Deaf communities

Dating can be a fun, confusing, exciting, and difficult process all at the same time; navigating it as a Deaf or hard of hearing person doesn’t make it any easier. If you’re dating or in a relationship and Deaf, you may face unique circumstances that make you more vulnerable to certain forms of dating abuse—including specific dynamics within Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing communities—or increased opportunities for abusive partners to limit access to help or information.

You may also simply experience the usual stigmas that come from hearing people unfamiliar with Deaf culture and communities, this time in the context of dating or intimate relationships.

Understanding abuse in Deaf communities

Data from an eight-year survey of college students at Rochester Institute of Technology found that that Deaf and hard of hearing people are 1.5 times more likely to be victims of relationship violence, making it essential to understand abuse in Deaf communities and how to respond to meet specific challenges.

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

Efforts to isolate you from trusted friends, family members, resources, or visible opportunities for help.

That includes controlling your means of communication, giving false information to gaslight you, or excluding you from conversations or social situations with other people.

Using physical gestures or threatening expressions to intimidate

including exaggerated signing or signing close to your face, or hitting or destroying your items and belongings.

Criticizing your American Sign Language (ASL) skills or communication abilities.

Abusive partners may also intentionally interpret wrongly to manipulate a situation or prevent others from communicating with you.

Speaking negatively about the Deaf community

if the abusive partner isn’t Deaf themselves. They may also try to prohibit children from being proud of Deaf culture or using ASL.

Exploiting communication within Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing communities.

Information may travel quickly within certain networks. This can be useful for building support systems but also risks confidentiality for survivors.

Manipulating situations with law enforcement.

Police and shelters often aren’t skilled at communicating with Deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing people. This can escalate dangerous situations, which may be exploited by abusive partners to threaten or intimidate you or to interpret wrongly if police are contacted.

love is respect offers services specifically for Deaf survivors of dating abuse through the National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline (NDDVH), a partnership with the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS). Advocates who are Deaf themselves are available to answer your call 24/7 by video phone, instant messenger, or email.

Additionally, love is respect peer advocates are always available 24/7 via text, phone, or live chat.

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