Preventing sexual violence in disasters

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Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Preventing sexual violence in disasters requires collaboration across systems

On January 12, 2010, Haiti experienced an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude that shook the country’s communities, infrastructure and political system.  There is an increased vulnerability to exploitation and violence following a natural disaster.  In June 2010, The New York Times ran a piece on the escalation of violence against women in Haiti, detailing the experience of a 22-year old woman, whose horrific narrative reflected what far too many women encountered.

“International relief groups expressed concerns about violence against women, especially in the camps under their watch. Poor or nonexistent lighting, unlockable latrines, adjacent men’s and women’s showers and inadequate police protection have all been problems,” noted Deborah Sontag, the New York Times journalist. Similarly, following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, CALCASA’s sister coalition of rape crisis centers, saw a spike in reported rapes.

The Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LaFASA) & the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) created this guide to ensure that those planning for disaster relief and response do not forget to consider safety from sexual victimization and the importance of creating policies that could prevent it.

The guide is also available in Spanish “La violencia sexual durante desastres

Livia Rojas, MSSW, is the Training and Resource Coordinator in the Campus Program at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) where she provides training and technical assistance to recipients of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Grant to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking on college and university campuses across the United States and territories. Livia has eleven years of working to advance human rights and student organizing through practice and research.

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