SILENT HARM: Empowering Deaf Women Surviving Domestic Violence Post-Covid:

An Inclusive approach to resilience & recovery in rural areas

By Jemina Napier & Lucy Clark, Heriot-Watt University

Lorraine Leeson & Lianne Quigley, Trinity College Dublin

Summary of this blogpost in BSL and ISL with subtitles and spoken English interpretation:


This project was funded through a Royal Society of Edinburgh-Royal Irish Academy Scotland-Ireland Bilateral Network Grant and sought to empower deaf women who have experienced domestic violence by delivering training to police officers and sign language interpreters in rural areas in Scotland and Ireland in collaboration with Police Scotland, An Garda Síochána, and deaf community organisations Deaf Links (Dundee, Scotland) and the Irish Deaf Society.

The training drew on evidence and resources developed as part of a previous collaborative project (Justisigns 2) – and focused on best practices for working together.


The objectives of the project were to:

  • continue the collaboration between the European Commission funded Justisigns 2 project Scottish and Irish partners to produce academic journal outputs from data collected through surveys of support service personnel and interpreters working with women who have experienced GBV in Scotland and Ireland and through interviews with deaf women and police officers;
  • provide ‘Train the Trainer’ workshops in Edinburgh and Dublin in order to skill up a group of police officers and interpreter educators who can continue to offer training on an on-going basis throughout each country. This will ensure the sustainability of the training and ensure capacity and capability building for future trainers.
  • deliver the training materials developed as part of the Justisigns 2 project to police officers and interpreters in two rural areas in Scotland and two rural areas in Ireland.

All of these objectives were realised and more. Originally, we had planned to first offer a 3-hour ‘train the trainer’ workshop in each country, followed by the delivery of three 3-hour training workshops in person in each country in rural areas. After the first planning session, we realised that it would be more effective to deliver the rural training first, and then to reflect on the efficacy of the training with educators who currently provide training to police officers and interpreters to see how they could draw on the training materials, and specifically a training manual (

We also decided to use a masterclass model for the rural training and deliver over a whole day rather than just 3-hours to maximise the time. The training schedule was designed to bring police officers and interpreters together for sessions, as well as having separate bespoke sessions with information tailored to their needs. The final masterclass schedule and content was localised for each country.

In the end, only two masterclass workshops were delivered in each country because there were not enough participants available to attend in other rural areas, especially interpreters. There was also an issue with availability of interpreters to provide interpreting for the workshops. This highlights the issue of lack of access for deaf women living in rural areas and lack of availability of interpreters. The training was delivered in Inverness (north) and Helensburgh (west) in Scotland, and the planned workshop in Galashiels (borders) was cancelled. In Ireland, a different strategy was adopted as there was a large interest in one rural area (Donegal) from different stakeholders, so two workshops were held in the same place across two consecutive days, but one workshop planned in the Northwest was cancelled. The workshops were attended by a total of 10 police officers and 8 interpreters and 1 independent domestic abuse advisor in Scotland and a total of 53 police officers, interpreters, and representatives from social services, the local education board and sexual assault treatment unit nurses in Ireland.

The format for the ‘train the trainer’ workshops was different. In Ireland the majority of educators are based in Dublin and there was the opportunity to extend the workshop to include educators who work with other language groups. So, a 2-hour face-to-face workshop was held at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) with 9 attendees from the TCD Irish Sign Language interpreter training programme, the Garda, Irish Refugee Council, and the TCD student counselling service. In Scotland, a 2.5 hour workshop was delivered online as there was interest from police and interpreter educators from all over the UK. It was attended by 7 interpreter educators who teach in different programmes throughout the UK, and 26 police officers from Police Scotland and 1 from Greater Manchester Police. All participants were sent the training manual one-week advance and asked to review it and complete a review template form. The workshops were divided into three parts:

  1. Guided discussion and reflection:  The workshop began with a guided discussion session where participants shared their initial thoughts, questions, and insights about the training manual.
  2. Focused discussion and Reflection: Participants were divided into two groups (police/ interpreters) to discuss their understanding of the training manual and content and how it could be taught, highlighting key points, and identifying any areas of ambiguity or further exploration.
  3. Collaborative Manual Application: The groups reconvened to collectively feedback on how they think they can apply the training manual and activities in their own training, and discuss potential for interprofessional working and how can we collaborate to deliver this training.

In reviewing evaluations from the masterclass and ‘train the trainer’ workshops it can be seen that a short course form of professional development in interpreter mediated interactions concerning domestic violence can be effectively delivered in different formats to meet police and interpreter training provider needs, and also those of other stakeholders. All masterclass participants gave praise for the training, confirmed in their evaluations that they had learned a lot and were particularly pleased with having the collaborative experience so that they could see the issues from the perspective of other professionals. All participants said they would apply their new learning in their daily practice should they be presented with a domestic violence situation with a deaf woman. Many commented on the need for the training to be embedded in standard police and interpreter training, and not just as ‘top up’ professional development. The educators were similarly enthusiastic. They were impressed with the training manual and especially pleased that it would be freely available, along with the accompanying resources, to use. All the participants felt that they would be able to embed the use of the manual and resources in their own training delivery.


The outputs from this project are as follows (as outlined in the original proposal):

  • 2 in person network meetings (one in Dublin & one in Edinburgh)
  • 2 ‘train the trainer’ workshops – one online in the UK and one in Dublin
  • 4 training workshops in rural locations (2 Ireland, 2 Scotland)
  • Completion of 1 research report based on survey of police officers and interpreters conducted as part of the Justisigns 2 project.
  • 2 journal article publications in preparation

In addition, further outputs were created:

  • A workshop was held between the Scottish project leaders, Police Scotland representatives and legal sign language interpreter experts to review the Police Scotland Domestic Abuse Questionnaire (DAQ) and how easy it was to translate into British Sign Language (BSL). This led to a revision of the 27 questions in the DAQ so that they are in plain English, making them more straight forward to translate into any language, including BSL. A briefing paper has now been put forward by the Police Scotland Domestic Abuse Coordination Unit for the official adoption of the revised DAQ to be used by all police officers when interviewing victims of domestic violence.
  • Bilingual v/blogpost in BSL and English about the new RSE-RIA project and the DAQ workshop.
  • A hybrid event on to launch a documentary on deaf women’s experiences of accessing support when reporting domestic violence that was created as part of the Justisigns 2 project and to promote the new RSE-RIA funded project. It was attended by 24 people in person and 77 on Zoom.
  • A BSL version of a poster of ’10 tips’ for police in communicating with deaf women through sign language interpreters that was created as part of the Justisigns 2 project 
  • 18 videos of terms/ short phrases in BSL that would be useful for police to use if encountering a deaf person to complement a glossary of domestic violence related terms already created as part of the Justisigns 2 project.

Outcomes, future plans & wider impact

  • The project was designed to specifically enable bilateral and in-country activities to take place as a result of the funding that would not have occurred otherwise. The project has allowed us to apply and disseminate the training materials and resources developed together as part of the Justisigns 2 project to targeted groups and to create the opportunity for these materials and resources to continue to be used by educators.
  • There is the potential for follow-on funding to extend the research and training, and to explore different perspectives on domestic violence in deaf communities. Two funding bids have been submitted and are pending decisions.
  • A meeting has been arranged between the project team and Police Scotland and the An Garda Síochána in Dublin eto discuss how to further embed the training materials and resources into training for police officers in Scotland and Ireland, and how there could be greater collaboration between the two forces going forward to support further research. This meeting was facilitated through this project and success of the training.
  • The Justisigns 2 and SILENT HARM projects were highly commended in the Heriot-Watt University Principal’s Research & Engagement Awards (PRIME) under the ‘Influence’ category for the outstanding collaborations with Police Scotland and An Garda Síochána and the impactful nature of the research and training.

In general, it can be seen that there is the potential impact from this project to improve the situation for deaf people generally in coming into contact with the police, as well as in domestic violence situations in rural and metropolitan areas, as the training will raise more awareness among police officers and also provide more confidence to interpreters to take work in legal settings.