The hidden disaster: domestic violence in the aftermath of natural disaster

Debra Parkinson, Claire Zara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


In countries similar to Australia, relationship violence increases in the wake of disasters. New Zealand police reported a 53 per cent rise in domestic violence after the Canterbury earthquake. In the US, studies documented a four-fold increase following two disasters and an astounding 98 per cent increase in physical victimisation of women after Hurricane Katrina, with authors concluding there was compelling evidence that intimate partner violence increased following large-scale disasters (Schumacher, et al., 2010). Yet there is a research gap on why this happens, and how increased violence may relate to disaster experiences. Women's Health Goulburn North East undertook the first Australian research into this phenomenon, previously overlooked in emergency planning and disaster reconstruction. Interviews with 30 women and 47 workers in Victoria after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires provided evidence of increased domestic violence, even in the absence of sound quantitative data and in a context that silenced women. Community members, police, case managers, trauma psychologists and family violence workers empathised with traumatised and suffering men-men who may have been heroes in the fires-and encouraged women to wait it out. These responses compromise the principle that women and children always have the right to live free from violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-35
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Emergency Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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