Hesperian Health Guides

Why are deaf children at risk for sexual abuse?

In this chapter:

All children are at some risk for sexual abuse because they must trust adults and older children, and depend on them for care. Children are taught that 'good children' do as they are told. This makes it difficult to say no to adults. Very young children also have no way to know how adults normally behave, or what is acceptable adult behavior.

Deaf children are especially at risk for sexual abuse because:

  • Society, in general, values people with disabilities less than others. So an abuser may think it is okay to use a deaf child for sex. And because girls are usually valued less than boys, deaf girls are valued even less than deaf boys. So deaf girls are most at risk.
  • Deaf people use touch to communicate — for example, to get someone's attention. A deaf child may think someone's touch is okay even if it is not.
  • Deaf children have less information than hearing children, but are just as curious. They may also be isolated or feel lonely, which makes them easy targets for abusers.
3 women sitting together; 2 are speaking.
I want Radha to be safe. But how can I teach her to protect herself? My mother never talked to me about this.
I know what you mean. My daughter Mishiri also can't
hear well. And I'm never sure if she understands me. Can we think of ways to explain this to them?
  • Deaf children who have limited communication may have learned to do what others want without asking why.
  • Deaf children who have limited communication skills may not fully understand what you tell them about their safety.
  • Limited communication also makes it harder for deaf children to tell anyone about abuse. Someone may abuse a deaf child because he knows she will not be able to speak about the experience. Deaf children may only be able to communicate with family members or others who look after them. If the abuser is also a family member, caregiver, or teacher, the child may not feel safe telling anyone.