Abuse in the Deaf community

Abusive behavior can be difficult to spot, whether it’s coming from your partner(s) or harming someone else you know and love. Dating abuse targeting people who are Deaf or hard of hearing takes unique forms, and it’s essential for survivors, concerned loved ones, and local advocates to understand specific ways that abuse occurs in the Deaf community.

Common forms of abuse against people who are Deaf or hard of hearing include:


Abusive partners often try to isolate you from trusted friends, family members, resources, or opportunities for help. They may try to control your means of communication, gaslight you, or exclude you from conversations or social situations with other people.


Physical gestures and threatening expressions can be used to intimidate you. This includes exaggerated signing or signing close to your face and stomping or pounding on doors, floors, or tables.


An abusive partner may criticize your American Sign Language (ASL) skills, communication style, or language abilities. They may also intentionally interpret wrongly to manipulate a situation or prevent communication with you. If an abusive partner isn’t Deaf themselves, they may also speak negatively about the Deaf community or try to prevent children from using ASL or being proud of Deaf culture.


Information may travel quickly within Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing communities. This can be useful for building mutual support networks. However, it also risks compromising safety and confidentiality, depending on the situation. Additionally, law enforcement and shelters often aren’t skilled at communicating with people who are Deaf. This can create dangerous situations or manipulation by a partner to threaten, intimidate, or interpret wrongly if the police are contacted.

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