“Necesito ayuda. Por favor, ayúdame,” a desperate voice says on one of end of the phone. But the person receiving the call doesn’t speak Spanish. Even so, they can tell from the caller’s tone, they need help. Confusion and anxiety rises by the minute on both ends of the line.
The scenario is far too common for victims of trauma in the Latino community, but thanks to a newly expanded service from the Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center (LIVE Center), victims will soon find comfort at the other end of a 24/7 hotline.
“Our main goal is to ensure any Spanish-speaking victim of violence or trauma can receive services in Spanish at any time of the day, night or weekend,” said Gabriela Telepman, support services coordinator for the LIVE Center. “They never have to leave a message, and they won’t have to navigate mainstream English-speaking systems.”
Shifting to the 24/7 model on Jan. 4, 2021, the helpline (888-969-1825) from the LIVE Center will be able to serve Spanish-speaking individuals across Virginia who are need of counseling, support and resources designed to help them through a variety of situations.
LIVE Center is Virginia’s first and only agency that provides cultural and linguistic-specific services to Latino families affected by violence and injustice. While the organization caters to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, the scope of trauma reaches other areas like hate crime, harassment and human trafficking.
“There are other domestic and sexual abuse hotlines, but what makes us different is that we can guarantee that the person answering the phone is bilingual, bicultural and is a trained advocate,” said Elvira De la Cruz, executive director and CEO of the center. “Other organizations have protocols to connect a Spanish-speaker to language services, but sometimes they can’t explain that. That one minute you’re in crisis, you’re in silence, and if you’re a victim, you may not understand and you hang up.”
Time is of the essence in a crisis, and the advocates staffing the hotline are looking to close the time gap between a phone call and access to resources. LIVE Center has partnerships with taxi services, hotels and other nonprofits and agencies that help give their clients the resources they need – when they need them.
In addition to breaking down the Spanish-language barrier during a crisis event, the advocates of LIVE Center have shared, lived experiences that they can bring to the table, adding value to both clients and service providers across Virginia.
“We take down the language barriers and the cultural barriers and help get access to services,” said De la Cruz. “We get calls from police and service providers to help. People feel like they can come to us, and we’re going to be a tool they can use. We’re going to help them navigate the language and the cultural differences that are also important.”
The 24/7 hotline can be reached at 888-969-1825.