the gold standard for the San Francisco Police Department, but that is not yet always possible. I am excited about being able to offer my police officers a reliable alternative. This fits into the Department's overall plan for improving language access.
We have been concerned for a long time about the lack of options for domestic violence victims who need help from the criminal justice system in San Francisco, but either do not speak English at all or have only a limited ability to do so.Knowing that police officers and other criminal justice representatives will not misunderstand what a victim is reporting, or have to rely on children to interpret is a great relief for all of us, said Commissioner Dorka Keehn of the Commission on the Status of Women.