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Study Reveals Unique Issues Faced by Deaf Victims of Sexual Assault

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue: 257 Dated: June 2007 Pages: 24-26
Date Published
June 2007
3 pages
Publication Series
This article reports on the impact of sexual assault on members of the deaf community and offers recommendations for improving the response by law enforcement.
The findings reveal that members of the deaf community face substantial barriers when they become victims of sexual assault. Some of the most important barriers faced by sexual assault victims who are deaf include a lack of understanding among law enforcement about the deaf community, which is very close-knit and may present problems with anonymity. Additionally, deaf victims of sexual assault may experience a lack of support from their deaf community, particularly if the rapist was also deaf, which can lead to a profound sense of isolation for these victims. Other impediments for seeking help included a lack of awareness about deafness and deaf culture among law enforcement and community-based organizations and the awkwardness of trying to communicate with hearing people in the law enforcement and nonprofit communities. Several recommendations are offered to improve the police and community response to sexual assault victims from the deaf community. Recommendations include better police agency systems for dealing with deaf citizens, better officer training on deaf culture and communities, revised police forms to include a category to track interactions with members of the deaf community, the provision of TTY links on police department outreach materials, and increased training for dispatchers on TTY protocols. The research study was based on interviews with 51 deaf citizens, 15 service providers (both deaf and hearing), and 10 police officers regarding their experiences with sexual assault within the deaf community. Notes

Date Published: June 1, 2007