Skip to main content

IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.



Gianna is Deaf, and was punished if she tried to use sign language at her mainstream school

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Gianna is Deaf and so is her mother. 

As a child, she couldn’t communicate easily and was not able to tell anyone that she was being sexually abused.

Gianna says her mother didn’t want her to be in the Deaf community or socialise with other Deaf people, so she was sent to a hearing school where she was not allowed to use sign language.

When she was about five or six years old, Gianna’s mother had to stay in hospital for a while. Her father was looking after her and they shared a bed. She remembers he would strip naked before getting into bed with her and that she felt very uncomfortable when he snuggled up to her naked. She would try to turn away from him in the blankets. 

She does not remember her father ever touching her, but she wonders if he did. To this day, she feels repugnance towards him and has a very strong reaction when he looks at her.

Gianna also recalls that her father would look at her in the bath and make comments about her developing body, pointing at different areas of her. Her mother once came into the bathroom and told him to stop it. 

She took an overdose of paracetamol when she was a teenager. She started going out with friends, smoking and drinking. They were joined by two older men, who offered Gianna a lift and drove her to a caravan where they took turns to hold her down and rape her. 

Gianna told her mum she had been raped. Her mother was not at all supportive and told Gianna that she was ‘dirty’. A social worker came to visit her and she thinks this was because her parents felt she was ‘going off the rails and sleeping around’. 

She didn’t tell the social worker she had been raped, but she did say she wanted to leave home, and she went to live in foster care for nearly a year.

At school Gianna feels she was labelled ‘naughty’ by staff. The staff who were supposed to support her because she was Deaf did not allow her to use sign language at school and would hit her with a ruler if she tried. She became angry and started to self-harm. Her behaviour was criticised but never investigated. 

Gianna feels that her experiences with her father, and the rape by two men, have made it impossible for her to be touched or shown any affection. She says she has found it hard to have ‘normal relationships’ with men. She suffers with depression and anxiety.

Gianna would like Deaf people to receive sex education and therapy that is appropriate for them, and social workers and educational staff to be Deaf aware. She says professionals should always explore the reasons behind young people’s challenging behaviour rather than label them as ‘naughty’.

She is having counselling, with a counsellor who uses British Sign Language, and her aim is to be able to have a healthy loving relationship.

Back to top