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Protecting Your Deaf Child From Sexual Abuse: A Parent’s Guide

50 minutes



INTERPRETER: Child sexual abuse. It is a difficult topic to think about. But ignoring it, closing our eyes to it won't make it go away. Stories of child sexual abuse have become, sadly, commonplace. It is of the utmost importance to teach your deaf children how to protect themselves.

My name is Jeannie Brown. And I work as a professional advocate for victims who have experienced domestic violence, signed D-V, and sexual assault, S-A. Many people are confused about what child sexual abuse is and what to believe or not to believe. Child sexual abuse is when an adult or minor exerts power to influence a child to engage in any type of sexual activity. This includes showing pornographic pictures, videotapes, books, filming naked children, communicating by phone or internet in a sexual manner. Child sexual abuse is a crime.

There are myths about child sexual abuse that need to be debunked.

INTERPRETER: The most effective strategy for preventing child sexual abuse is good communication with your child. Teaching your child about personal safety gives him or her the skills to recognize and know what to do if something bad happens, valuable skills that could save your child's life.

Adults are responsible for their own actions. A child or young person can never give consent or be responsible for an adult's behavior. Children want and need healthy physical affection. This sometimes is interpreted as being seductive. Offenders exploit children's natural curiosity and their need for affection.

Generally, offenders are normal-looking everyday people, just like you and me, who the victims know, respect, and trust.

Most child sexual abuse is committed by someone with the skills to groom children with affection and attention, making it difficult for the children to identify inappropriate behavior as abuse.

People abuse children for a variety of reasons, including a sense of power. Molesters take advantage of some deaf children's communication barriers.

When a child talks about a lot of sexual details, usually something inappropriate did happen. Children normally do not have explicit knowledge of intimate sexual images and behavior they haven't experienced.

Child sexual abuse is based on the use of deception, force, or threat. Deaf children, like all children, need training in awareness of potential abuse, assertiveness, and self-protection.

Education means protection. The old and simplistic advice, "keep away from strangers," is not enough. Just as each time you cross a street with your child, you remind him or her to look both ways. There are many ways during your children's daily routine to teach them in a casual and non-frightening manner. Your child needs to clearly understand that if she reports an inappropriate situation, she will be respected and believed in places like the home, in school, in hospitals, and in their community.

Many deaf children have language and communication issues which limit with whom they can communicate or how they report abuse.

Come on. Time for school. Come on.

Hey, what's wrong?

INTERPRETER: Deaf children often encounter negative attitudes.


Dummy did it.

Quit that, you bad girl.

Cut out that gibberish.

Nyah, nyah, nyah!

INTERPRETER: This is a lot for you and your deaf child to deal with. The purpose of this video is to teach you the communication skills and tools with which to train your deaf child in personal safety. This video will teach you how to empower your child so she or he can determine what is appropriate and inappropriate.

INTERPRETER: You may wonder what and how to teach your deaf child. What are the proper concepts for teaching prevention of sexual abuse? Young children have a natural curiosity about things. You might feel awkward when you first talk to your child about sex. The key is to be open and honest. Often, people tend to use vague and discreet terms for sexual body parts, such as "down there," "private area," "private parts," "areas covered by a bathing suit," "weenie," "hot dog".

These labels are too vague for your deaf child to really understand. Avoiding anatomical terms like vagina, penis, testicles implies feelings of embarrassment and shame.

You should use specific signs for sexual body parts.

So let's start with a basic sign vocabulary. Don't be shy or embarrassed. After all, it's only you and your child. The more comfortable you are, the better your deaf child will understand. Ready to sign with me?

Penis. P-E-N-I-S. Penis. Come on. Let's do it together. Penis. P-E-N-I-S. Penis.

Vagina. V-A-G-I-N-A. Vagina.

Breasts. B-R-E-A-S-T-S. Breasts. Rear end. R-E-A-R E-N-D. Rear end.

That wasn't too bad, was it? When you converse with your deaf child, show a positive attitude. When you are signing, also point on yourself, on your child, on dolls, or on pictures.

INTERPRETER: A healthy attitude about sexuality.

The more comfortable you are, the healthier your child's sense of sexuality will be.

INTERPRETER: See how comfortably this family is interacting? When your child knows the proper names for his or her body parts, he or she will be better able to tell you about any uncomfortable situations or abuse that might arise later on.

It's your body; your right to privacy. Your child should know his body belongs completely to himself and that no one else has the right to force him to behave in ways he doesn't want. So it's important for you to teach your child about his right to privacy.

INTERPRETER: See how this father uses specific signs like penis, vagina, breasts? You might want to explain more about other normal appropriate situations to be undressed in the company of other people, such as showering at school or changing clothes at the swimming pool, and when it's not appropriate.

INTERPRETER: Be careful about overstressing the concept of privacy. Your child might think his penis or her vagina and breasts are not to be touched. Explain it is normal and OK to touch while bathing or in the privacy of his or her bedroom. Encourage a positive attitude toward sexuality now so your child will have healthy relationships as an adult.

INTERPRETER: Accepting your child's decisions. Often, we force our children to hug people they do not want to like family members, friends, or strangers. This undermines the child's confidence and ability to say no to adults.

INTERPRETER: When you force your child to hug, you are taking away his right to decide for himself if he wants to be touched or not. He might think he always has to obey adults because of what you taught him. Be alert if your child displays unusual symptoms of stress or nervousness around a person. Respect your child and reinforce his skills in protecting himself.

INTERPRETER: It is important for your child to know he has exclusive right over his entire body. It is OK to say no to being touched by anyone at any time, no matter who that person is, even yourself. Don't worry about people thinking your child is impolite or rude for refusing kisses or hugs. You can teach your child how to graciously greet and say goodbye without contact. You want your child to have a strong sense of independence to decide for himself.

No. Go. Tell. How do you teach your child about what to do in an inappropriate or uncomfortable or dangerous situation? A good strategy is the concept of "no, go, tell." These are three basic rules your child should know for what to do.

Watch this next scene, and learn some important signs you can teach your child.

INTERPRETER: Now let's practice the signs for these three important rules.

No. Again. No.

Go. Again. Go.

Tell. Again. Tell.

You can also use only one finger to sign. No. Go. Tell. Again. No. Go. Tell.

Teach your child to know which strangers from whom to ask for help, such as a police officer, firefighter, a store clerk, or a mother with young children.

Help your child make a list of people from whom she can ask for help.

INTERPRETER: Good and bad reasons for taking off clothes. What are good reasons and bad reasons for your child to take off her clothes?

Your child needs to know there must be a very good and appropriate reason.

INTERPRETER: Take advantage of your child's daily routines to identify good and bad reasons for taking off clothes for someone else. Remember, abuse can be done by anyone your child knows and trusts.

INTERPRETER: How to handle a report of abuse. When abuse happens, children usually feel guilty, ashamed, and at fault. If your child informs you of abuse, it is very important to be calm. If you avoid discussing the situation, your child's negative feelings will worsen and may become suppressed. Assure her it is not her fault. Praise her for informing you. Now, suppose your child tells you about an abusive situation. What do you do?

INTERPRETER: Notice how the parents responded? Always listen and believe your child, even if she is complaining about a family member or a friend. If you're not able to understand your deaf child, please make the effort to find out somehow. Ask someone with better communication skills to assist you if necessary.

INTERPRETER: Let's practice some positive reassuring phrases in sign language.

I believe you. I believe you.

I'm happy you told me. I'm happy you told me.

It's not your fault. It's not your fault. You did the right thing in telling me. You did the right thing in telling me.

I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you.

I will help you. I will help you.

INTERPRETER: Using drawings to communicate. Drawing is a good, non-threatening way for a deaf child to visually communicate something that is hard or too painful to put into words. When children are engaged in this expressive activity, they may become more comfortable to discuss the situation.

Come on. Time for school. Come on.

Hey, what's wrong?

Come on. What's the matter? Hey, come on.


The bus is coming. Come on.


Come on! Here comes the bus. Come on.

No! No! No!

Come on. What's wrong?

No! No! No!

I'm really concerned. Tommy didn't want to get on the school bus this morning. I don't know why.

You know, we've been seeing the same thing for the past two days. He refuses to get on the school bus.

INTERPRETER: It's best to discuss possible situations of abuse in private.

What's wrong?

Hey, can you tell me about your picture? What's this? Whose house? What's this? What's this?

Is that your school bus?

What's this?

It's OK. Tell me more.

What is that?

Is that penis of a boy?

Is that penis, man?

Hey, tell me what happened.

Who's the man? Who?

This man driver?

We need to go and talk with the counselor.

INTERPRETER: You saw how the teacher and the father used the "tell me more" and "tell me what happened" approach. Use non-leading questions like what, who, how. Avoid asking "why" questions, which can be intimidating. Let the child tell the story in his own words. If you suspect abuse, get professional help. Talk to your family doctor, school counselor, or child advocacy services.

INTERPRETER: Good and bad secrets.

In this next scene, the mother uses good role-playing techniques to illustrate a lesson. Role-playing means you and your child act out different situations. Sometimes, switch roles so your child can act out as the adult. Role-playing is a good visual way of teaching and also good for finding out what might have happened. This next scene deals with how to explain the difference between a good secret and a bad secret.

INTERPRETER: Child sexual abuse is usually not a one-time occurrence. The offender first develops a relationship of trust with the child. Abusers use bribes or threats to scare children into keeping bad secrets.

Teach your child that secrets about touching are not OK. Encourage your child to inform you if someone tells her to keep a bad secret. Let your child know you will always believe her.

INTERPRETER: Encouraging your child to tell you.

Let's practice some signs you can use to encourage your child to talk with you.

"You don't have to keep a bad secret." "You can tell me."

"I will always believe you." "Thank you for telling me."

Let's practice again.

"You don't have to keep a bad secret." "You can tell me."

"I will always believe you." "Thank you for telling me."

Discussing personal safety and encouraging your child will build up her trust and ability to talk with you.

INTERPRETER: "What if" questions.

Next, is a series of "what if" questions for some possible situations that would be good for discussing and role-playing. Let's learn the signs for these questions and practice.

INTERPRETER: It would be beneficial for you and your child to role-play these scenarios. Look at your daily routines for other possible scenarios to act out. Remember not to teach too much until they are emotionally ready. You can add more information as they mature. Support your child in any way you can. Observe, check in, talk, and listen. Be there for your child.

INTERPRETER: As your child becomes better educated, empowered, and more assertive, the better she will be able to handle a bad situation. You have now seen some ideas and strategies for teaching your deaf child how to avoid sexual abuse. You have a very important responsibility to give your child the tools and confidence in protecting herself.

Remember, education is protection. Together, we can protect our deaf children from the dark shadow of sexual abuse.


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Now Playing As: Captioned (English)

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Deaf students are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. This abuse may come from family members, friends of the family, neighbors, or anyone else. These children may not be able to verbally express themselves, and their parents may not be able to communicate with them in sign language. Overviews the communication skills and tools to train these children in personal safety. Also, emphasizes the three basic rules of "No," "Go," and "Tell." Produced by the Washington School for the Deaf in conjunction with the Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services (ADWAS). NOTE: Includes explicit signs and vocabulary related to human anatomy, and parents/teachers should preview it before use.

Media Details

Runtime: 50 minutes

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