Professor Jemina Napier, Heriot-Watt University

Worldwide, one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence, primarily by an intimate partner, according to data gathered in 2021 by the World Health Organisation. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns increased incidences of gender-based violence (GBV), creating a “double pandemic” (Bettinger-Lopez & Bro, 2020).

Atop these unsettling figures, research has found that deaf women are 2-3 times more likely to experience abuse than their hearing peers (Crowe, 2017). During the pandemic, deaf women were at a double disadvantage in Scotland and Ireland because there were no support services in sign language for deaf women experiencing GBV. The problem was and still is, exacerbated in rural areas, as interpreting provision tends to be concentrated in urban areas.

Through the Ireland–Scotland Bilateral Network Grants scheme, the RSE has awarded Professor Jemina Napier, Heriot-Watt University, to collaborate with partners at Trinity College Dublin, and further the project: SILENT HARM: Empowering Deaf Women Surviving Domestic Violence Post-Covid in Rural Areas.

Led by four women who are fluent in British and Irish Sign Languages–two hearing, two deaf; two who are GBV survivors–Professor Napier’s project aims to empower deaf women who have experienced GBV by delivering training to police officers and sign language interpreters in rural areas in Scotland and Ireland.

Expanding on the findings of the European Commission-funded JUSTISIGNS 2 project (2020-2022), Professor Napier will now use her award to hold training workshops for, and in collaboration with Police Scotland and An Garda Síochána, the Scottish Collaborative of Sign Language Interpreters, the Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK, the Council of Irish Sign Language Interpreters, and deaf community organisations such as Deaf Links (Scotland) and the Irish Deaf Society.  

Professor Napier said,

A group of people sitting at a desk
Masterclass with Police Scotland and sign language interpreters about working together to support deaf victims of domestic violence.

I am delighted that the RIA/RSE have seen the value of this project. The support needs for deaf women who are victims of domestic violence are often overlooked, and there is a substantial gap in the training available to support service providers and sign language interpreters in understanding how to work with these women, especially in rural areas. This project will allow us to train up trainers in Scotland and Ireland, and provide training in rural areas, based on resources developed as part of our Justisigns 2 project, which will go someway towards filling this gap.”

Ireland-Scotland Bilateral Network Grants are supported by the Scottish Government Office in Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs. These Grants aim to strengthen cooperation and learning between researchers, academics and practitioners in Scotland and Ireland within the five thematic areas identified within the 2021 Irish-Scottish Bilateral Review. This year, the scheme invited applications which addressed the theme of ‘Revival, Resilience and Recovery: Academic and Research networks post Covid-19’. The RIA has announced that a grant will be made to Dr Sophie Price, Munster Technological University, to work with partners at UHI on ‘Exploring a regenerative tourism approach to rural community development in Scotland & Ireland’.