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Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: A Conversation on How to Better Serve Deaf Immigrants and Refugees

[presentation is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 22 at 3 pm]


Presenters:  Susan Demers-McLetchie and Brittany Ellenbecker


Description of the Presentation:

Domestic violence and sexual assault are prevalent locally, nationally and globally. Serious gaps exist in the accessibility of services for Deaf survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) including Deaf Refugees who may experience additional barriers. IGNITE’s mission is to end domestic and sexual violence in the Deaf community through advocacy, education, and services in Monroe County, New York. IGNITE’s main goal is to support the needs of Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Our services are also available to Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) and interpreters. In the last few years, more Deaf Refugees seek our services either on their own, through referrals or by our outreach efforts. We saw the needs of providing unique services to the Deaf Refugee population.

     This presentation will describe the unique domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) services that are provided to Deaf Refugees. Our objectives are to 1) Provide information on DV/SA, 2) Demonstrate the needs of Deaf Refugee populations and how services differ from the general public, 3) Describe the risks for DV/SA among Deaf Refugees and their struggles to understand how laws may differ from their home countries, and 4) Share information and resources on how to respond in a trauma-informed manner towards Deaf Refugees.

Presenters’ Bios:

Susan Demers-McLetchie joined IGNITE in 2018. She is responsible for overseeing and directing the agency. Ms. Demers-McLetchie has a wide range of leadership, management and outreach experience; and over 20 years’ experience providing direct services to diverse Deaf individuals from all walks of life in various settings including domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA). Ms. Demers-McLetchie has delivered innumerable Deaf culture training and ASL translations projects. Ms. Demers-McLetchie is bi-lingual (ASL/English), culturally Deaf and hails from an all-Deaf family. Prior to IGNITE, she was a project manager for the Deaf Gain Collaborative, a 2015 Disability grant secured by Willow Domestic Violence Center. She held a position as a Deaf Service Coordinator at the Regional Center for Independent Living (RCIL). While in tenure at RCIL, Ms. Demers-McLetchie became the first Deaf person in New York State to receive certification in benefits advisement under the Social Security Administration’s Work Incentive Planning & Assistance (WIPA) program. She implemented new programs and services at RCIL including Rochester’s first Support Service Provider program, a sight-guide service for DeafBlind consumers which still exists today. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development from Rochester Institute of Technology and a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Gallaudet University.

Brittany Ellenbecker has over 5 years’ experience in the domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) field. Ms. Ellenbecker holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education from Gallaudet University. Ms. Ellenbecker is bi-lingual (ASL/English), culturally Deaf and hails from a combined of Deaf and hearing family members. Prior to IGNITE, Ms. Ellenbecker worked in the field of domestic violence as a Program Coordinator for the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf; COPD partnered with Emerge! (a local domestic violence agency in the City of Tucson, AZ). Ms. Ellenbecker represented IGNITE for the Deaf Gain Collaborative, a part of the 2015 OVW Disability Grant led by Willow Domestic Violence Center. Ms. Ellenbecker is also on the Deaf Action Technical Assistance Project (Deaf TA), funded by Vera Institute. Deaf TA provides weekly webinars, training consultation, site visits, and networking on a national level. Ms. Ellenbecker shared her knowledge and materials with the Deaf TA members on how to develop and implement a curriculum on Healthy Relationships, Dating Violence, and SA for Deaf and Hard of Hearing youths. In addition to outreach and education, Ms. Ellenbecker currently provides direct services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing survivors in Monroe County.  Ms. Ellenbecker accompanies Deaf survivors to court on a weekly basis and sees firsthand the barriers Deaf survivors experience while navigating the criminal justice system.