Spanish-language video on sexual assault lauded

Montgomery crisis center produces 12-minute tape for Hispanic women

April 27, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ROCKVILLE -- When Montgomery County rape counselors wanted to buy a Spanish-language videotape to educate women, they searched in vain.

But with a $30,000 state grant, they made one -- the first in the state and believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

Yesterday, the 12-minute video received its first public viewing, and was hailed by Hispanic leaders and victim assistance advocates.

"Thank you, Montgomery County, for listening to the voice of the Hispanic community," said Karen Hartz, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "No other video is targeted to the Hispanic people."

With one exception, the video uses Spanish-speaking people -- a police officer, prosecutor, counselor -- to explain what happens to the victim who reports a sexual assault. The only English-speaking participant, a nurse from Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, has been dubbed in Spanish.

"When we interviewed producers, everyone wanted to do it in English, then leave it to us to translate. I knew that wouldn't work because we were going to lose a lot of the cultural nuances," explained Nadja Cabello, manager of the county's Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program (VASAP).

She said counselors know more than a language barrier must be overcome to aid a victim. Cultural considerations can make the sexual assault of a Hispanic woman different from that of an Anglo woman.

"We have to keep in mind the macho culture and how men would react if their wives or family members were assaulted," she said.

Montgomery County has a Hispanic population of 80,000 -- almost half Maryland's total, according to a 1997 U.S. Census report.

In 1993, 9.6 percent of new cases at VASAP came from the Hispanic community. Last year, that number was 20 percent, Cabello said.

The video almost didn't get made, when bids by producers reached $150,000.

But Cabello located Creative Associates International, a Washington-based producer that agreed to shoot the script in Spanish and within her budget. She recruited Montgomery officials such as Assistant State's Attorney Carlos Acosta and police Officer Christian Miranda to play themselves.

The tape shows four scenarios: a date rape and assaults in a parking lot, an elevator and in a home.

"It is an educational video, but it is a preventive tool, too. It can trigger conversations about situations to avoid," Cabello said. "It is realistic without being graphic."

Debbie Andrews, who heads the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, said the video will be adopted by many of the group's 829 crisis centers around the country.

"Spanish-speaking women are often overlooked in our outreach efforts," Andrews said. "This video shows there are people in the community who will take them seriously."

The video can be borrowed from county libraries and community service centers. The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault will distribute the tapes to crisis centers throughout the state.

Information: VASAP, 301-217- 1355.

Pub Date: 4/27/99

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