In Australia, as it is globally, domestic and family violence (DFV) is recognised as a major social issue which has lifelong impacts on its victims. There are particular and unique impacts on Deaf victims, due to communication, educational and cultural barriers. The aim of this 2019 Churchill Fellowship was to research a number of services for Deaf survivors around the world in order to understand and address better DFV in the Australian Deaf community. This included identifying and developing improved methods of engaging with members of Deaf communities and to providing support, information and responding to DFV incidents in Australian Sign Language (Auslan), the primary language of the Deaf community.
This Fellowship took place over a nine-week travel period from July to September 2019 to France, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America (USA). I had the opportunity to visit multiple Deaf-specific DFV organisations that focus on supports for deaf abuse survivors in their respective communities.
The major findings of this Fellowship were that the most significant barriers for Deaf survivors of DFV to accessing support were a lack of communication access (such as lack of interpreters and information in sign language), educational deficiency in the areas of understanding what abuse is and healthy relationships, and mainstream DFV services not being accessible to Deaf survivors.
Based on my findings, I provide recommendations to address these barriers and to enable members of the Deaf community to confidently seek support from support agencies. These recommendations include developing programs to provide education and awareness of abuse and healthy relationships, healing workshops for survivors, the provision of Deaf-specific services, and partnerships with mainstream DFV service providers.
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