India (MNN) — The same language barriers that limit Deaf understanding of the Gospel also make Deaf children appealing targets for sexual predators.
“They don’t have anybody that they can tell if someone is taking advantage of them,” notes Rob Myers of DOOR International. “Sometimes, they don’t know what’s OK and what’s not OK because nobody’s ever taken the time to tell them that.”
In recent days, Indian lawyers brought charges against 17 men for repeatedly raping an 11-year-old Deaf girl. Officials are holding the men in custody until July 31. Four have reportedly confessed already.
“This type of situation highlights the type of vulnerability that the Deaf community has,” Myers says. “The fact that…this could go on for six months, that a group of 17 men could be consistently and continually taking advantage of her, and she has no opportunity to tell others?
“This has caused a lot of anger and resentment and protests in the Deaf community.”
Deaf people were protesting in various major cities throughout India a few days ago, he adds. They wanted to tell officials that “more needs to be done to prevent this kind of sexual abuse from happening in general, but particularly from happening in the Deaf community.”
Protecting Deaf children
At the end of 2012, the gang rape of a student in New Delhi brought global attention to the prevalence of sexual crimes in India. A few years later, a report by Actionaid revealed that 79% of women in India have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public.
While specific statistics are unavailable, DOOR’s Deaf leaders tell Myers “this type of crime is much, much more prevalent among Deaf, particularly among Deaf children.”
Nearly all Deaf children (90%) are born to hearing parents and most of these parents do not learn a sign language. Approximately 80% of Deaf worldwide have no access to formal education. Effectively, this leaves Deaf children without any form of communication.
“Many times, relatives will target these children because they know that they can’t tell other people.”
Assault is a problem in Deaf schools, too. Authorities sometimes take advantage of Deaf students. But, thankfully, “there’s been a much stronger crack-down in residential Deaf schools and other places where Deaf children are typically there for long periods of time.”
Advocating for Deaf children
Deaf people best understand the Gospel when it is brought to them on the hands of another Deaf person. This principle, Deaf reaching Deaf for Christ, undergirds DOOR’s entire ministry. The 2-by-2 program is no different.
Whenever DOOR’s Deaf church planting teams bring the Gospel to a community, they connect with Deaf people living in isolation. As the teams learn about situations like the ones described above, they become advocates and help shine a light on injustice. Would you consider doing the same?
Prayer is the first step.
“Pray…for this young girl who is still alive but is suffering from the trauma of this horrific situation,” asks Myers. “There are many other children throughout the world who are living right now in the same situation.
“Pray for God to intervene, for the people who are taking advantage of these children to be found out…[and] for community leaders to be bold enough and courageous enough to bring these people to justice.”
Additionally, you can click here to donate online and support a Deaf church planting team through DOOR.
“If you’d like to sponsor a team…working on the field, that can help bring the Gospel to a community that otherwise has, for 2,000 years, been cut off.”
Finally, consider taking your first step of advocacy by sharing this story online by using the buttons below.
Header photo courtesy of namo deet via Pexels.