The deaf and hard of hearing world is unique because of the difficulty in communicating with others. The world of the victim of domestic violence is also one of isolation and lack of access to the outside world. A batterer typically isolates their victim to instill dependency. When you combine both realities, it is easy to understand why a deaf victim takes up to seven times longer to leave his or her abuser than it would for a hearing victim.
Deaf victims must also struggle with the decision to use the systems and services that even hearing victims find almost im
possible to navigate. There are so many questions that must be addressed: where will I live if I seek a restraining order? What will happen if I go to a shelter? Will someone be able to communicate with me? What will happen to my children? Will I be treated equally if my abuser is a hearing person? Because most folks are unfamiliar with the deaf culture,the victim sometimes has to spend
his or her time educating the providers on the communication and cultural differences of the deaf community rather than being
the recipient of support and services.
The National Association for the Deaf published an article in 2007 titled “Domestic Violence: we can’t ignore it anymore.” It explored why deaf women suffer a greater risk of domestic violence. They
(who?) found that while there has been a lot powerful advocacy work on other issues, the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault have largely been overlooked or misunderstood in the deaf
community. Deaf survivors are unable to seek help from either the hearing or the deaf community. This is largely caused by misconceptions, putting blame on the survivor and the code of silence that still exists in the deaf community.
Now that I have raised the issue… What do we do? We need a two-
prong approach that addresses both outreach and education. We have begun that effort with a committed group of folks who are creating a training for deaf high schoolers in Dade public schools,
and we have begun a dialogue with the provider community and the courts. We will keep you posted on our efforts. If you are
interested in the effort email me…firstname.lastname@example.org