The Secret Deafie: I was abused by a Deaf man, but I don’t want to be called a victim OR a survivor

Posted on February 6, 2015

The Secret Deafie is a regular column about deaf experiences submitted anonymously by different contributors. If you have a story you’d like to tell, just email

I am a Deaf woman, and I was abused by a Deaf man. My child and I now live in a secure refuge, at the other end of the country. Once I spoke up about the abuse, I had no choice but to leave my home and my friends.

It wasn’t just because I was scared of living in the same area as my abuser. I hope I never meet him again, but I also had to move because all the time I stayed there, people associated me with the story of what had happened.

I was losing sense of who I was, and becoming just part of the story. The Deaf community is very small, and everybody hears things about each other. We cling on to things we know about people in a way I’m not sure that hearing people do – even people I haven’t met seem to know this part of my story. They know nothing else about me, only this one, horrible part.

I am not a victim. I don’t want to be patronised, or have strangers hug me tight and say they understand. I don’t want the opposite either; people I have never seen before judging me and making decisions about me without ever talking to me. I want those people to hear my side of the story, but, at the same time, I don’t want to have a side to the story. I wish none of it had happened.

I am not a survivor. I carry wounds to this day, physically, mentally and emotionally. Yes, I have lived through what happened to me, but I don’t wear the experience proudly. I don’t like it when people make me feel as though I should. I wish none of it had happened.

I am not a victim, and I am not a survivor. I am just a person who some bad things happened to, and I’ve carried on. I am just me; a woman, mother and, thankfully, girlfriend to a wonderful man.

I want to let Deaf people know that there is always support out there, even though sometimes it can feel like the community is too small. Although I live in the refuge at the moment, I feel very positive about my life and future. I know that, in time, I will be able to move on from this story and create a new, much better one.

I just hope everybody else moves on with me.

If you are in a similar situation and you need advice, you can contact SignHealth’s DeafHope service, in sign language, at this link: You can also contact Refuge:

As told to Emily Howlett, translated from BSL.

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