Domestic Violence Victims Sue NYPD

Domestic abuse victims criticized the NYPD for their handling of cases where a language barrier existed. The victims received public support from Councilwoman Gale Brewer (bottom left) and Sin-Yin Chen, of the Center for Asian Women Crime Victims (far right), with victim Arlet Macareno speaking (center). (Photo by Anthony Navarrete/Legal Services NYC via World Journal)

On behalf of five immigrant survivors of domestic violence, Legal Services NYC will take legal action against the NYPD for not providing the limited-English speakers with interpretation services, and thereby compromising the rights of those victims.

The organization, which provides free legal services, held a press conference on March 21 at City Hall where surviving victims, accompanied by elected officials and advocacy groups, spoke about harrowing consequences that resulted from a lack of English proficiency.

Both El Diario-La Prensa and World Journal cover the press conference, providing angles relevant to their respective communities.

According to El Diario-La Prensa, the group of immigrant women filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for failing to provide an interpreter when they tried to report the crimes.

“This is America and you need to speak English, not Spanish,” was the reply the women got from the officers, said Legal Services coordinator Amy Taylor, who represents the five women.

The story, by Cristina Loboguerrero, goes on to say that the federal lawsuit was filed by three women from Mexico, one from Guatemala and another one from Ecuador.

Staten Island resident Arlet Macareno, 26, who spoke at the press conference, experienced the worst hours of her life on August 6 last year, after she called the police to report that her husband hit her and threw her down a flight of stairs.

“Even though I asked for an interpreter, they wouldn’t give it to me. I tried to explain to the police what had happened, but they arrested me and let my husband – who does speak English – go home,” said Macareno, the mother of a seven year-old child.

Without understanding why she had been arrested, Macareno pled guilty to minor charges at her lawyer’s advice. “He told me it was difficult to beat a police offer. I got six months of probation and every time I have to go to court I’m absolutely terrified,” she said.

NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne didn’t comment on the lawsuit, but said that in the police department, “in addition to thousands of police officers who speak Spanish, there are more than 1,400 translators speaking as many as 64 different languages.”

The World Journal gave further examples of the dire situations faced by domestic abuse victims as a result of limited English skills.

There were also incidents where the abusers could speak English, and the police sided with them and arrested the victims instead.  Victims also pointed out that some police would allow children in the family to translate, but the some female victims of sexual abuse kept their mouth shut to shield their children from psychological harm. In the end, these factors caused restraining orders to be denied thus thwarting the progression of the case.

The article included two local organizations that serve Asian female victims of domestic abuse.

In one of the organizations, the New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC), “85 percent of the women we serve have a primary language other than English.” Sin-Yin Chen, of the Center for Asian Women Crime Victims division of the NYAWC, was present at the press conference and described the situation confronted by the women with whom the organization works and what they do to help the women.

Many of them are afraid of the police, thus refuse to report the crime in a timely manner.  She also pointed out that the center can provide interpretation services to the police to assist the victims and to build cross-cultural trust.  The goal is to provide the necessary protection to the victims.

Another organization, Garden of Hope, caters to Chinese immigrant women who have endured domestic abuse. Its executive director told of situations their clients faced.

Garden of Hope’s executive director, Kristen Liu, said that many new immigrant female victims may be wrongfully accused by their husbands or boyfriends who can speak fluent English.  In addition, there are also women who, due to language barriers, find themselves in a situation where the police report ends up being the complete opposite of what actually happened.  Chinese women who wish to seek legal help and who feel that the police have mishandled their case can call the Garden of Hope’s free hotline at 1-877-990-8595.

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