Interpreting in gender violence settings: the SOS-VICS project


One in three women in the European Union has suffered a form of gender-based violence (FRA 2014). The Speak for Support (SOS-VICS) project, led by the University of Vigo, Spain, was a project cofunded by DG Justice to research how to improve communication between public service providers and foreign victims of gender violence who do not speak the language through professional interpreters in Spain.

Interpreting in gender violence settings SOSVICS

The SOS-VICS project was the first project of its kind to be carried out in the EU. Similar experiences had been set up in Canada and Australia, but this was the first time a project of these characteristics and size was successfully implemented in Spain. The main objective of the Speak Out for Support (SOS-VICS) project, which run between 2012-2014, was to facilitate efficient communications between non-Spanish speaking gender-based violence victims and service-providers (agents, such as judges, public prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, [forensic] psychologists, [forensic] doctors, social workers, NGO-staff, etc.) through well trained interpreters by creating specialised training materials for interpreters, best practice guidelines for agents and multilingual information materials for victims/survivors. Furthermore, the project aimed at raising awareness about the importance of hiring qualified, professional and specialised interpreters to work with GV victims and agents, in order to guarantee the rights of such victims as foreseen in Directive 2012/29/EU, in particular in article 7 on “Right to interpretation and translation” of victims who do not understand or speak the language of the criminal proceedings. All the work was cofunded between the Criminal Justice Programme of the European Union and the Project Partners, namely the following nine Spanish Universities:

  • University of Vigo (Coordinator)
  • University of La Laguna
  • University Jaume I
  • University of Granada
  • University of Salamanca
  • Autonomous University of Barcelona
  • University of Alicante
  • University Foundation of Balmes
  • University of Alcalá de Henares

Project partners carried out the work with the great support of a network of professionals, i.e. Associate Partners:

  • Spanish Professional Association of Court and Sworn Interpreters and Translators (APTIJ)
  • Vigo Gender Violence Judge, Mrs. María Paz Filgueira Paz
  • Vigo Public Prosecution Office
  • Galician Legal Medicine Institute (IMELGA)
  • European Academy of Yuste
  • Ana Bella Foundation
  • Women Network Against Gender-based violence of Vigo
  • Organic GV Unit from the Cabildo of Tenerife
  • Mercedes Machado Association

SOSVICS Forensic doctorProject activities were carried out in three different stages. The firs stage was devoted to the compilation and analysis of the communication needs of victims and the different agents involved from all over Spain. This was done using a combined research methodology: a questionnaire survey for agents who work or had worked with foreign GV victims (586 responses throughout Spain), Delphi survey with interpreters who work or had worked with foreign GV victims (27 responses), four Focus groups with agents specialised in GV (50 agents), interviews with experts in GV (12) and interviews with foreign GV victims (12 interviews, 7 nationalities). The data obtained was used as the reference to design and produce a set of project deliverables.

During the second stage of the project, deliverables were created. The SOS-VICS project produced a manual and a web portal with training resources for interpreters and interpreter trainers, a handbook for agents on how to work with interpreters, and a multilingual information video, poster and leaflet for victims in Spanish, English, French, Arabic, Romanian and Chinese. In addition to project deliverables, the University of Vigo funded and organised two additional training workshops on interpreting in GV contexts (24th April and 24th September, 2014).

During the third and final stage, project methodology and results were disseminated in different contexts and countries. In order to ensure best dissemination, a lot of effort was concentrated on raising awareness both in society and the public institutions about the need to work with qualified and specialised interpreters when assisting victims and survivors of gender-violence. SOSVICS policeThe First International SOS-VICS Conference was held in Vigo (25th and 26th September, 2014) and brought together more than 300 participants and speakers from various countries (Canada, U.S., U.K., Ireland, Belgium, etc.) with experience in training interpreters to work with GV victims & survivors. The conference was a platform for disseminating project results which were echoed internationally.

The key results of the project were:

  • Research: development of the first comprehensive fieldwork on interpreting in GV settings involving agents, interpreters and victims, as well as the design and testing of a methodology applicable throughout the EU for further research;
  • Training: creation of the first specialised training materials for interpreters in Spain and organisation of two pilot training sessions, plus huge awareness-raising on the need for specialised training among interpreters, students, trainers and agents;
  • Media: regional and national awareness-raising on the current vulnerability of victims who do not speak the language through press releases and media interviews involving project members. A national award was given to a young journalist who reported on SOS-VICS (2014 Best Youth Journalism Award for GV coverage, Spanish Youth Institute);
  • Social: acknowledgement of project’s contribution to fight GV at the regional (Award for the work done in the field of GV during 2013, Spanish Central Government Representation in the Canary Islands) and national (2014 Violet Prize for International Commitment, Spanish Socialist Youth Organisation) levels;
  • Policy: inclusion for the first time of a) the right to translation and interpretation and b) of the national register of interpreters and translators in the Spanish Draft Law on the Standing of the Victim of Crime. Several meetings with regional and national policy makers from Departments/Ministries of Justice, Gender Equality and GV were held to inform and discuss implementation of EU Directives 2010/64 and 2012/29.

SOSVICS courtThe greatest impact of SOS-VICS was to bring together agents and interpreters for the first time to discuss how best to communicate with foreign victims who do not understand or speak the language. Agents were made aware of the importance of quality translation/interpretation and of the poor current conditions of interpreting in public services. Interpreters participated in the creation of specialised training materials to better perform during interaction with victims and, thus, to help enhance victims’ rights. As for victims, the greatest impact was to make their linguistic and cultural barriers visible through testimonies of real victims and to create innovative and multilingual information materials to empower them. A continuation of SOS-VICS is foreseen in future projects, since there is still a long way to go in the implementation of quality interpreting and translation in contexts of gender-based violence.

Written by Dr. Maribel del Pozo, SOS-VICS Coordinator, Lecturer at the University of Vigo specialised in Legal and Public Service Interpreting.


  • Fundamental Rights Agency-FRA (2014) Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. Main results. Available at: (Accessed 18 May 2017)
  • SOS-VICS (2014) “About the project”, SOS-VICS website. Available at: (Accessed 18 May 2017)
  • SOS-VICS (2014) Web de formación SOS-VICS. Available at: (Accessed 18 May 2017)