CLEVELAND - Deaf individuals are one and a half times more likely to be victims of relationship violence than hearing individuals, according to research out of the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"He would grab me, push me down, kept pushing me down, hitting me," said Dawn Marie Fucile, a Cleveland resident who is deaf. She spoke through an interpreter.
Fucile recalls her three-year abusive relationship which she says happened in Parma two decades ago.
"He got a hold of me and threw me physically, coffee table," she said of her ex-boyfriend who is also deaf. "I missed it by just an inch."
Fucile, who is 48 years old, said she finally mustered up the strength to call the police. Twice, officers came to her house. Twice, they left without arresting the man.
"Both of the officers that were there, I could understand them, but they were being like 'oh poor you. You can't communicate," she added.
Fucile said the lack of communication services and education among police at that time contributed to a lack of help.
"We know that there are more victims that are deaf and hard of hearing that don't have access to information or services, and that's a big problem," said Linda Johanek, CEO of the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center in Cleveland.
Johanek, with help from the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center and Cleveland Police, are trying to reverse the problem, which Johanek and Fucile said is only exacerbated by the fact that the deaf community is tight-knit. For a member, it is difficult to break away, no matter the circumstance.
Through a federal grant, the domestic violence center, its shelter and all five police districts have iPads equipped with video remote interpreters. Officers can take the iPads with them on calls.
Fucile said the technology is a big step in the right direction.
"Do not be afraid to ask for help," she added. "I got help because I decided to move on."
Parma police said they now use a text messaging service to communicate with deaf individuals. For in-depth interviews, Parma and Cleveland police said they bring in live interpreters.
Fucile said her ex-boyfriend was eventually charged and convicted of domestic violence.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you're encouraged to call police, the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center at 216-391-HELP or Maria O'Neil Ruddock at the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center, 216-325-7552.