Milken Institute School of Public Health Poster Presentations (Marvin Center & Video)

Title

Compounded Trauma: Gender-based violence in the wake of natural disaster

Poster Number

80

Document Type

Poster

Status

Graduate Student - Masters

Abstract Category

Global Health

Keywords

natural disaster; women; violence

Publication Date

4-2017

Abstract

In the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane season, news stories primarily ran around the destruction of the storms and on the seemingly state of anarchy among the affected areas. Rumors of rampant rape and sexual assault circulated through the conversation as well. How true were these rumors? And how much of the new incidence of violence against women (and gender-based violence) was directly due to the hurricane? Is there an increased incidence of sexual violence or domestic violence specifically following a natural disaster, as opposed to a violent event? That gender-based violence can be expected to increase during and after complex emergencies is widely accepted by the humanitarian and public health communities. But the relationship between specific natural disasters and gender-base violence is less well understood. Feminist social science scholars began writing on this topic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but since then the focus of women's studies in disaster settings has focused on mental health outcomes (PTSD and depression). While mental health outcomes might be closely related to incidence of gender-based violence, these studies do not produce data that can be directly applied to the question of a relationship between the nature of the disaster and the incidence of gender-based violence. Many of the existing literature reviews on this topic include studies on populations of refugees from violent crises, which could confound the impact of the event on the incidence of gender-based violence.

This systematic review of existing literature sought to answer these questions by employing the PRISMA method and evaluating peer-reviewed sources published since 1990. Articles sought had to be focused on refugee or internally-displaced women that were victims of a natural disaster event, and the article itself had to focus specifically on some aspect or type of gender-based violence, not exclusively mental health outcomes. The resulting articles did not present a unified answer, but did reveal some key gaps in the knowledge and weaknesses of the existing research. The greatest risk factors to women and girls in disaster situations include existing social-gender inequality, loss of resources, and loss of the support system. Given the expected increase in natural disaster events with the progression of climate change (Barnett and Adger, 2007), it is imperative that the risks to vulnerable populations are well understood. Without this knowledge, attempts to protect women and girls will be reactive and insufficient.

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Creative Commons License
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Poster to be presented at GW Annual Research Days 2017.

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Compounded Trauma: Gender-based violence in the wake of natural disaster

In the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane season, news stories primarily ran around the destruction of the storms and on the seemingly state of anarchy among the affected areas. Rumors of rampant rape and sexual assault circulated through the conversation as well. How true were these rumors? And how much of the new incidence of violence against women (and gender-based violence) was directly due to the hurricane? Is there an increased incidence of sexual violence or domestic violence specifically following a natural disaster, as opposed to a violent event? That gender-based violence can be expected to increase during and after complex emergencies is widely accepted by the humanitarian and public health communities. But the relationship between specific natural disasters and gender-base violence is less well understood. Feminist social science scholars began writing on this topic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but since then the focus of women's studies in disaster settings has focused on mental health outcomes (PTSD and depression). While mental health outcomes might be closely related to incidence of gender-based violence, these studies do not produce data that can be directly applied to the question of a relationship between the nature of the disaster and the incidence of gender-based violence. Many of the existing literature reviews on this topic include studies on populations of refugees from violent crises, which could confound the impact of the event on the incidence of gender-based violence.

This systematic review of existing literature sought to answer these questions by employing the PRISMA method and evaluating peer-reviewed sources published since 1990. Articles sought had to be focused on refugee or internally-displaced women that were victims of a natural disaster event, and the article itself had to focus specifically on some aspect or type of gender-based violence, not exclusively mental health outcomes. The resulting articles did not present a unified answer, but did reveal some key gaps in the knowledge and weaknesses of the existing research. The greatest risk factors to women and girls in disaster situations include existing social-gender inequality, loss of resources, and loss of the support system. Given the expected increase in natural disaster events with the progression of climate change (Barnett and Adger, 2007), it is imperative that the risks to vulnerable populations are well understood. Without this knowledge, attempts to protect women and girls will be reactive and insufficient.