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Presented by Gretchen Waech

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1 Presented by Gretchen Waech
“Why Cry if No One Hears?” The Deaf Community’s Experience of Sexual and Domestic Violence Presented by Gretchen Waech

2 Definitions: deaf – lacking hearing, either entirely or at a severe to profound level. This is a medical term. Deaf - individuals who, in addition to not hearing, are members of the Deaf community, subscribing to the unique cultural norms, values, and traditions of that group. Members of this group typically use American Sign Language (ASL) as their 1st language. hard of hearing (HoH) - an individual with a hearing loss (ranging from mild to severe) April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

3 Definitions: “hearing impaired” – Deaf community does not consider themselves impaired, and “hearing” is not the important word This is a term created by the medical field and reflects the pathological view of deafness The Deaf community prefers the terms Deaf and Hard of Hearing. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

4 Deaf Culture Primary language is American Sign Language (ASL)
Recognized language with its own rules of grammar and syntax English and ASL are NOT the same thing! Consider possibility of ESL (English as a Second Language) circumstances April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

5 ASL/English The “ASL” slides are either written using ASL gloss (a teaching tool used to transcribe ASL sign for sign for those learning the language) or were written by a Deaf woman for whom ASL was a first language. This is a representation of what a Deaf person might write in each situation. The English slides are a representation of what a qualified interpreter would voice in each situation.


7 English I was hiding and saw Daddy hit Mommy many many times. I was so scared, I ran to a house down the road. The man there called the police. They came and asked me many questions, but I was really just frozen in shock. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009


9 English A man broke into my house while I was asleep. I woke up to find him having sex with me. I tried over and over again to push him off but he wouldn’t stop. It was dark in the house, so I couldn’t see him clearly to read his lips but could tell he was angry. I was terrified. He finally left. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

10 Translation/interpretation
In the last example, how might law enforcement or medical personnel interpret the “ASL” version of her statement? Just the fact that she used the word “sex” instead of something more emotionally loaded could lead to bias across the board. Yet, if a qualified interpreter is used, the story is very different. Gretchen Waech, 2009

11 Deaf Culture Rooted common experience of being Deaf in a hearing society Examples: Restaurant, law enforcement, family dinners April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

12 Audism: N :an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear; like racism or sexism, audism judges, labels, and limits individuals on the basis of whether a person hears and speaks. (Humphrey and Alcorn 1995: 85) Based on the medical view of deafness as a disability which must be fixed Rooted in the historical belief that deaf people were savages without language; language = humanity April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009 12

13 Audism: Examples Jumping in to help a deaf person communicate without being asked Asking a Deaf person to lipread you or write when he/she has indicated this isn’t preferred Making phone calls for a deaf person since they “can’t” Making decisions for a deaf person rather than explaining options because it would “take too long” Assuming that those with better speech/English skills are superior Asking a Deaf person to “tone down” their facial expressions because they are making others uncomfortable Refusing to explain to a Deaf person why everyone around him is laughing – “never mind, I’ll tell you later, it doesn’t matter.” Forcing a Deaf child to give up recess to spend hours in speech therapy April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009 13

14 Audism Because many Deaf people grew up in hearing families who did not learn to sign, audism may be ingrained. It is only when they encounter Deaf-centered empowerment philosophies that they begin to understand their capabilities. Audists may be either hearing or deaf. Some are even Deaf. Note that sometimes Deaf clients are uneasy with using Deaf services due to ingrained audism… they don’t believe a Deaf person can help them because “Deaf can’t” is so deep. They may regard a Deaf advocate as being inferior to a hearing advocate, or prefer a deaf advocate who speaks AND signs because she is “more hard of hearing” April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009 14

15 When interacting with a Deaf/deaf person…
Be extra aware of your body language and facial expressions Be on the lookout for the “smile and nod” that signals lack of comprehension April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

16 Communicating with deaf people:
It is important to remember that not all deaf people’s communication needs are alike, and you should ask the person directly what their needs are. They may communicate through: Sign language (ASL, SEE, contact sign, etc)* Speech/lipreading Writing *American Sign Language, Signing Exact English April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

17 Lipreading: The Imprecise Art
Lipreading - not an acquirable skill, but rather an inborn talent – similar to musical or artistic talent Only a tiny percentage = expert lipreaders. In order to get 50-75% of the information it is necessary that: Deaf person has a high level of English proficiency Deaf person have a thorough understanding of the subject you are speaking of Deaf person be an expert lipreader Your body language and facial expressions convey the correct message The lighting and placement of both speaker and lipreader be correct April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

18 Lipreading: The Imprecise Art
Is it worth the gamble? Always ask how the deaf person wishes to communicate. Give options. Example: “Communicate best, how? Interpreter (I will pay), writing, lipreading?” April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

19 (only appropriate if both parties are completely comfortable)
Communication Tips If it is necessary to communicate with a Deaf person who indicates a preference for lipreading (only appropriate if both parties are completely comfortable) here are some tips: April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

20 Communication Tips Hands down, the best way to sit is… hands down!
Remember not to look at paper while talking Be conscious of lighting… don’t sit with back to light Speak at a reasonable pace, but not S…L…O…W…L…Y If the person doesn’t understand what you say at first… don’t repeat. RESTATE. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

21 CHECK YOUR TEETH! Spinach interferes with lipreading.
Communication Tips CHECK YOUR TEETH! Spinach interferes with lipreading. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

22 Relay: Allows phone communication between Deaf and hearing people
May be either text-based relay or video relay (VRS) Many prefer VRS due to its linguistic accessibility but the technology is not always available Text-based: English comprehension level an issue VRS: most do not allow you choice of interpreters April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

23 Sexual and Domestic Violence in the Deaf Community
Most evidence regarding Deaf people is anecdotal – few studies focusing on this population. Studies indicate abuse is 2 to 6 times more likely to occur among people with disabilities Some figures indicate over 60% of Deaf persons have experienced or will experience abuse by a partner in their lifetime. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

24 Sexual Violence in the Deaf Community
Some studies - sexual violence against women with disabilities is much more prevalent, 2X-3X higher Others have shown it is at similar (unacceptably high) levels. Two significant factors differ for women with disabilities: Duration of the abuse is longer Higher number of perpetrators are reported Gretchen Waech, 2009

25 Why are Deaf people targeted?
Perception of vulnerability Easier to isolate Deaf Stressors April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

26 Deaf Stressors Elements of being Deaf/HOH that make a person more susceptible to victimization Learned helplessness/internalized audism Compounded by abuse Difficulty in communication with law enforcement, medical professionals, etc. Tradition of secrecy within the culture or protection of perpetrators who are members of the community Common to minority groups April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

27 Deaf Stressor Number One
The Deaf victim/survivor often cannot leave her community. Even if she chooses to change her geographical location, she will still be part of the community… thus, safety planning takes a different slant. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

28 Specific issues for Deaf survivors
Access to communication and information The Deaf grapevine/community Abuse in educational settings Lack of culturally affirmative/accessible services Misunderstanding about isolation/integration Lack of support system Lack of accessibility of the judicial and medical systems April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

29 Access to communication and information
Little or no education about S/DV within community. Minimal ability to understand or interpret information presented – example in court Sometimes technology is not Deaf-friendly (closed-captioning, subtitles, English) INCIDENTAL LEARNING April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

30 The Deaf Grapevine/Community
Deaf community very interconnected Rumor and gossip common – information has great value, even if not precise Confidentiality in Deaf community can be perceived as antisocial – may need to educate Deaf client on why confidentiality is important April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

31 Abuse in Educational Settings
Historically a widespread problem - left generations of adult sexual abuse survivors with few resources Lack of education for students and faculty on abuse and its consequences Who do they tell? Deaf community fears exposure – closing of schools – but wants to protect children Sexual and domestic violence in residential schools has historically been a widespread problem. This led to a generation of adult survivors of childhood abuse who had few resources and no education about what happened to them. In the case of an incident at a residential school, staff members must advocate for both students in any given situation. The Deaf community sometimes fears the exposure will lead to the closing of Deaf schools – long the strongholds of Deaf culture – but is adamant about protecting Deaf children. This is changing, slowly but surely. April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

32 Lack of culturally affirmative/accessible services
Limited number of Deaf-centered programs Hotlines not accessible – often hang up Advocates not trained or knowledgeable regarding deaf survivor needs Lack of understanding about Deaf culture Lack of appropriate treatment - No signing therapists, doctors, etc Shortage of interpreters Lack of understanding re: Deaf culture can lead to difficulty in communication… example: facial expressions, body language may lead program to eject Deaf survivor for “violent behavior” April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

33 Isolation in the Deaf context
Philosophy of integration - a boon to many with disabilities, but often a barrier for Deaf clients. Integration into a hearing program = isolation Hearing shelters: few will stay more than 24 hrs without other Deaf to interact with Safety becomes a lesser priority than the need for communication. Support groups – lack of common cultural experience and communication barriers April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

34 Lack of support system Deaf community is often spread out – particularly true in rural states Loss of status in community… or loss of community Family may be unable to communicate – high percentage of Deaf have hearing families Inappropriate behaviors run unchecked April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

35 Lack of accessibility of the judicial and medical systems
Interpreters often concentrated in one area – difficulty in securing an interpreter for outlying areas Shortage of interpreters in general Lack of legal/medical interpreters Lack of interpreters in a timely manner – Denver Refusal to follow the law or claims of undue burden Note on Denver, CO lawsuit against the police dept – where there is conflicting information given re: availability of interpreters, and deaf are given option to plead guilty rather than wait in jail for 72 hours or more until an interpreter can be located Similar situation with medical establishment April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

36 Differing forms of Abuse
Abuser may: Attack ears (to cause pain) Attack hands (to prevent signing) Destroy, withhold or damage communication equipment Refuse to sign Attack sight (to further isolate) April 10, 2017 Gretchen Waech, 2009

37 Specific issues with sexual violence
Deaf survivors often contend with double barriers: SV survivor myths/ general deaf myths SV survivor sexuality issues/ deaf sexuality myths SV survivor shame/ internalized oppression SV medical issues/ lack of medical system access SV survivor barriers to justice/ justice system inaccessibility Gretchen Waech, 2009

38 I am happy to assist with any of these!
What next? Program assessment and research Sponsor training on Deaf survivors for your program/area Create formal referral process with Deaf advocates Policy-protocol creation/change Outreach I am happy to assist with any of these! Gretchen Waech, 2009

39 Contact Information Gretchen Waech Coolgretl – AIM (DirectVP) (IP) (IP Relay/Cell) Gretchen Waech, 2009

40 Any Questions? Thanks!!

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