After eight years of conducting surveys, researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) released their findings, indicating that “that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are 1.5 times more likely to be victims of relationship violence, including sexual harassment, sexual assault psychological abuse and physical abuse, in their lifetimes.” RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, allowing the researchers to survey thousands of deaf students between 2000 and 20008.
“The results show a significantly higher incidence of domestic violence among deaf and hard-of-hearing students as compared to hearing populations on campus and compared to national averages among college students…[and that] typical assessments of relationship violence may miss differences present in underrepresented and underreported populations such as the deaf,” notes Judy Porter, assistant professor of criminal justice at RIT. “It is our hope these results will lead to further assessment of physical and psychological abuse in the broader deaf community and the development of better tools to assess relationship violence in other underrepresented populations such as the gay and lesbian communities.”
I’ve been looking, but can’t find any more information on the study online, which is unfortunate because I really want to know more about the failures of traditional assessments for the deaf and hard of hard-of-hearing. 9% of the US population is deaf or hard-of-hearing, making it imperative for researchers to develop successful interventions and assessments so that victims of violence can access the resources they need. Admittedly, I know very little about sexual assault in the deaf community, but the DC Rape Crisis Center brings up just two points—of what I am sure is a much longer list—to consider:
- Deaf women can become isolated within the Deaf community and may fear rejection by that community if she discloses abuse by one of its members.
- Along with sexual and/or intimate partner violence, Deaf individuals may experience forms of abuse related to their deafness such as injuring a person’s hands so that they cannot communicate, breaking assistive devices such as TTY, vibrating alarms or hearing aids, and forcing a person to use speech.
This reinforces once again the importance SAFER places on creating campus sexual assault policies that reflect the needs/identities/contexts of ALL students.