Domestic Violence In the Deaf Community


  • The number of deaf individuals in the United States range from 1 to 140 individuals out of 1,000 (Galludet Research Institute - Accessing Safety Initiative, 2008), though determining a number is complicated based on varying definitions of deafness

  • Less is known about how many deaf women are survivors of domestic violence, but we know that women with disabilities have higher incidences of trauma and fewer mental health options (APA, 2008)

  • Within the deaf community, there is a “double code of silence” related to domestic violence because services are typically not culturally sensitive or accessible for deaf survivors and because the deaf community has historically misunderstood or minimized the issue (Rems-Smario, 2007)

  • Deaf woman have increased barriers to services and are likely at greater risk for fatalities


Mental Health Services for Deaf Women Survivors of Abuse, Deaf Women

  • Many deaf and hard of hearing women seek assistance at local mainstream organizations where service providers are likely unfamiliar with ASL and deaf cultural norms and are therefore at a disadvantage when trying to establish healing relationships and effectively serve deaf individuals.

  • Therefore professionals working with deaf clients may benefit from an exploration of several national and community resources for consultation and assistance

  • In Georgia there are very few resources available to meet the mental health needs of deaf individuals

  • One organization G.R.E.A.T. D.A.Y., Inc. provides outpatient mental health services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community and the director is Kinga Sherrill, M.S., NCC, LPC


Research and Advocacy Services on Behalf of Deaf Women Survivors of Abuse

  • Despite the lack of research on domestic violence in the deaf community, research is being conducted in Rochester, NY at the Deaf Wellness Center (DWC) under the leadership of Robert Pollard, PhD
    • The DWC has completed numerous projects and recently was awarded a $1.2M grant to study domestic violence affecting the deaf community by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Efforts have been made to raise consciousness and to advocate for deaf women at the grassroots level
  • Started in Seattle, in the late 90’s Abused Deaf Women Advocacy Services (ADWAS) established community based services and in 2003, Deaf Hope was opened in California
  • There are fifteen deaf–specific organizations for deaf women survivors of abuse, with the expectation of expanding
  • Deaf Hope has a website with valuable information, including a Power and Control Wheel based on the language and cultural values found in the deaf community