Why Awareness is so Powerful
Understanding the Barriers Children Face
In today’s world of prevention, it’s hard to find a curriculum that meets the needs of every student. Between cultural, language, age, communication, and developmental barriers, it can seem impossible to educate every student who receives Erin’s Law. Though it may seem overwhelming, we are absolutely capable of helping each student on the difficult topic of sexual abuse.
As we’ve said in multiple postings, all children have certain risk factors associated with abuse. Research has shown us that Deaf and Hard of Hearing students are at risk for abuse and neglect at 1.5-3 times higher that children with no hearing impairment (Source 1). This by itself is staggering but statistics are just scraping the surface of issues when helping those children who do reach out for help. DHH are also faced with the reality that some support systems do not have ways to communicate with victims, both in recovery services and the criminal justice system.
So, how do we best support our children who not only face a higher risk of abuse but meet them with the tools specific to their needs? Here are 3 things to keep in mind when helping those with DHH:
Understanding Deaf Culture and Communities
Some DHH people do not see themselves as having a disability. Rather, they identify as an individual within a cultural and linguistic group. English is often seen as their “second language”, with sign language or ASL being first. We need to respect all of our students self-identities, and be aware of how our language can set the tone for educational interactions (Source 2).
Even in today’s world of research, studies on abuse of deaf and hard of hearing children is incredibly limited. The research that does exist however shows people with disabilities and DHH have higher rates of victimization, and those high rates of abuse can continue into adulthood. Speaking specifically of women who are deaf, they are 1.5 times more likely to be a victim of sexual violence, mental abuse, and physical abuse as compared to hearing women (Source 2).
Barriers to Services and Justice
When we talk about invisibility, children who are DHH are so often overlooked. Not every service provider offers specialized outreach, cultural competency and understanding of the community, or phone-based access to services. Police, fireman, doctors, lawyers, and even rape crisis centers are not always equipped to help those who are DHH, a wrong we must fight to right (Source 2).
So what do we do? We challenge and demand change. Children deserve the opportunity to receive sexual abuse prevention education in the language that is most comfortable to them. If a child who is DHH discloses abuse, they have a right to be helped like every other child. To receive the support and compassion from educators and helping professionals alike can determine how our children heal the rest of their lives. It’s up to us to see the cracks in the system, demand the change, and truly be the change our children so desperately need in this world.
Source 1: www.safeta.org/page/DeafChild1
Source 2: www.safeta.org/page/DeafChild2
(The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Hey, it’s Victor. Welcome to another Be Seen and Heard Journey. I’m honored and privileged that you’re with me today. I want to talk to you about one word today and that’s awareness. I think it’s important to not only raise our awareness as adults, parents and educators, but also to raise the awareness of our children, especially when it comes to keeping their body safe. I was recently in California and I was speaking to thousands of elementary to middle school students and I recall the sign language interpreters coming in and working with the deaf and hard of hearing students. They were actually there live signing my program and I thought that was so cool. Kids need to raise their awareness whether they have special needs, whether they are deaf and hard of hearing, or whether they have a language barrier. I think it’s so important to help them understand that their body is important and that no one touches them in appropriately.
Today I want to talk about something very specific and it’s maybe a new term. I want to call it, invisible flags. And let me give you an example. There’s a picture I want to show you. This is me when I was eight years old, and if you know my story, you know I was abused as an eight year old little boy and I was threatened not to talk about it. I didn’t for 11 years. But this picture is interesting because I recently just looked at it again and I noticed that it was taken in 1980. I had been abused a few months before the picture was taken. But if you look at this picture, you wouldn’t see a boy who was abused. You see a boy who was smiling. When it came to baseball, I smiled. When it came to art, I smiled.
When it came to performing, I smiled. However, I wasn’t always smiling on the inside. So I think it’s important to raise our awareness, not to be paranoid about it, but just to raise our awareness and know that if our kids are doing well, just to check in with them. DO a daily check-in. How was your day? What’s new? What were your wins for the day? What went well today? What bothered you today? So what am I trying to say? Be inquisitive, ask a lot of questions and know that awareness is powerful.
Hey my friend, I hope you enjoyed this episode of the BCN and her journey. If you’d like to follow me, please go to youtube.com forward slash Victor Pacini or instagram.com forward slash childhood victories or head over to facebook.com forward slash childhood victories or visit my website, Victor pacini.com please share this with your friends and family. And until next time he seen and heard.
I want to thank you for spending the time with me today. Um, please share this with people that you know, friends and family have a great day and let’s keep our children safe. And don’t forget, let’s encourage our kids to be seen and heard. Thank you.