Abuse in Deaf Communities

Deaf survivors of domestic violence face unique circumstances that can make it harder to access services or leave an abusive situation. Dynamics within Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing communities can make it difficult to retain confidentiality, and abusive partners may have increased opportunities to limit your access to support or information.

 

Tactics of abuse commonly used against people who are Deaf or hard of hearing include:

Isolation

You may be isolated from your friends, family, or access to the services you need. Abusive partners may attempt to control your communications, gaslight you by leading you to question your own beliefs, or prevent you from participating in conversations or social situations, especially with hearing people.

Intimidation

Abusive partners often sign in an exaggerated manner or close to your face. They may also hit or destroy items or attempt to intimidate you by stomping their feet or striking walls or doors.

Shame

You may feel self-conscious about their American Sign Language (ASL) skills or communication abilities. Abusive partners who are aware of your insecurities may try to exploit this fact by criticizing or insulting you, or by intentionally interpreting wrongly, especially in situations involving hearing people or those who don’t use ASL. They may also speak poorly about the Deaf community or prohibit you or your children from taking pride in Deaf culture or using ASL.

Manipulation

Information can travel quickly within Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing communities. Abusive partners may use this knowledge to spread lies or rumors about you, or to find out information about your movements and activities. They may also try to take advantage of the fact that police and shelter workers often aren’t skilled at communicating with Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing people. This can take the form of threats or suggestions that you won’t be supported if you try to seek help, or intentional misinterpretation during situations involving law enforcement.

The Hotline offers services for Deaf survivors of dating abuse through the National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline (NDDVH), a partnership with the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS). Deaf advocates are available by video phone, instant messenger, or email 24/7; advocates from The Hotline may be reached through phone, text, or live chat.

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