Bullying is a topic that most people are familiar with. Chances are you’ve been exposed to it at some point in your life. Bullying can happen anywhere, at school, work, home, or in the community. There are various types of bullying, including physical, verbal/emotional, and cyber bullying. It occurs when one intentionally and repetitively tries to bring someone down through means of verbal or physical attacks, humiliation, embarrassment, and so on. Many deaf and hard of hearing individuals have experienced their fair share of bullying as it pertains to their deafness and hearing loss.
This is actually a huge reason why I’m such as advocate for anti-bullying through my page and blogging. In middle school, I experienced physical, verbal, and cyberbullying, and a lot of it did pertain to my deafness. I was often called “deaf and dumb,” made fun of because I was the “deaf girl in the room who couldn’t hear,” and left out because it was easier to exclude than to accommodate. The list goes on. I was a victim of bullying for so long and decided I didn’t want to be a victim anymore. I wanted to take a stand and be an advocate for other victims.
Read more: When bullying isn’t just a teenage problem
People with hearing loss are often made to feel like outsiders, made fun of for wearing hearing aids, the way they talk or choose to communicate, mishearing things, etc. There are countless reports demonstrating the prevalence of bullying among the deaf community. For instance, according to a 2013 study by Weiner, Day, and Galvan, it was reported that “deaf and hard of hearing students experience bullying at rates 2-3 times higher than those reported by hearing students. Deaf and hard of hearing students reported that school personnel intervened less often when bullying occurred than was reported in the hearing sample. Results indicate the need for school climate improvement for all students, regardless of hearing status (Weiner, Day, Galvan, p.1, 2013).”
“…deaf and hard of hearing students experience bullying at rates 2-3 times higher than those reported by hearing students.”
We are often seen as incapable or less than our hearing peers and are put down for that, when really, that’s not the case. We are no less worthy or capable than anyone else.
Read more: Growing up with hearing loss: How I gain confidence to be myself
Domestic abuse/violence is any form of abuse (physical, verbal/emotional, sexual, bullying, harassment, humiliation, degradation, etc.) within a relationship with a significant other or a loved one. Just like bullying, domestic abuse and domestic violence is also something that anyone can experience and comes in many of the same forms. However, there’s a lot more complexities involved including the cycles of abuse, relationship dynamics, etc.
Deaf and hard of hearing individuals may experience increased incidences of domestic abuse and violence due to being falsely seen as weak or vulnerable. VAWnet: A Project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, explains this a little more in-depth. Additionally, the Nia Project conducted through the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Emory University presents the statistics of domestic violence in members of the deaf and hard of hearing population. One significant mention on this site is as follows: “Within the deaf community, there is a ‘double code of silence’ related to domestic violence because services are typically not culturally sensitive or accessible for deaf survivors and because the deaf community has historically misunderstood or minimized the issue (Rems-Smario, 2007).”
“Deaf and hard of hearing individuals may experience increased incidences of domestic abuse and violence due to being falsely seen as weak or vulnerable.”
If You’re Struggling
If you’re struggling with bullying or domestic abuse, first and foremost, know that you are not alone. Help, support, and hope are out there. Below are some accessible resources that are available 24/7.
Additional resources can be found at your local domestic violence shelter or agency.
I know how hard it can be to seek help in these experiences. You may feel like you have tried and hit dead ends, or that no one will take you seriously. My biggest piece of advice is to never, ever stop speaking up, and never stop fighting. Know that you deserve to be treated with respect and to be heard.
What We Can Do as a Community
So, what can we as a community to do support victims and survivors of bullying and domestic abuse with hearing loss? The answer is, a lot.
While it may be intimidating to speak up, or get involved, it’s also one of the most crucial things we can do. It all begins with listening, caring, and believing.
Read more: Why we need deaf peer support in our communities
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