Safe/unsafe: the impact of horizontal violence, microaggressions, and decision making control on ASL/English interpreters


Safe/unsafe: the impact of horizontal violence, microaggressions, and decision making control on ASL/English interpreters
Sarah Hill
Degree Name
Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies
Project Type
<p>The purpose of this study was to start collecting the narratives and definitions for the word “safety” as it is used within the American Sign Language/ English interpreting community. I had both heard in spoken English and seen signed in American Sign Language the term “safety” being used by interpreters when they discussed different settings in which they had worked. The way “safety” was described indicated that these interpreters were not referring to their physical safety but, rather, to their emotional or psychological safety. There are no formal recorded narratives that are explicitly focused on the concept of emotional “safety” and what it means to interpreters in the sign language interpreting community. In this study, interviews were conducted to record the narratives of six interpreters who work as American Sign Language/English interpreters. The six participants interviewed have diverse backgrounds and identity demographics. Face-to-face interviews, conducted in person or through video conferencing, with six experienced American Sign Language/ English interpreters from diverse backgrounds, were used to collect the narrative data. <a>[JSO1]</a> Analysis of the data leads to the conclusion that the interpreters interviewed have had experiences of working in a setting where they felt they were not “safe.” While each participant’s reasoning for not feeling safe differed in detail, all had common themes that aligned with the initial literature review. Three themes were found in the data: psychological safety, microaggressions, and limited control in decision making. For all themes, the interpreters reported resulting feelings of shame and unworthiness. This was expressed in negative self-talk regarding the interpreter’s worth as a professional. Several of the interpreters questioned their ability to do this work and questioned whether or not they should leave the profession. Several of the interpreters reported they had a hard time separating the identity they hold as a professional from themselves as a person; therefore, if they were unworthy as an interpreter, they were also unworthy as a person. Findings from this study can help professionals in the field move toward finding remedies for these occurrences. Hopefully, this research will help others reflect on how interpreters work with one another in a supportive and successful way, rather than emotionally threatening those who do this work and, potentially, degrading the work that interpreters do.</p>
Committee Member
Elisa Maroney, Audrey Ramirez-Loudenback, Amanda Smith
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