Why is the prevalence of sexual abuse higher in DHH children compared to hearing children?

Why is the prevalence of sexual abuse higher in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (DHH)
community than in the hearing population? Research indicates that 50% of DHH individuals are
more likely to experience childhood sexual abuse than 25% of hearing individuals (Obinna et al.,
2006). Several factors contribute to this problematic issue within the DHH community. The most
crucial factor is language deprivation. Many DHH children do not have access to language at
home or in schools. A post was written about early language acquisition recently, and if the
readers are interested in reading furthermore about the issue, here is the link:
https://deafandhoh.com/blog/the-importance-of-early-language-acquisition/.

Secondly, many abusers assume deaf and disabled children are more vulnerable to
abuse due to lack of language, close familial relationships, and no awareness of abuse being
wrong. Many organizations, including law enforcement agencies responsible for assisting
domestic violence and sexual abuse victims, are unfamiliar with deaf culture or fluency in sign
language. As a result, many DHH victims and families feel uncertain about reporting sexual
abuse to hearing organizations obligated to help them. It is even more difficult for a deaf victim
to report abuse if the abuser is deaf and ingrained within the community. It is much harder for
them to come forward out of fear, backlash, and disregard from the community. The victim
needs support and accessible resources to ensure they are believed, safe, and aided.

There should be more accessible resources for sexual abuse victims and anonymous
hotlines for reporting abuse. Many schools and universities are responsible for reporting abuse.
However, past cases have shown that many deaf schools are hesitant about reporting because
they fear they will shut down. There have been several schools all across the U.S. that
experienced shutting down. Deaf schools are valuable for many deaf and hard-of-hearing
children, and we cannot afford to keep losing deaf schools. It is harmful and dehumanizing.

If you have experienced sexual abuse or domestic violence or know someone
experiencing abuse, do you know where to reach for help or where to go? If not, here are a few
available resources. ADWAS (www.adwas.org), DAWN (www.deafdawn.org), Deaf-Hope
(www.deaf-hope.org), and DOVE (www.deafdove.org). Please print these out and put them on
the fridge or purse. If you find yourself in a situation, you will have the information ready to reach
out for help. It can also help you provide support to a friend or loved one.

If you know any accessible social media pages that provide information on sexual abuse or
domestic violence, please list them below.

Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS)
Location: Seattle, Washington
www.adwas.org
Email: hotline@adwas.org

24/7 Hotline: (206) 812-1001 – Video Phone
Office: (206) 922-7088 (Voice/Video Phone)

DAWN – Deaf Abused Women’s Network
Location: Washington, D.C.
Phone: (202)-559-5366
www.deafdawn.org

DeafHope
Location: Richmond, California.
Video Phone: (510) 735-8553
www.deaf-hope.org
DOVE: Advocacy Services for Abused Deaf Women and Children
Location: Denver, Colorado
Phone: (303) 831-7932
Email: office@deafdove.org
www.deafdove.org


References:

Jennifer Obinna., Sarah Krueger., Constance Osterbaan., Jane M. Sandusky., & Wendy
DeVore. (2006). Understanding the Needs of the Victims of Sexual Assault in the Deaf
Community. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/212867.pdf

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