Danielle lived most of her adult life in a severely abusive relationship. When she left her partner, she still lived in fear of him.
Everytime she saw her ex-partner in the street she would turn and run, terrified.
Deaf women are more at risk of domestic abuse than hearing women are, and when sign language is their only language they find it harder to get help.
DeafHope is the only sign language support service for Deaf women and children who suffer domestic violence.
Danielle was in too much fear for her safety to live in her own home. At 32 years old she left her flat and moved back in with her parents. She’d been there for 19 months when she was introduced to the DeafHope
service from SignHealth. The DeafHope support worker carried out a security assessment of Danielle’s flat, helped her to fit a video entry system, and gave her a personal alarm.
With easy access to DeafHope for help and support, Danielle moved back into her own home.The assistance continued for six weeks, with sessions in sign language to rebuild confidence, and learn new skills and assertiveness.
The next time Danielle saw her ex-partner in the street she didn’t turn and run, she walked past confidently and carried on with her day.
Without SignHealth, Danielle would be living in fear, too terrified to go home.
That’s not a life.
Lynn Shannon, SignHealth’s DeafHope Manager, explains our service and the life changing effect it has on Deaf women who have been abused.
“Deaf Hope has been established since 2010/11 and has been evolving to provide a range of services to Deaf women and girls who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse.
We have recently completed a series of 6 week survivor workshops that enable Deaf survivors to understand more about perpetrator behaviour and the issues around domestic abuse, including the impact that witnessing abuse can have on their children, regardless of whether their children are Deaf or hearing.
The number of clients we are working with has grown considerably over the last 12 months.
The activities in the workshops enable survivors to improve confidence and assertiveness, and how to develop stronger boundaries to protect themselves and their children.
We continue to deliver a range of workshops to sensory teams, student nurses/midwives, domestic abuse services and refuge staff. Similar workshops are also delivered to Deaf community groups.
Students aged aged between 11 and 19 have been participating under the PHSE curriculum and also during Anti Bullying Week.
This is a great step forward.
The workshops have enabled young people to have a greater understanding of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the impact of bullying, cyber safety and the issues around sexting. The feedback from the students has been really positive and have their views have helped us to develop a range of accessible materials, including signed dvds. We are now busy planning a conference which will highlight the challenges the Young Deaf Hope project has identified and our recommendations for the way forward. We will be inviting some of the young people involved in the project to join us.
Although Deaf Hope focuses on supporting Deaf women and girls to stay free from fear and harm, we are also focussing on early intervention work, in line with Government policy, to support families to stay together, but importantly to stay safe.
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There is still a long way to go to develop DeafHope as a national service, however, as with many of the mainstream domestic abuse services, budget cuts will impact on development plans. Changes to government policy, how domestic abuse is funded and ATW changes will also impact our service and our team.
Despite all of these hurdles we will continue to provide support to Deaf women and girls.”
Image Credit: Lee Haywood