Voiceless no longer — NJ group helping domestic violence survivors who are deaf
Getting rushed to the hospital finally made Annmarie file a police report.
The Ocean City resident, who is deaf, had been beaten before. But as she was being tossed around this time, she wondered if she'd ever be able to see her 18-month-old son grow up.
Annmarie woke up in the hospital. Holding her baby boy was the same man who caused her to black out just hours prior.
"I wanted to scream out how dangerous that man was but there was no one to tell. No one signed. Communication was impossible," she told New Jersey 101.5 in an email interview. "I never want another person to go through that feeling of hopelessness and isolation."
- TEXTING HOTLINE FOR THE DEAF: 609-498-2491
- STATEWIDE HOTLINE: 1-800-572-SAFE
According to the Lawrenceville-based Deaf Advocacy Project, a project of Womanspace, research shows women who are deaf or hard of hearing are twice as likely to become a victim of domestic violence.
Committee member Patricia Hart believes there could be 17,000 deaf victims in the Garden State. And despite a domestic violence and sexual assault program in every county, the Deaf Advocacy Project sees only a handful of survivors.
"If you are a victim, it's not always easy to come forward. If you're a deaf victim, that's made that much more difficult," Hart said.
For the past two years, the project has been traveling the state, recruiting deaf volunteers and training them on domestic violence and sexual assault programs. The volunteers can accompany victims to court and better communicate a crisis to police, which cam be nerve-racking for anyone but magnified for the deaf.
"Having deaf advocates ... who are willing to respond 24/7 and listen and speak to someone in their own language is incredibly valuable," Hart said.
Months ago, advocates received a grant from the state to take the initiative statewide, Hart said.
Hart and Annmarie make up a third of the Deaf Advocacy Project committee, along with two additional hearing members and two additional deaf women. All meetings include two sign language interpreters.
"We do this Deaf Advocacy Project because we never want women to return to an abusive and dangerous home because they don't know what else to do," Annmarie said.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.