As a child of Deaf parents, I grew up in the beautifully diverse Deaf community. It’s a sad but true fact, that the Deaf community is affected by violence at an even greater rate than the current dismal national figures. This community crisis is compounded when Deaf victims seek help, as public systems meant to provide safety and justice are often inaccessible to deaf survivors. Amazing programs like Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Service (ADWAS) led the way to for other community heroes to establish culturally competent, American Sign Language (ASL) based victim services in several deaf and hard of hearing communities. However, the consistent availability and meaningful accessibility of such deaf-specific resources remains sadly disparate across America.
As Vice President of National Programs for Communication Service for the Deaf, I’ve had the opportunity to see the positive impact our own ASL based domestic violence advocacy services have on the safety and well being of the communities we serve. It also became apparent that there are real gaps in the accessibility and availability of such resources. There is a great need for a consistent, accessible resource to support deaf survivors and help them navigate their pathway to safety. ADWAS provides such a resource through the National Deaf Hotline Center, but due to limited funding provided generously by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, this ASL based hotline advocacy service is only available weekdays, from 9 am to 5 pm. This is not when most abuse and violence happens.