The Importance of Bilingual Advocates
Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Contributed by Diana Tapp, Bilingual Victim Advocate, Greenville County Sheriff's Office
As the child of immigrants growing up in Miami, Florida, the aroma of home-cooked Cuban dishes, holiday parties and the constant shift between Spanish and English made up pieces of the simple but colorful mosaic of my childhood.
Like many immigrant families, mine emphasized the importance of hard work, family values and social responsibility. I was happy, supported and my family and I had reliable access to all the resources we needed. Miami was and still is a melting pot of ethnicities but somehow almost everyone spoke Spanish. In other words, though, it wasn’t easy for my family; there wasn’t a language barrier….for the most part.
Fast forward 25 years, my journey began in South Carolina where it didn’t take me long to realize that I was the minority. It was hard pressed for me to find another Spanish speaking person, let alone a Spanish speaking professional. I began my career at a soccer company that needed help in their International department. To say that the job was written specifically for me is an understatement. It wasn’t until then that I realized that SC was lacking in cultural diversity that I was used to living/working in. After several years working there, the company went out of business and I decided to get my Real Estate License.
I continued working and offering services to the community in the form of Real Estate sales and helping Hispanic families obtain a piece of the American dream, but it just wasn’t enough; I wanted to do more. I started volunteering at a local women’s shelter.
I was the only Spanish speaking volunteer at this shelter and I did it all; from translating house rules, intake forms and interpreting meetings with the counselors. I realized that access to Spanish speaking professionals was only the first obstacle. While interpreting, I observed cultural and language barriers. I was exhausted and discouraged at the lack of Spanish speaking professionals, so after 4 years of volunteering, a position with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office became available for a bilingual Victim Advocate. I knew at that moment that this was put in my path for a reason and I would be working as a Spanish professional in a bigger capacity.
I’ve been working as the bilingual Victim Advocate with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office for almost 7 years and still work with the women’s shelter I helped years ago.
During my tenure at the Sheriff’s Office, I have been part of many Hispanic town hall meetings educating the Hispanic community on resources available to them, their rights as victims and SC domestic violence and human trafficking laws. I have built relationships with local Spanish Churches, businesses, leaders and nonprofit organizations and have made many friends along the way. I have created and helped create programs specifically for the Hispanic community. I have helped guide, counsel, and mentor thousands of Spanish speaking victims.
A lot of good work has been done but feel that there are still some challenges. One of the biggest challenge for me is trying to convince the Hispanic community that they have the same rights as any other victim in the State. As an agency, the safety of our citizens is our number one priority regardless of where the victim came from or how they got here. I have been communicating that since day one and continue to do so every opportunity I get but feel that fear of deportation is the number one reason for not coming forward with their incident or reporting a crime.
In closing, I am inspired daily by the strength and fortitude of the people I come into contact with in my line of work; for the selflessness of the investigators and deputies and willingness to embrace the Hispanic culture by all those around me at the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and community as a whole.
Diana has spent six and a half years with The Greenville County Sheriff's Office as a Bilingual Victim Advocate/Case Manager counseling, guiding, and interviewing victims of crime in South Carolina. She has also assisted other agencies with interpreting for cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking such as the Attorney General's office, SLED, Highway Patrol, Homeland Security & ICE, the Julie Valentine Center, and many more. Diana also has accumulated over 5000 Victim Service Provider hours in Human Relations services to include domestic violence, sexual assault, motivational interviewing, mental illness, human trafficking, death notifications, and child fatalities.