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Violence in times of disaster

  • In the aftermath of a disaster, violence against women and their children increases
  • When responding in a disaster context, your knowledge of sexual, domestic and family violence continues to apply
  • It is also helpful to be aware of the particular risks that exist for women in a disaster situation
  • If you do not respond to sexual, domestic or family violence often, our introduction to responding page is a good place to start.

Understanding risk

Disaster presents unique vulnerabilities when it comes to domestic and family violence.  If a violent family member or intimate partner controls emergency plans and survival essentials, risk increases dramatically. It is vital that women have an emergency plan for themselves and their children. One of your roles may be to help with incorporating these unique risks into an emergency plan.

Some things that can increase risk for women in disaster affected areas include being:

  • Prevented from evacuating due to domestic and family violence
  • Blocked from accessing survival essentials: transport, water, heat, finances, emergency plans, support services or important documents
  • Brought back in contact with a violent ex-partner in the chaos of the disaster, for example at an evacuation centre or community hub
  • Forced to take unnecessary risks with personal safety
  • Forced to exchange sex for necessities like food water or shelter
  • Impacted by the challenges of enforcing protection orders in a disaster-affected environment
  • Threatened by the return of someone who has been violent in the past, as they take advantage of vulnerabilities resulting from the disaster, or even take grant money
  • Dependent on a partner who is away from the home and controls the family’s emergency plan
  • Impacted by the limitations and pressures created by sudden homelessness that may be brought on by the disaster

This information was developed in collaboration with the Gender and Disaster Pod