The Right to a Voice

The Right to a Voice

Today I was thinking about the issue of access to services for healing from the devastating impact of intentional acts of violence, such as torture, war trauma and sexual violence.  A friend of mine told me of a community agency that provides therapy for these courageous survivors that is folding – shutting its doors.

I didn’t ask for details.  Having worked for many years with nonprofit agencies, I know that there are many reasons that a small agency flounders.  Sometimes it is because of financial issues when big donors suddenly no longer have the agency in its list of priorities.  Sometimes it is because of internal strife or leadership conflicts.  Sometimes the agency no longer meshes with the community where it is located and the services are not sought.  For whatever reason in this case, it crystallized in my thoughts the various elements that it takes to access services.

A major one, of course, is the availability of the service itself, and when our beloved community agencies close, that service may be difficult to find.  Another element is the understanding of the survivor that s/he has the right to heal and recover, and the available service is perceived as accessible to him or her.  Then there is the training and expertise of mental health professionals who address the consequences of intentional violence and creating a safe place to begin healing.

And of course, foremost in the mind of an interpreter educator such as myself is the ability of a survivor of major trauma to express hi-m or herself in the mother-tongue . To heal and grow and find support, survivors need all their thoughts, feelings, and experiences related accurately and compassionately in English so that the service provider can hear every detail.  And they also need to hear and understand the provider.

I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute to this act of giving voice–-through participating in Healing Voices and The Voice of Love.  I look forward to interacting with you, dear reader, as we continue to improve all aspects of language access for those whose voices have been suppressed. Giving voice to survivors of deep trauma is beautiful work.

Nora Goodfriend-Koven

Nora Goodfriend-Koven is a full time instructor at City College of San Francisco – in the Healthcare Interpreter Certificate Program.

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