A Pilot Study of Deaf Trauma Survivors’ Experiences: Early Traumas Unique to Being Deaf in a Hearing World

Melissa L. Anderson, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Kelly S. Wolf Craig, Connecticut Department of Developmental Services
Wyatte C. Hall, University of Rochester Medical Center
Douglas M. Ziedonis, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Abstract

Conducting semi-structured American Sign Language interviews with 17 Deaf trauma survivors, this pilot study explored Deaf individuals’ trauma experiences and whether these experiences generally align with trauma in the hearing population. Most commonly reported traumas were physical assault, sudden unexpected deaths, and “other” very stressful events. Although some “other” events overlap with traumas in the general population, many are unique to Deaf people (e.g., corporal punishment at oral/aural school if caught using sign language, utter lack of communication with hearing parents). These findings suggest that Deaf individuals may experience developmental traumas distinct to being raised in a hearing world. Such traumas are not captured by available trauma assessments, nor are they considered in evidence-based trauma treatments.