Civil protective orders are frequently issued as a means of protecting domestic violence victims/survivors from their abusers. From a legal perspective, the intent of protective orders is to reduce future harm associated with any individual considered a threat. However, the issuance of protective orders is dependent on multiple factors involving level of threat, perceived harm, past victim-abuser interactions, as well as the ability for an individual to articulate their victimization and apprehensions of continued threats to the court. The aforementioned factors, in addition to understandings of courtroom procedures, are perceived as potential barriers to accessing justice. Little research has examined factors related to language barriers faced by English as a Second Language (ESL) and/or Limited English Proficiency (LEP) applicants as they access the courts for orders of protection. Structured observations of protection order hearings were conducted in a civil court. In evaluating the many challenges faced by ESL/LEP applicants seeking protection orders, this research suggests that, in addition to language, the use of translators/interpreters is itself a barrier to access to justice.

 

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