Monday, May 31, 2010

ADWAS Strength and Courage Benefit Luncheon

by Anne Phillips and Stacey Prince

On May 5, 2010 I was invited by Anne Phillips and her partner Carol Brown to attend the annual benefit event for Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS). ADWAS provides services to Deaf and Deaf/Blind women who are victims/survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. As many of you may remember our very first TJP (then Limen Group) retreat was held at their Seattle transitional housing residence, and Anne’s partner Carol is their Donor Coordinator. This event was one of their annual fundraisers. There will also be an auction in October that you are all more than welcome to attend. The luncheon also honored Marilyn J. Smith, who has been their Executive Director and founder for the last 24 years and is retiring in 2011.

Marilyn founded ADWAS 25 years ago out of a need she saw for women who were Deaf and Deaf/Blind survivors of sexual assault. In her address she discussed some of the profound gaps in service for such women, and their children. For example, when police respond to a call regarding a domestic violence incident between a deaf woman and her hearing partner, they will sometimes go to the residence with no interpreter. Due to hearing oppression, often the person who is Deaf is arrested because the hearing police do not know what else to do. Because they do not take the extra time to work together with everyone involved, they have been often known to take the "easy" route and communicate with the person they are able to, which in turn means arresting the person who is Deaf. Like any marginalized group, the Deaf community is small, and therefore communication travels quickly across the country. As Marilyn joked, "Deaf people invented email/texts etc. way before hearing people did". As a result, it is often not an option for a Deaf person to leave town for "safety" by disappearing into a new life. If one Deaf person knows where you are, many know.

Marilyn spoke of how ADWAS grew over the years--the staff would identify a need, and a new service would be developed. In addition to advocacy and counseling, they now have a transitional housing facility, services for children, a positive parenting program, and a variety of education and consultation programs. You can learn more about them at

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