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:
Knowing how to talk to people about their experiences of violence in times of disaster allows you to respond in ways that fit in with your field of expertise. This includes understanding the signs of serious risk and how to increase safety. As a starting point, make sure you are informed about sexual assault and domestic and family violence.
When supporting someone it can be valuable to consider that:
For many who survive, the events around the disaster remain raw and traumatic. Women may be experiencing trauma. They may be managing uncertain futures with responsibilities for the welfare of others. At this time, women may be receiving unsupportive messages from family, friends or the community. It is important not to reinforce these messages.
The following are examples of poor responses:
Good practice in responding at times of disaster:
You may need support to provide good responses to women experiencing, or at risk of, violence. Use our Service directory to contact a specialist sexual, domestic and family violence service in your area for help with safety planning or to make a referral.
For workers and professionals with the relevant training, there are three basic steps to responding effectively to sexual, domestic and family violence:
These steps can be adapted to individual workplaces and should be implemented together.
To improve your organisation's response during times of disaster consider implementing the recommendations made by the Gender and Disaster Pod.
For more information, ideas and resources on planning and responding to violence against women in times of disaster, visit the Gender and Disaster Pod.
Helping and supporting others through disaster can be rewarding, it can also be demanding. When working with people experiencing the impacts of disaster, your own health is important. Our work-induced stress and trauma pages contain information on working with trauma and resilience. 1800RESPECT counselling is also available for workers and professionals. Contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat to speak with a trained counsellor.