Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Marion County Prosecutor’s Office pushes to ensure rights of Spanish-speaking victims in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Crimes against Hispanics oftentimes go unreported because many in the community fear questions about their status, but the Marion County prosecutor is working to change that.

There’s a Mexican-American woman who is paving the way by ensuring the rights of Spanish-speaking victims.

The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing population in Marion County. “You look at the numbers and you see how quickly our demographics are growing,” said Karla Lopez-Owens, community outreach director with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.

Lopez-Owens wants to make sure that Spanish-speaking Hoosiers who are victims of crimes such as domestic violence get the help they need regardless of their status. “I was in their shoes at one point. I was undocumented. I didn’t get my citizenship until I was 18, so I grew up being afraid of the police and I grew up being afraid of these agencies. I didn’t know that they were there to help me,” Lopez-Owens said.

The prosecutor’s office says its certified Spanish interpreters serve around 300 Spanish-speaking victims a year. Maria Wildridge, the office’s director of Latino services and outreach, is one of two Spanish interpreters at the office. “I will go with them to court. I will explain what a deposition is and the whole process, the judicial process, so they can understand what’s happening because it’s very different back in our countries than it is here,” Wildridge said.

The prosecutor’s office says these services play a critical role in helping to ensure the rights of Spanish-speaking victims.

Wildridge works closely with Lopez-Owens to build trust with Latinos. They’ll connect with organizations that want to make sure the community knows about these services. “That in itself is very encouraging because I see that the information is getting out,” Lopez-Owens said.

They’ll also provide resources for victims in need of help with housing and much more. “My hopes are that we will continue having meaningful representation at all levels of government,” Lopez-Owens said.