In the United States, one in every six boys (hearing) and one in every three girls (hearing) suffers some form of sexual abuse by the time they are 16 years old. If you are deaf and/or disabled, that rate is DOUBLE the rate of hearing or non-disabled children and young people. Why? There are many reasons. People who commit sexual crimes (predators) are always looking for children who are easy targets. Many deaf children never receive good sex education about what is safe and not safe. Why? Because their hearing parents don’t sign or are embarrassed to use sexual signs. In addition, often deaf children are very isolated (91% grow up in hearing families). If they attend “main-streamed” schools, they may be the only deaf child in a class, in a school! So, the perpetrator notices those children who seem lonely, no friends. The perpetrator shows in interest in that child, tries to communicate, or gives ‘gifts”. The deaf child becomes a victim. Also, the perpetrator knows three things about deaf and/or disabled children:
1) The child victim may be afraid to “disappoint” the perpetrator, and lose that “friendship”. The perpetrator may even be skilled in sign-language.
2 Perpetrators know that the deaf child may have a hard time communicating what happened because so many hearing adults parents, police, hospital staff, social workers, counselors) don’t sign.
3) Many hearing adults (even parents) think that no one would have sex with a deaf or disabled child. WRONG! Perpetrators depend on that attitude. Perpetrators love to have sex with children and young people they know will NOT be able to communicate, and adults will not believe the child.
Perpetrators LIE. They say, “oh, this does not hurt the child. Oh, I love this child. The child dressed sexy and that is why I had sex. The child wanted to have sex with me.” NO!!! LIES!!!!!
Sexual abuse happens in many different situations in our community:
DEAF ADULTS may force sex on the hearing children of deaf parents. The deaf parents trust their deaf friends.
DEAF ADULTS may force sex on other deaf young people. They sign, “oh, this is part of growing up. It is okay because we are deaf.”
OLDER HEARING CHILDREN may force sex on their younger brothers/sisters, or step-brothers, step-sisters.
HEARING ADULTS, often family members, may force sex on deaf children. The hearing person knows that other hearing people will NOT believe the deaf or disabled child. What can we do?
1) If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, it is NOT your fault. If you still suffer because you were abused, even 10,20, 30 years ago, get help. Go to a counselor who can help you with you get rid of your suffering.
2) People who force children or young people to have sex commit a crime. The police should arrest them, and they should go to jail. Sexual abuse is also a terrible SIN. This hurts God’s children. God’s judgment will be hard on those who hurt children. God will punish sexual abusers.
1) if your child tells you, voice or sign, that someone forced them to have sex or watch sexy videos or touched them in a sexual way, BELIEVE YOUR CHILD. Immediately call 9-1-1 to report this. If the child communicates that this happened in school, do NOT call the school. Call 9-1-1. If the child is deaf, tell the police they MUST bring a CERTIFIED INTERPRETER to do any interviews with the child. The parent or a hearing brother/sister should NOT act as the “interpreter”.
2) Hearing parents have to teach their children, hearing/deaf, about what is safe touching and not safe touching; what is healthy behavior and what is not healthy behavior. Parents MUST promise their children that the parents will ALWAYS believe the child if the child tells them what happened. Also, if another adult tells the child, “do NOT tell your parents what we did; this is OUR secret,”, the child MUST tell the parents.
3 If your child is in another home and someone shows the child pornography on a computer, a tv screen, the child must tell the parents. Then, call 9-1-1.
There is a very good resource for all parents: www.stopitnow.org. That site gives parents good information about sexual abuse. There is also a special set of pages for parents who have children who are deaf/disabled, have “special needs”.
Father Joseph Mulcrone