Preventing and Responding to Violence, Abuse, and Exploitation

Page Content

Several rights protect the safety and integrity of persons with deafblindness, including:


  • Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Freedom from violence, exploitation, and abuse
  • Protecting the integrity of the person[i].

There was a lack of literature in the literature review on violence, exploitation, and abuse of persons with deafblindness, and the quantitative research did not show significant findings on the supervision of children with deafblindness. This was largely because of the way that the quantitative data was captured (e.g., by asking caregivers) which results in underreporting. However, even if there is underreporting of incidents of violence, this does not mean that violence is not happening.


The field experiences of WFDB and Sense International are that persons with deafblindness are at increased risk of violence, including forced sterilisation, gender-based violence, bullying and harassment, sexual violence, emotional violence and neglect, and physical violence in the home, at work, in institutions and residential facilities, and in the community. Data on children with disabilities show that they are three to four times as likely to be survivors of violence than children without disabilities[ii], and women with disabilities experience up to ten times more violence than women without disabilities[iii]. There is little data on violence against persons with deafblindness. However, this data on persons with disabilities, in general, demonstrates the pervasive nature of violence and the risks to persons with deafblindness, as a highly marginalised group within the wider group of persons with disabilities.


Some of the key risk factors affecting persons with deafblindness include:


  • Lack of support to develop communication skills or access to information or reporting mechanisms. For example, families may hide persons with deafblindness from the community, blocking access to reporting mechanisms. In addition, they may lack awareness of what constitutes violence, which can be difficult if they rely on touch for communication
  • Caretaker dependency may result in domestic abuse, child abuse, or institutional abuse. A lack of supports for families can add to the stresses and lead to harmful practices of ‘managing’ persons with deafblindness, especially in poor families. For example, a child with deafblindness in Uganda may be left at home unattended or locked up, if the parent needs to work but has no access to childcare, leaving them at risk and subjecting them to inhuman conditions
  • Exclusion from sexual and reproductive education programmes that provide information on gender-based violence and sexual violence[iv].

Though there is increasing awareness of violence against persons with disabilities, there is little attention to the deafblindness-specific risk factors and little awareness raising within deafblind communities across all countries.


[i] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, A/RES/61/106, 13 December 2006, Articles 15, 16, and 17.

[ii] UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2013 – Violence against Children with Disabilities,, p. 11-29.

[iii] UNFPA, Young Persons with Disabilities: Global Study on Ending Gender-Based Violence, and Realising Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,, 2018.

[iv] Sense International Uganda, The Economic Impact of Caring for a Child with Deafblindness / Multi-Sensory Impairment, November 2019, p. 58; World Federation of the Deafblind, At risk of exclusion from CRPD and SDG implementation: Inequality and Persons with Deafblindness,, September 2018, p. 35, 41, and 43-46.

Good Practices

To understand the prevalence and nature of violence against persons with deafblindness, more targeted quantitative and qualitative research is needed. Research that is conducted on violence against persons with disabilities should include persons with deafblindness to ensure that they are not excluded from the research. This may require time-consuming and costlier steps to identify persons with deafblindness and to overcome the communication barriers and stigma of discussing violence. However, working with OPDs of persons with deafblindness, service providers, and parents’ groups can help identify persons with deafblindness in the community that have experienced violence. In some instances, persons with deafblindness may require sensitisation on what constitutes violence, depending on their communication abilities and existing understanding of violence.


Research on violence should consider the programmatic interventions to prevent and respond to situations of violence once identified as part of the research programme. Some elements for preventing and responding to violence against persons with deafblindness include:


  • Supports for families and caregivers to address the risks of violence (e.g., social protection / caregivers’ salaries, child- or adult-care services, access to education to ensure children with deafblindness are not out of school, respite care, and other community-based supports)


  • Guidance to social workers, schools, health centres, etc. on recognising the risks, patterns, and signs of abuse of persons with deafblindness


  • Information on how to report violence available in accessible formats and targeted education programmes aimed at persons with deafblindness to raise their awareness


  • Inclusive and accessible sexual and reproductive health education programmes that consider the requirements of persons with deafblindness (e.g., interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters, accessible information, assistive devices, etc.)


  • Inclusive measures in violence prevention and response programmes for the wider community, including access to interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters, information in accessible formats, assistive devices, etc.


  • Training for interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters, CBR workers, teachers, and other intermediaries on their responsibilities in identifying the risks and interventions to prevent and respond to violence


  • Training and guidance for professionals within the justice system, such as police, lawyers, and judges to facilitate access to justice[i].

[i] Sense International Uganda, The Economic Impact of Caring for a Child with Deafblindness / Multi-Sensory Impairment, November 2019, p. 58; World Bank, Five facts to know about violence against women and girls with disabilities,, 5 December 2019.



  • Ensure all programmes aimed at preventing and responding to violence include persons with disabilities, including deafblindness-specific interventions, such as access to interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters, accessible information, and teaching approaches to build understanding and resilience of persons with deafblindness who are at risk



  • Recognise the links between lack of supports to persons with deafblindness and their families and increased risks of violence
  • Improve access to interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters and information in accessible formats for persons with deafblindness on systems for reporting and responding to violence
  • Incorporate information into education, health, and CBR programmes, including sexual and reproductive health education, to help persons with deafblindness to recognise and report violence. This includes training and guidance for professionals working with persons with deafblindness on identifying the risks, patterns, and signs, as well as good practice for responding to violence
  • Provide support to persons with deafblindness to respond to violence and ensure continuity of care and support to re-build their networks (e.g., through community-based interventions and independent living programmes), if affected


OPDs and NGOs

  • Work with intermediaries of persons with deafblindness (e.g., interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters, teachers, health and rehabilitation worker, etc.) to build their capacities on safeguarding approaches and how to identify and respond to violence
  • Provide training to the justice sector on methods for supporting persons with deafblindness within the system
  • Increase internal awareness of violence against persons with deafblindness and establish programmatic approaches and procedures for serving as a ‘safe haven’ or ‘first response’ for persons with deafblindness. This may involve discussing violence with persons with deafblindness, offering advice and information, and liaising with police, health centres, and other stakeholders relevant to cases of violence
  • Work with research institutes to encourage research on violence against persons with deafblindness


Donors and Research Institutes

  • Conduct targeted quantitative and qualitative research on violence against persons with deafblindness and ensure that research aimed at violence against persons with disabilities includes persons with deafblindness
  • Fund pilot programmes to test interventions that prevent and respond to violence against persons with deafblindness and to bring it out of the shadows.
Skip to content