It has been eighteen months since Amanda and her young children arrived at ADWAS’ Transitional Housing on Christmas Eve. So much has happened since that time; they have begun to rebuild their lives together in safety after enduring years of emotional and physical abuse.

Amanda and her children have made new friends with other families living in the apartment units at the Transitional Housing Program (THP). They live with other families who have suffered the same types of abuse: emotional, physical, and sexual. Mothers who made a heroic decision to save themselves and their children from a life of violence, lead these traumatized families. The children from each family quickly became friends and discovered that they share common stories; an abusive father and being Children of Deaf Adults (CODA).

Amanda believes that the hardest thing she has ever done was to leave her husband, uproot her and her children and begin a new life. She had to face what felt insurmountable—moving to another state, finding new schools for her children, making new friends, and learning new skills. She believes that she and her children have a right to live a life free of violence. She has made that commitment by leaving her violent partner.

As Amanda’s life unfolds it is evident she will likely return to her hometown. She knows her life will never be the same. Her understanding of herself; her increased self-confidence; her understanding of the cycle of abuse are all tools she will use as she returns to life back home. Her next step will be difficult but not nearly as difficult as her first step.

Jana & Hannah

It’s 8 am on Monday morning when the community advocate arrives at work and discovers Jana and her 2-year old daughter Hannah sitting anxiously in the waiting room. They proceed into the advocate’s office where Jana tells her story of 8-years of abuse including intimidation, physical threats, and verbal cruelty. At the hands of her abuser the violence escalated from verbal cruelty to kicking, pushing, and slapping, to even pulling her out of a moving vehicle in order to prevent her from leaving.

The community advocate asks Jana what she wants to do and provides her with a variety of options. Jana says she does not want to go back home and needs a safe place for both she and her daughter to stay. The advocate explains how to get a protection order, which is a civil court order that the victim must request from the court to protect her from her abuser. Since American Sign Language (ASL) is her native language, she needs the advocate to assist with translations of instructions and forms. Filling out the required paperwork takes all morning. A call to the courthouse is next in hopes of scheduling an ASL interpreter for an afternoon hearing.

If all goes as planned, after lunch, Jana and the advocate arrive at the courthouse where the ASL interpreter is waiting. She meets with the judge and explains the abuse and answers all the questions via the interpreter. The judge grants her request for a temporary protection order.

Jana and her advocate stop at the local police station near her house to show the protection order. The police accompany her to her house on a 30-minute standby providing police protection while she and her daughter collect personal belongings and important documents.

It is 5 pm by the time they return to the shelter. The advocate supplies her with blankets and food then schedules an appointment for the next morning to continue working on helping Jana stay safe and assisting her with the transition of moving out of her violent situation.

This is a typical day for ADWAS advocates serving Deaf and Deaf-Blind victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Our advocates provide information and options, assist with development of a personal safety plan and deal with the medical and legal systems. Our advocates empower Deaf and Deaf-Blind victims to break down language and cultural barriers, teaching them about victim’s rights and the rights of Deaf people to have interpreters and fair access to all systems.

Melissa, Sarah, & Grant

Children living in homes with domestic violence suffer trauma from being the secondary (sometimes primary) victims in the home. Every member of a family is affected by the fear and intimidation they experience from the abuser. Suffering can take the form of physical, spiritual, developmental, and/or emotional harm for children who experience violence in their home. Domestic violence disrupts the essential task of developing secure attachments in early childhood.

At ADWAS, we reassure children that what they have observed is not their fault, while giving them tools to feel empowered. Art, empathic listening, psycho-education, and trauma-focused therapeutic techniques are utilized in the ADWAS Children’s Therapy Program to promote healing and growth in the children. In particular, the primary therapeutic task with Sarah, Grant, and Melissa, was developing a therapeutic rapport, in which they could learn how to live without the fear and intimidation they were exposed to on a daily basis.

Grant was quick to attach with the therapist and began telling her about his relationship with his father. He learned how to “be a kid,” i.e. go to the park with his friends, follow mom’s rules, and find solutions to problems instead of resorting to tantrums and outbursts of anger. Sarah is slowly coming out of her shell and learning to emote in the safety of the therapist’s office. The eldest, Melissa, has returned to school on a regular basis and has consented to allow the therapist to be involved in her academic process by attending meetings with teachers, herself, and her mother. She now has a goal of graduating high school and going on to a trade school.

These children have grown by leaps and bounds and still they have a long way to go. Weekly meetings with the therapists and parenting classes have provided critical skills for growth and healing.