Don’t let a language barrier stop you from getting help with domestic violence

SA survivor wants public to know there are translation services at the shelter

SAN ANTONIO - – Ada Vilas immigrated to the United States for a relationship that quickly turned dangerous.

“She didn’t really know of her rights while she was here. So there was a lot of control in that relationship. She said that even for her son, there was a lot of verbal, emotional abuse to both of them, economic abuse,” said Rita Rodriguez, who is a case manager at the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter in San Antonio.

Vilas doesn’t speak English and was scared there would be no one to help her, but two months ago, she finally worked up the courage to call the shelter.

Rodriguez, who is bilingual, immediately became her case manager.

On Wednesday, Rodriguez sat right next to Vilas, translating as she told KSAT her story.

“It made a huge difference in my life. I even felt like I could see the light. Because whenever you try to, to seek help, just to communicate, it can be sometimes so difficult,” Vilas said.

Allowing a survivor to speak their native language makes them more comfortable talking about their most painful moments.

Family Violence Prevention Services, which runs the shelter, offers help in almost all languages.

The organization contracts with a company called MasterWord. When a case manager, a counselor, or even a legal adviser needs help with translation for the client, they just call a translator with MasterWord. They are able to hop on a Zoom call, or they can even go to the shelter in person.

“Before, we basically only had Spanish speakers, but for a while now, we’ve had language services in sign language, Mandarin, many others,” Rodriguez said.

It’s not just a shift happening in San Antonio.

The latest report from the Texas Council on Family Violence reported that there’s been a major increase in representation and translation services throughout the state.

Vilas, now free and empowered, is taking classes, learning English, and planning her life.

She hopes others will see that a language barrier is never a barrier to safety.

“Don’t be scared. It is not worth being in that situation because they’re here to help us no matter what language we speak,” Vilas said.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence, call Family Violence Prevention Services at (210) 733-8810.

You can immediately ask for translation services either from a bilingual staff member or through MasterWord.

There is also a long list of resources on the KSAT Domestic Violence webpage.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.