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Understanding the Needs of the Victims of Sexual Assault in the Deaf Community

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2005
115 pages
This study sought the opinions of service providers for deaf sexual assault victims and the views of members of the deaf community, in order to identify service gaps for these victims and how law enforcement agencies can be a more effective resource for them.
The findings indicate that service providers believe sexual assault is a significant problem in the deaf community. A literature review estimated that 83 percent of women with disabilities would be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Of particular concern among victim service providers was a lack of understanding and training in the law enforcement community regarding how to investigate and provide services to deaf victims of sexual assault. Interviews with 51 members of the deaf community following their viewing of video scenarios of sexual assault situations revealed several themes. Among prior victims of sexual assault, there were feelings of fear, anger, shock, disappointment, embarrassment, and self-blame related to their victimization. Although police were viewed as a source of help, many who had contacted police were frustrated by their experience. Few sexual assault survivors called the police after being sexually assaulted by a "date." Generally, contacts with law enforcement personnel were impeded by communication barriers, a lack of police training in investigative techniques in cases with deaf victims, and a general belief in the deaf community that the hearing community does not know how to relate to them. In addition to the data obtained from 51 deaf persons, 15 hearing and deaf service providers were interviewed under an open-ended, semistructured format. This format was also used in interviews with 10 personnel of the Minneapolis Police Department. The research method used is named Participatory Action Research. It involved reflection and action; having community members and stakeholders involved in the research process, and using findings to promote positive community change.

Date Published: October 1, 2005