Pathways to Free Services
(For additional information, or to schedule services, please contact Stephanie Reynolds-King via Videophone at 508-502-7681)
Deaf Survivors Program, supported in part by a VAWA grant administered by the Massachusetts Office of Safety & Security and funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, provides culturally appropriate and accessible crisis counseling and advocacy services to survivors of sexual violence who are deaf in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, Middlesex and Worcester Counties. We use the word “deaf” inclusively in reference to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, as well as those who are late-deafened and deaf/blind. Additionally, within the deaf population in this country, there is a community that strongly identifies itself from a cultural—as opposed to a medical—perspective; this community uses a capital “D” when referring to the Deaf community. Nevertheless, in an effort to minimize any sense of exclusion among deaf citizens who do not identify as part of the Deaf community, DSP uses “deaf” to embrace all deaf people.
Our free and confidential services are offered to any individuals over the age of 12 who are deaf. Free services include a 24-hour hotline via relay (via Video Phone M-F 9AM-5PM), medical accompaniment, police accompaniment, court accompaniment, safety planning, and in person individual counseling, or via videophone, as preferred by the survivor. In addition the Program provides professional consultation and technical assistance throughout the Commonwealth.
The Deaf Survivors’ Program (formerly Our Deaf Sisters’ Survivor Support Project) was born through a collaboration of three agencies, bringing together expertise and experience in survivors’ services, including prevention and education, the Deaf community and culture, and the deaf independent living movement. This Program, built within the structure of Pathways for Change, Inc., as the lead agency, and designed with the expertise and experience of Our Deaf Sisters’ Center and The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Independent Living Program of The Center for Living and Working, established a culturally appropriate and accessible counseling and advocacy program for deaf survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse.
To date, there are no definite statistics available on the exact number of deaf individuals in Massachusetts. However, using the application of national prevalence rates to state population data, estimates of the approximate number of deaf individual residing in the Massachusetts regions can be determined, although estimates do vary based on the definition of “deafness”. Therefore, using the most recent estimate (Mitchell, 2005), it can be safely estimated that there are roughly 5,900 deaf individuals residing in Middlesex County and 3,075 deaf individuals residing Worcester County, making it approximately 8,975 deaf individuals in the Central Massachusetts region, the primary catchment area for the Deaf Survivor’s Program at Pathways for Change.
Recent research on sexual violence in the deaf community suggests that deaf individuals are significantly more likely to experience sexual assault than their hearing counterparts. For example, previous studies demonstrate that although sexual assault rates among college students are high, among the deaf community, these rates are nearly double (Francavillo, 2009). Similarly, in a 2010 study, deaf undergraduate students were found to be 1.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault than hearing undergraduates at the same university (McQuiller Williams &Porter, 2010). Therefore, using preliminary investigations into the prevalence of sexual assault against deaf individuals, it can be estimated that approximately 2,549 to 4,308 deaf individuals living in the Central Massachusetts regions are survivors of sexual assault and would likely benefit from culturally and linguistically accessible services designed by and for deaf survivors.