Natural disasters increase violence against women

Natural disasters increase violence against women

08 March 2012

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Australia — A new report shows women suffer domestic violence in the wake of natural disasters.

Australians have a 1 in 6 estimated lifetime exposure to natural disaster and the after effects, according to this ground breaking report, will include increases in relationship violence.

This research, from the Women’s Health Goulburn North East organisation, a specialist women’s health service for the Goulburn Valley and north east Victoria, uses case studies showing violence against women increased following the Victoria bushfires, a disturbing outcome that mirrors overseas experience where violence against women is characteristic of post-disaster recovery.

It’s the first Australian research to identify and examine family violence after the Black Saturday bushfires

Chief researcher, Deborah Parkinson says while previous Australian research has looked at what happens in disaster-recovery phases, none focuses on the experience of women in regard to violence.

“In the tumult of disaster recovery, relationship violence is often ignored, unrecognised and unrecorded,” she says.

“This research presents the case for clear-eyed recognition of increased violence against women in the aftermath of disaster and a disaster response that protects women and offers options, while proactively recognising the increased needs of men, to prevent family violence.”

According to Ms Parkinson the factors that lead to violence are understandable.

“Stress levels are high, perpetrators may have been ‘heroes’ and, following a disaster, men are often unemployed and sometimes suicidal.

“Support services are over-burdened with primary and fire-related needs in the aftermath of a disaster and this serves to exacerbate a willingness to overlook violence against women.”

Details of the study will be outlined at the Identifying the Hidden Disaster Conference in Melbourne tomorrow.

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