Silent Harm Project Launch – Domestic Abuse Questionnaire

By Jemina Napier & Lucy Clark

This blogpost is a translation from a vlogpost generated in British Sign Language (BSL):

In this v/blogpost Jemina Napier and Lucy Clark from the SIGNS@HWU team in the Centre of Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot-Watt University discuss an exciting new project. You may have seen previously that Jemina and Lucy worked on a project called Justisigns 2, which focused on developing support for deaf women who have experienced sexual, domestic, or gender-based violence and best practices for interpreters and support service providers to work together in this context, with a focus on police officers (see for v/blogposts about the project)

The Justisigns 2 project created a number of different training materials and resources through research interviews with deaf women, interviews with police officers and also a survey of interpreters and support service providers. Take a look at the Justisigns 2 website for more information about those resources.

This new project however, has been funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), along with the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) through a Scotland-Ireland Bilateral Network Grant. This extension to the project aims to expand upon and continue the work that was done in the Justisigns 2 project, using the materials that were developed in relation to training police officers and interpreters to work together to support deaf women who report domestic abuse.

This RSE-RIA project is focused on supporting deaf women who live in rural areas in Scotland and Ireland. We know that through the COVID-19 pandemic, the reporting of domestic abuse increased significantly amongst the general population, and furthermore we know that deaf women are two or even three times more likely to experience this kind of abuse than their hearing counterparts.

This joint project will deliver training to police officers and sign language interpreters who live and work in three different rural settings in Scotland and two rural areas in Ireland. We hope to encourage a better understanding of the situation for deaf women in reporting domestic abuse, as well as best practices for working together to increase support to deaf women who are in rural areas. These women may have more negative experiences due to their isolation and may not know how to report the abuse that they experience.

The 6-month project commenced in January 2023, and we’ve already completed our first task in relation to the Police Scotland ‘Domestic Abuse Questionnaire’ (DAQ). Many deaf women reported to us that they are confused by what the DAQ is and what its purpose is. It is simply a mechanism to support police to get a fuller idea of what’s been going on in a domestic abuse situation. There are 27 questions that are asked, and some of them often may not feel very relevant to the particular situation under investigation. It’s important that a holistic view is taken of the situation in terms of what’s been happening and what has happened in the past so that police and other frontline workers can collect a full picture of the evidence and then they can charge any perpetrators appropriately. So, the DAQ really needed explaining in an effort to enable deaf women to understand what’s in the DAQ and why it is used.

To explore the understanding of the DAQ we held a workshop bringing together three representatives from Police Scotland – one police officer who has a specific role in promoting BSL and working with the deaf community and the other two police officers work in the domestic abuse coordination unit, so they have the background and expertise in the area of domestic abuse. We also brought in a representative from interpreting agency JustSign, which operates in Scotland and specialises in providing interpreting for legal settings such as court and police interviews, along with a representative from Deaf Links, a Scottish deaf community organisation that currently has a project focused on supported deaf women who report domestic abuse. All those stakeholders came together with Jemina and Lucy to discuss the DAQ, and the complexities of some of the questions that made them difficult or challenging to interpret into BSL.

We decided not to try and translate all 27 questions, but rather to clearly go through the DAQ process step by step plus create an explanation about what the DAQ is in BSL for deaf women, so they understand why the police have to follow the very strict order of questions in this fixed process.

We wanted to ensure that because the process of asking all the DAQ questions can take some time, that deaf women understood the DAQ process and the fact that they have to clearly detail information so that police officers can get a full picture. We want to assist to improve this process, make it smoother and clearer. So, the representatives have taken note of which DAQ questions are complex and difficult to translate and are taking steps to try and simplify some of the questions or the ordering of questions. This work we have done on the DAQ we hope will make a real impact on the experiences of deaf women reporting domestic abuse, that may also benefit all women.

We will soon begin rolling out the training sessions. The three sessions in Scotland will take place at the end of March (in Galashiels down by the Scottish Borders), in mid-April (further north in Inverness) and the end of May on the West coast of Scotland in West Dunbartonshire. In Ireland, there will be two training sessions held in April and May in different locations.

At the end of the project we will also be delivering ‘Train the Trainer’ workshops in Scotland and Ireland for people who train police officers and interpreters so that they can think about how to incorporate information about deaf women’s experience of domestic abuse in the training. This will enable us to provide a longer lasting and continuing impact from this project.

Watch this space for more v/blopost updates!