The Anti-Domestic and Sexual Violence Movement in Deaf America 1986-2013

Marilyn Jean Smith, '74, G-'77, and H-'04, founder of Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services

In response to the murder of a Deaf woman by her abusive husband the Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services (ADWAS) started what is now considered the beginning of the anti-domestic and anti-sexual violence movement in Deaf America. This was in the spring of 1985. Using models from mainstream domestic and sexual violence victim services ADWAS spent the next twelve years modifying these models by incorporating Deaf cultural norms and by creating a Deaf-friendly environment to serve Deaf and Deaf-Blind victims and survivors.

These early years proved very difficult for two key reasons: the Deaf community was not ready to confront the reality of domestic violence and sexual assault and the criminal justice system was filled with barriers to access. An important turning point for the movement came in 1998 when the Department of Justice awarded ADWAS with a significant grant to train other Deaf women across America to replicate the ADWAS model.

This paper includes interviews with almost all the groups trained by ADWAS focusing on important challenges and successes they have faced since training. An analysis of how this movement has impacted Deaf America will also be presented including language and cultural changes, employment opportunities that have opened up and most of all how the Deaf community has for the most part seriously begun to address issues of oppression.

Marilyn Jean Smith is the founder and former executive director (1986-2011) of the Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services located in Seattle. Her work at ADWAS brought many awards including one from U.S. President Bill Clinton, the National Association for the Deaf, Deaf Women United, and the Phi Kappa Zeta Sorority. Other recognitions include the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World award, The Sunshine Lady award, the National Network to End Domestic Violence advocacy award, Bank of America Hero Award, Deaf Hope Trailblazer Award, among others. She served on the boards of Deaf Women United and the National Association of the Deaf and is currently serving on the Deafhood Foundation board.

Marilyn has also received several awards and recognitions from her alma mater—she received her B.A. and M.A. from Gallaudet University—including an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2004. She was the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Fellow and is is a member of the Gallaudet University Board of Associates.

Marilyn is currently principal of The Leading Edge, LLC, which provides workshops on domestic violence, sexual assault, leadership, board development, fund development, grant writing, personal ethics, organizational development, non profit management and is a motivational keynote speaker. She works throughout the United States and Canada.

Thursday, October 17, 2013, 12:30-1:45 p.m., Elstad Auditorium