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Addressing Partner Violence in the Deaf Community

Adapting an Evidence-based Curriculum for Use by Deaf Service Providers

Funded by University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry's Community Partnership Development Award. 
Co-PI, Robert Pollard, PhD, Co-PI, Mary Mowl, MA

Deaf individuals are at greater risk for victimization from Partner Violence (PV) than are hearing people. Awareness of PV prevention and intervention strategies in this population is limited by lower literacy and by "fund of information" gaps. Further, deaf individuals' access to PV medical, social, psychiatric, and legal services is curtailed by a host of communication and cultural barriers. The Department of Psychiatry's Deaf Wellness Center (DWC) has teamed with the Advocacy Services for Abused Deaf Victims (ASADV), a local, deaf-run organization, to pursue a project that will yield an evidence-based curriculum regarding PV prevention, assessment, and intervention strategies geared toward an audience of deaf service providers. The project's central philosophy is that the most effective way to help deaf individuals who experience or are at risk for PV is to advance the PV knowledge and prevention/intervention skills of key deaf individuals associated with organizations that serve deaf individuals and for these key individuals, in turn, to provide the necessary education and interventions to their fellow deaf citizens. The evidence-based source curriculum was developed by the Partner Violence Intervention Project (PVIP) at the University of Rochester's Department of Psychiatry, with input from that department's Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization (LIVV). The project team will employ a process used routinely by the DWC to adapt (not merely translate) pre-existing educational materials for deaf learners. After thoroughly studying the source curriculum and distilling and prioritizing its "learning points" the project team will develop a blueprint for optimal conveyance of the source curriculum's learning points to the target deaf audience. Subsequently, the team will produce the adapted multimedia curriculum, to include up to 60 minutes of DVD film segments depicting deaf individuals demonstrating key curriculum concepts and practices through dialogue in American Sign Language (ASL), supplementing the curriculum's written and PowerPoint slide content. Existing pre- and post-test and evaluation materials also will be adapted for deaf users. Simultaneously, PV data emerging from the National Center for Deaf Health Research's ASL survey of Monroe County deaf residents will be analyzed and contribute to the adapted curriculum contents. A variety of sustained training and research activities on PV in the deaf population are planned, including curriculum dissemination, and utilization and assessment of the curriculum with ASADV's volunteer pool.

Rochester Prevention Research Center: National Center on Deaf Health Research

In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) funded the establishment of the National Center for Deaf Health Research (NCDHR) at the University of Rochester Medical Center, one of 33 Prevention Research Centers (PRC) funded by the CDC, and the first research center in the world exclusively devoted to health issues in the deaf population. Several members of the DWC serve on the NCDHR Research Committee, including Robyn Dean, Amanda O'Hearn, and Robert Pollard.

The NCDHR conducts community-participatory research studies that will document the incidence of various health problems in the deaf population and test educational and other interventions aimed at reducing the incidence of illness and promoting the overall physical and mental health of the deaf population.

Past Projects

Depression Awareness Ad Campaign

In May of 2009, the DWC launched a public service announcement (PSA) campaign to raise awareness in the Deaf community about depression. The campaign is built around three PSAs filmed only in American Sign Language (no sound track) featuring deaf professionals and actors, including the well known deaf actress, Linda Bove. 

View videos and more information about the campaign

My Body, My Responsibility

My Body, My Responsibility is a 62-minute video (VHS or DVD) designed to teach deaf women of all ages important information about sexual development, menstruation and related hygiene, pregnancy and birth, pregnancy prevention, and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection. The film features dialogue in American Sign Language, a spoken English vocal track, and English captions (subtitles).

My Body, My ResponsibilityMy Body, My Responsibility

"My Body, My Responsibility: A Health Education Video for Deaf Women" is a 62 minute film, available on DVD. The cost is $65 which includes shipping and postage. (Tax exempt organizations must provide us with their tax ID number to avoid paying a sales tax of 8.25%.) The film features deaf actresses in most roles (and a deaf ob-gyn surgeon!) and dialogue in American Sign Language throughout. It also has a spoken English voice-over and open captions (subtitles), so the film is accessible to hearing and hard-of-hearing people as well as sign language users. It covers topics including puberty, menstruation and related hygiene, pregnancy and labor, pregnancy prevention, birth control methods, and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and how to be tested for HIV. This video fills a major gap in health education materials for deaf women and/or families with deaf women. It would be useful in deaf education settings, other deaf service settings, healthcare settings that serve deaf women, in families (where deaf and hearing members could watch/discuss it together), and in interpreter training programs.

To order, contact Dr. Robert Pollard at (585) 727-2765 voice. Orders can be placed via phone, mail, or e-mail. We will send you an invoice along with your order. Email correspondence should be sent to