Hidden harms title screen that reads: ‘older adults and domestic abuse’ and credits Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board for their collaboration with Dewis Choice.

Adapted Duluth Power and Control Wheel.

Hidden Harms animation is now accessible to older victim-survivors of domestic abuse and their peers using British Sign Language

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an annual event that occurs across the global. This year, Dewis Choice are raising awareness of domestic abuse amongst the older population. We are calling for more inclusive awareness raising of issue.  

Domestic abuse is a harrowing reality for many, yet some victim-survivors remain particularly hidden due to unique challenges. Among these are older individuals who communicate using British Sign Language (BSL). Older victim-survivors who are Deaf, or who have hearing loss, may experience a double barrier of age and communication that presents additional challenges to seeking help and support. For these individuals, the isolation often experienced by victims of domestic abuse can be compounded by the lack of accessible resources and support services to meet their communication needs.

There are 2 million adults in the United Kingdom who are Deaf, have hearing loss and/or tinnitus (RNID, 2024). The census data (2021) estimates that approximately 22,000 people aged three years and over, use BSL as their main language in England and Wales. Deaf women are two to three times more likely to experience domestic abuse than their hearing counterparts (Crowe 2017). However, victim-survivors who are Deaf or have hearing loss are less likely to access publicly available information about domestic abuse via radio, television, public campaigns, or other auditory sources. Due to the inaccessible format of education and awareness raising materials, Deaf or hearing loss victim-survivors are less likely to be aware of their rights, entitlements and the help and support available.   

In partnership with Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board and Creative Connection Animation Studio, Dewis Choice co-created an animation entitled “Hidden Harms”. The animation explores the ‘lived experiences’ of older victim-survivors of domestic abuse, highlighting the nature and dynamics of abuse in later life.

Watch the animation in BSL and English: HERE

Watch the animation in BSL and Welsh: HERE

Older BSL users face specific challenges in escaping abusive situations. Many have lived through a time when access to media and services through BSL were even less prevalent than today. This historical context adds layers of mistrust and hesitation to reach out for help. The community play a crucial role in supporting Deaf and hearing loss victim-survivors. BSL interpreters and Deaf advocacy groups are often lifelines, providing not only translation but also cultural and emotional understanding. SignHealth offer a specialist domestic abuse service to Deaf people, supporting them to achieve greater safety and security.

Marie Vickers from the Deaf health charity SignHealth says:

“We really welcome this resource being translated into BSL to reach out to the older Deaf community.”

“SignHealth provides a Domestic Abuse Service for Deaf people in our language, BSL, across all of England. Our Deaf-led team of Independent Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Advisors (IDSVAs) and Domestic Abuse Navigators support Deaf survivors and raise awareness in the Deaf community.”

“Over the years, we have seen that Deaf older adults are less likely to recognise their experiences as domestic abuse. Some may not consider their circumstances serious enough, or they may feel too isolated or dependent.”

“At SignHealth we have supported a number of survivors who have experienced abuse over 20-30 years.”

“Having information available in our language can help individuals identify domestic abuse in their own experiences or notice signs of abuse for family or friends. We want to ensure that every Deaf person has access to the advice and support they need to live free from abuse.”

Recognising these unique challenges, the Mid and West Wales Regional advisor emphasised the importance of inclusive support. Natalie Hancock said:

“The Mid and West Wales Regional VAWDASV Partnership is committed to understanding the experiences of all victims of VAWDASV. We have identified that specific and specialist support, communication and awareness raising is a crucial need.”

“We are incredibly fortunate, as a Region, to have Dewis Choice on our VAWDASV Partnership. The “Hidden Harms” animation, highlighting the experience of older victims, was incredibly well received, and welcomed by colleagues and practitioners across the whole partnership. By enabling us to now share the animation through the medium of BSL, we can move closer to a more inclusive, equitable and accessible provision for older victims of VAWDASV.”

A Call to Action

Dewis Choice urges service providers to develop more inclusive support systems that cater to the specific needs of older BSL users. This includes providing BSL interpreters in emergency services, creating awareness campaigns within the Deaf and hearing loss community, and training support workers to recognise the unique signs of abuse in older individuals.

By sharing the “Hidden Harms” animation through the medium of BSL, Dewis Choice hopes the animation will reach victim-survivors who have been overlooked. It is a small step towards breaking down the barriers that leave older BSL users vulnerable, ensuring they receive the education, help and support they need.

Dewis Choice continues to work towards a future where every individual, regardless of age or language/disability, can live free from abuse.

Want to use the animation?

The animation is available to be customised by local and national organisations for a small fee. Contact Creative Connection Animation Studio for further details: dann.casswell@ccanimationstudio.co.uk.


Website: https://signhealth.org.uk/for-professionals/domestic-abuse-service/

Text: 07800 003421
Email: da@signhealth.org.uk


Animation created by Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board, Creative Connection Animation Studio, Dewis Choice and older survivors. 

Animation funded by Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board.

Welsh translation funded by Mid and West Wales Regional Advisor.

BSL version funded by Dewis Choice.


Census. 2021. Language, England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk).

Crowe, T., 2017. Breaking the silence: Empowering Deaf and hard of hearing survivors of domestic violence. Religion, disability, and interpersonal violence, pp.131-148.

Royal National Institute for Deaf People. 2024. ‘It does matter’: our public attitudes research – RNID [online].

To find out more about the Initiative see our website https://dewischoice.org.uk/ and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates @choiceolderppl

Centre For Age Gender and Social Justice