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Sexual Assault in Deaf & Hard of Hearing Communities

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

What is Sexual Assault? Sexual assault is any form of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent (consent is the agreement between all participants to engage in sexual activity).

Examples of sexual assault include (but are not limited to):

  • Rape or attempted rape.

    • Rape is the act of sexual penetration without consent. Penetration includes any act (no matter how slight) of a perpetrator’s sexual organ into another person’s body (vagina, anus, oral).

  • Unwanted sexual touching or fondling.

  • Forcing an individual to perform sexual acts on the perpetrator, such as oral sex or penetration.

Physical power is not the only kind of force. Perpetrators may use emotional or psychological coercion, or manipulations to pressure a victim into non-consensual sexual actions. (RAINN, 2020)

What/ who is a perpetrator?

A perpetrator is an individual who performs non-consensual sex acts or manipulates another into performing non-consensual sex acts. Approximately 80 percent (8 out of 10 assaults) of perpetrators are someone that the victim previously knew. (RAINN, 2020)

Sexual Assault Statistics in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

  • There is an estimate that 50% of the Deaf community has been sexually abused as a child.

  • 5% of Deaf rape survivors report their assaults.

  • 5% of Deaf rape survivors seek support and guidance from crisis or counseling centers.

Factors that might contribute to the small percentage of Deaf individuals who seek support.

  • Communication barriers.

  • Exposure of private information (if an interpreter is required.)

  • The concern that a private matter could become known to many.

  • Lacking access to information on how to report such events.

  • Lacking access to resources.

If you or someone you know is in need of Deaf services in relation to sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual violence, please contact Deaf Iowans Against Abuse for help.


Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. (n.d.). Sexual Violence in the Deaf Community. Retrieved from

RAINN. (2020). Retrieved from

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