It Should Not Rest on Me – Research and Plans to Mitigate Children as Interpreters 

Children who witness domestic violence are as likely to be negatively impacted as children who are direct targets of the violence. Experiencing and witnessing abuse impacts children’s cognitive, emotional, and overall health. For a child, it is scary and confusing when a parent harms the other parent. It is scary because the person who is responsible for their well-being is harming the other parent who also is responsible for providing safety, yet they are in no condition to protect while they are being harmed. It is confusing, because perhaps the parent who is causing harm has been a protector and at times loving.  

Children who are asked to interpret incidents of domestic violence involving their parents are further traumatized. As they are trying to make sense of a terrifying event, they must recount the violence they and the non-offending parent experienced to law enforcement and first responders. This burden is too heavy for a child to bear. The responsibility of accurately interpreting statements that may result in the arrest of the parent who inflicted violence cause children fear, worry, and guilt.  

The process of interpretation requires coding the original words in one language and decoding in a second language. Not only does it require skill, but it also necessitates visualizing/identifying twice – once the word is heard in one language and once the word is spoken in the second language. When children are asked to interpret, they are asked to visualize the violence they experience and/or witnessed then code and decode under duress. It is traumatic and this trauma is compounded by the guilt and or fear their interpretation may cause. Furthermore, children do not have knowledge and experience to accurately interpret events that require medical or legal interventions.  

For all these reasons, Esperanza United created, It Should Not Rest on Me, for law enforcement, first responders, and providers. This resource includes testimonies of children who have interpreted for their parents, research on the consequences of children interpreting, resources, and model language access plans adopted by police departments across the country. Institutions and organizations must implement language access plans to increase the safety and well-being not only of survivors of violence but the community as a whole. If your agency or organization is interested in training or technical assistance on language access or It Should Not Rest on Me, please email us at