Domestic Abuse and the deaf community – a conversation with SignHealth

  • May 5, 2021
For Deaf Awareness Week we spoke with SignHealth, the deaf health charity that Oasis regularly connects with, to hear more about their specialist #DomesticAbuse service for survivors who are deaf or hard of hearing.

My name is Samantha Baker, I am a Senior Young People’s Violence Advisor in SignHealth’s Domestic Abuse team. We are a charity that supports deaf women and children that have suffered, or who are still suffering domestic abuse. Deaf people have the extra barrier of communication when they choose to disclose or flee an abusive relationship, they cannot easily walk into a police station and make a disclosure or pick up the phone in the same way that hearing people can. In SignHealth’s Domestic Abuse team, we are all Deaf ourselves so can communicate directly with victims and support them when they need to access mainstream services.

We have a team of qualified Deaf Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVA). They support Deaf people who may be experiencing domestic abuse, they will give support and advice to Deaf people on how to stay safe and can also support them with reporting to the police, support in court, or attending housing or social services, or facilitating a move to a women’s refuge. We also offer a Survivors Workshop, a 6-week programme, delivered in British Sign Language (BSL), to a closed group of Deaf survivors and teach them how to be safe in the future and how to recognise signs of abuse.

Deaf women are at twice the risk of being abused and getting support is more difficult

Marie Vickers, Service Manager
Young woman with long brown hair sat cross-legged on a bed in her own room

At SignHealth, we have a team of Young Peoples Violence Advisors (YPVAs) that focus on prevention work. Our YPVAs go out to schools and colleges to deliver workshops to young Deaf and hard of-hearing people about topics such as healthy relationships, bullying, cyberbullying and online safety. Our aim is to educate and prevent domestic abuse, bullying and online abuse. We work with deaf children and young people aged from 8-21 years in school and college settings, we also take referrals from other agencies, for example, social workers, to work with individual students 1:1 at home or in the community.

Our workshops are fun and interactive; we have had positive feedback from the hundreds of pupils and staff that we have worked with over the last few years.

All of our YPVAs are Deaf themselves so we can support the pupils referred to us in their first language, BSL. We work with registered interpreters at our workshops with children that are hearing impaired and do not sign.

Our workshops and 1:1 sessions are free of charge. We have secured funding to be able to support pupils in Kent and have successfully completed adult workshops across Kent and the South East for several years.

We also deliver training for professionals, again free of charge, focusing on domestic abuse and deafness.

Get support

Call our helpline on 0800 917 9948 (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 09:30–11:30am, 12:30–2:30pm
Thursday and Friday 09:30–11:30am, except bank holidays) or email (if it’s safe to do so)

If you or your family are in immediate danger please call the police on 999 (if you can’t speak, cough or tap the handset then press 55 on your phone – the police will know it’s an emergency)

In a non-emergency situation, you can call Kent Police on 101.

*All images used on this website are representative. All names are anonymised for people’s safety.

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