As reports of domestic abuse are set to skyrocket this Christmas, meet the UK’s only organisation run by deaf women for deaf women and those stuck in a world of violent silence.
Deaf-initely Women was set up in 2015 with small seed funding and runs weekly workshops for women who are deaf or hard of hearing, such as ballroom dancing and self-defence.
Deborah Lush, who ran the self defence workshop for victims of domestic abuse, works for Deaf-initely Women as a qualified and independent domestic and sexual abuse advisor.
She said: “There are services out there but obviously it’s all about working in partnership and saying ‘hey look are you making it accessible for deaf people.’
“I always say to have text messaging but that’s not always convenient because deaf people, their first language isn’t English, its BSL (British Sign Language), so their reading and writing level is like a 7-year-old.”
“they leave it unreported and stay in their relationship because they think its too much hassle; it’s horrible.”
Deborah Lush, Domestic and sexual abuse advisor
It wasn’t until June of this year that a BSL 999 call was introduced where a deaf person could call the emergency services via video and with an interpreter.
Deborah explained: “Before they didn’t have that, they’re thinking how do I call the police and then how do I communicate with the police, they think well I can’t be bothered.
“So they leave it unreported and stay in their relationship because they think its too much hassle; it’s horrible.”
“A lot of deaf women who’ve been abused think it’s normal”
Teresa Waldron, Managing Director of Deafinitely Women
Before that, Deborah explained that often the women would have to rely on their children to interpret for them.
She said: “The government doesn’t enable us to give out more support because of funding.”
Deborah receives her funding from Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner so she may help women in that area, but that area only.
She said that despite there being many women outside of Derbyshire or in the surrounding rural areas that desperately need her help, she’s unable to do so because her funding doesn’t allow for it.
She said: “Its crazy because I feel for these women because they’re like well where can I go and I can only signpost them and say look I’m really sorry can you get an interpreter in but when you get an interpreter it doesn’t happen just like that, it can take weeks.”
In cases of sexual assault, particularly rape, evidence needs to be collected as soon as possible.
When women are left waiting two weeks or more to be assigned a qualified interpreter to assist in communication with the police, often that evidence is then lost.
It’s a sad fact that domestic abuse typically increases at Christmas. If you have any concerns whatsoever, these are the signs to look out for when visiting friends, family and neighbours over the festive season: https://t.co/soM7i83Mix #domesticabuse #christmas
— National Legal Service (@nls_solicitors) December 5, 2022
Before Deaf-initely Women was granted funding from Comic Relief to create a 32 sign glossary of types of abuse, they discovered there was no universal sign for domestic abuse in BSL.
Teresa Waldron, Managing Director of Deaf-initely Women, said: “What we find is a lot of deaf women who’ve been abused, think it’s normal; if you imagine a world of silence, haven’t got very good English skills, you can’t hear the radio, you can’t access the subtitles, there’s barely any sign language on TV, where’s that information coming from?”
The organisation has been campaigning for BSL to be taught as part of the school curriculum and as an option for GCSEs.
First up; app safety for children. A challenge parents who have hearing difficulties face is that they may not be able to hear if their child has opened an app they shouldn’t be on. Our PCSOs discuss the app security options available.#ADayWithADerbysPSCO #deafinitelywomen pic.twitter.com/e7DOIOjJ6J
— Derbyshire Police (@DerbysPolice) November 14, 2019
Aga Latif, member of the group said: “The workshops are especially important, for a lot of women its the first time they’ve ever spoken with a deaf professional.”
The organisation is passionate about recruiting and paying deaf women to lead their workshops.
As well as supporting abuse victims, the organisation set up events and workshops to increase employability for deaf women in the community.
The women from the organisation said that often deaf people are expected to volunteer their skills for nothing and believe it’s time to get paid for sharing them.
Teresa said: “A lot of deaf people have degrees but don’t have jobs.
“I think the social conditioning as well is so complex that’s linked with deafness, you know if you’re deaf from an early age, you have a lot of barriers; less is expected of you as an individual, whether it’s your family or the educational system.”
Deaf-initely Women has a contract with Skill for Care and offers many online and in person courses to help give the women a leg up in the labour market.
To find out more visit the organisations webpage on: https://www.deafinitelywomen.org.uk/
Stowe Family, the UK’s largest law firm, found the following in a recent survey:
- One in six of the survey participants believed they were more likely to suffer emotional or physical abuse during the Christmas period from their partner.
- Four in ten said they were scared their marriage would end over the Christmas period.
- A third said that money was the main cause of strain on their relationship,
- Two in ten said that “spending time with the wider family” was likely to cause tension between them and their partner.