The Community-Based Needs Assessment that was published by theResearch and Resource Center with Deaf communities (RRCD) at Western Oregon University. Findings included that: a) over half (56.3%, n=419) of respondents have experienced taunts about their hearing loss or how they communicate during their lives, b) 38.9% (n=286) of respondents have experienced verbal/non-verbal threats, c) 29.9% (n=219) of respondents have experienced the subject of sexual comments or features, d) 29.2%(n=214) of respondents have experienced physically impeding/blocking behavior, e) 28% (n=207) of respondents have experienced being hit, slapped, or pushed, f) 22% (n=162) of respondents have experienced belittling/taunts about religion or race and finally, g) 14% (n=103) of respondents have experienced being threatened with a weapon. (Community-Based Needs Assessment (CNA) of Oregon’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities: Final Report as of December 30, 2016.)
Debra Guthmann, a former president of the National Association on Alcohol, Drugs, and Disability, estimates that 1 in 7 Deaf people in the United States suffers from substance dependency compared to 1 in 10 hearing people (Hearing Health, 2013).
Much of the research detailing sexual assault in the Deaf population has focused on intimate partner violence (IPV) and has found that Deaf women are 2 to 4 times more likely than hearing women to experience forced sex in their lifetime (Pollard, Sutter, & Cerullli, 2013).
An article from American Annals of the Deaf in 1987, written by McKay Vernon and his colleagues that “it is estimated that 50% of the Deaf community has been sexually abused as children.” The same group of authors reported 54% of Deaf boys were sexually abused in comparison to only 10% of hearing boys.” (link)
In a separate report published by US DOJ, “only 5% of Deaf rape survivors report their assaults to police and 5% reach out for support from rape crisis centers. This is believed to be because of the communication barrier and culture clash faced when seeking help from services that cater to hearing individuals” (2000).
“Deaf prisoners are abused at three times the rate of hearing prisoners.” (Vernon, 2005).
DeafQueer Resource Center reported 10% of Deaf community members are LGBTIQA+. (link)
The Deaf community has a close knit bond; many deaf survivors have a concern for privacy and anonymity when so much of their personal life is shared amongst their peers. (2007) Taylor, Lauren R. , Gaskin-Laniyan Nicole, Ph.D., “Study Reveals Unique Issues Faced by Deaf Victims of Sexual Assault”, National Institute of Justice, 2007.
Reliance on interpreters opens a host of problems as many sexual assault survivors feel like their private experiences are not correctly represented and feel uncomfortable reporting their assault to a stranger outside of their community. (link) Obinna, J., Krueger, S., Osterbaan, C., Sadusky, J.M., & DeVore, W., “Understanding the Needs of the Victims of Sexual Assault in the Deaf Community”, US Department of Justice, 2006.
Deaf survivors of sexual assault face a multitude of barriers and stereotypes when choosing to report. Some of these barriers include: linguistic barriers with the general hearing population, limited access to media information and resources, lack of knowledge and skills by services providers, lack of TTY, relay services and interpreters available, and bias and exclusion from general hearing population. (link) Obinna, J., Krueger, S., Osterbaan, C., Sadusky, J.M., & DeVore, W., “Understanding the Needs of the Victims of Sexual Assault in the Deaf Community”, US Department of Justice, 2006.
This advocacy and accompaniment services is supported by federal Victims of Crime Act Award no. VOCA-CS-2021-BridgesOregon-00023 awarded by Oregon Department of Justice, Crime Victim and Survivor Services Division, pass through entity for US Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.