College of Arts and Sciences
deaf, Deaf, isolation, domestic violence, human trafficking, American Sign Language (ASL)
American Sign Language
Ojuola, Tolu, "I Saw the Signs: The Role of American Sign Language in Preventing Violence against deaf Youth" (2020). Senior Honors Theses. 1010.
The American Deaf community, comprised of approximately 500,000 people, has developed into a sociolinguistic, cultural community with American Sign Language (ASL) at its center. ASL is the autonomous language of Deaf individuals in America complete with its own grammar, orthography, syntax, and morphology. ASL is capable of conveying complex emotions and abstract ideas. However, most deaf children remain unable to express their innermost feelings because they live in homes with hearing parents who do not speak their language. For many deaf children, this is their first experience with isolation, but it is one they will grow familiar with as they advance from elementary school to high school. With years of isolation as a foundation, many deaf children are more susceptible to dangerous figures such as human traffickers and domestic abusers who target already isolated children and isolate them further, physically and psychologically. In various survivor accounts of human trafficking and domestic violence, isolation was central to them all. But, in the hands of a hearing parent, ASL is the best weapon against isolation because it closes the language gap that initially caused that isolation. With isolation eradicated from the lives of American deaf children, and therefore one risk factor removed, deaf children are one step closer to living safer lives free of sexual violence.