Domestic violence advocates stepping up to help deaf community during pandemic


AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the pandemic leading to an increase in domestic violence, advocacy groups are working hard to make sure survivors get the help they need, but getting that help isn’t always easy, especially for the deaf community.

While staying home to stay socially distanced from others might keep many of us safe from COVID-19, survivors of domestic violence can find themselves isolated with an abuser, which could lead to more violence. For the deaf community, it can be hard to reach out for help.

“We started noticing this new kind of abuse going on,” said Olivia Mackey, who works with Abused Deaf Women Advocacy Services, or ADWAS. “So we made sure our services had increased and were more available to meet their needs. Like on the hotline, we have a video phone availability, so they can get on the video phone and have access.”

How can COVID-19 have an impact on survivors?

Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.

“Deaf people tend to not have the same access to communication that everyone else needs, as far as advocacy services, therapy, counseling, all different things,” said Olivia. “There is not the same language, the same communication, and I am here to help them with communication to open that to them so they can have the equal access services that they need.”

Olivia says the pandemic made it hard for some people in the deaf commnunity to get the help they need.

“It caused people to become more isolated, and I noticed there are more red flags during those connections, and there are more patterns of abusers, and they are causing those red flags to be noticed a little bit more,” said Olivia.

While deaf and hard of hearing people experience the same forms of violence that hearing people do, they are 1.5 times more likely than hearing people to experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Advocacy groups like ADWAS and The Deaf Hotline are always there to help.

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