Sunday September 9, 2012
When touching matters
BY KAREN CHAPMAN
TOUCHING is an important communication tool for the deaf. This is because deaf people communicate by “touching”. When they want to get your attention, they tap on your shoulders or hug.
Freelance sign language interpreter Lucy Lim said “it is important for them to know if a touch is appropriate or not”.
“As such, sometimes deaf kids are confused as to whether it is a ‘safe touch’. We teach them to rely on their instincts. For example, if a touch were to give them goosebumps, then it could be an inappropriate gesture,” she added.
There have been various news reports in the past on cases where deaf children and teenagers have been molested or raped. The reasons may be because many deaf children and teens may not know that they have been sexually abused or touched in an improper manner.
Lim said some deaf adults got together to form a group known as Deaf Against Child Sexual Abuse (Dasca) several years ago.
“We conduct workshops on a regular basis for deaf teens and children in primary schools. In addition, we also hold talks for parents with deaf children,” she said.
Sign linguist Ho Koon Wei said Dasca was formed to educate deaf students and empower them by sharing information about their own bodies, teaching communication skills and providing understanding about sexuality abuse.
Depending on the age group of the children involved, administrative executive Jessica Mak said the workshops would inform and teach them about changes in their bodies as they approach puberty, and dealing with relationships and safety concerns.
Ho who is deaf, said: “We use visual aids such as pictorial materials, role play, group discussions and video clips.”
The workshops are usually held over three or four days and have been carried out in Johor, Penang, Sarawak, Sabah, Negri Sembilan, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, she added.
Mak who is also deaf, said most of the activities were hands-on. The Dacsa team developed and customised the curriculum to accommodate the needs of the deaf. There are group discussions and role play which are carried out by deaf leaders themselves.
The team also works with teachers for the deaf and other relevant organisations.
Ho said it is important to empower them by sharing information about their own body, teaching communication and decision-making skills.
“We want them to know the simple rule ‘No, Run and Tell’ which is to say ‘no’ to those who touch them inappropriately and then seek help by running and telling someone they know or trust,” she said.
“They are also taught to identify persons whom they trust, and asked to memorise their telephone numbers,” added Ho who said that children need to know the proper signs so that they could relate the correct information.
Lim said that the team produced a book entitled Signs for Sexuality sponsored by the Malaysian Coalition for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.
Deaf children, she said, often remained silent when they were sexually abused.
“Usually it is difficult for deaf kids to reveal the truth as their perpetrators could be people they know. In addition, most parents are not fluent in sign language and as such, they are not quick enough to grasp what their kids want to express.
“Some deaf kids also do not have sufficient sign vocabulary to describe the incidents,” she added.
According to Lim, the feedback overall had been positive as parents said the workshops made the children more confident and taught them how to keep themselves safe.
For more information on the workshops, e-mail