Understanding how to support family safety as part of an emergency management response and collaboration with other services is an important part of emergency planning.
Family violence increases in emergency-affected communities
Family violence increases in emergency-affected communities, and the compounding effect it has on emergency-related trauma can affect an individual’s ability to act to protect their own safety and wellbeing. Other factors that may increase the risk of family violence include:
- Financial stress
- Drug and alcohol abuse
Family violence is driven by gender inequality, gender stereotypes, and a culture of excusing violence.
The occurrence of family violence increases significantly in emergency-affected communities, especially violence against women. Research into Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires found that many women experienced increased incidents of violence, often perpetrated by their male partners. Almost half of these incidents occurred in families that had not previously experienced family violence.
Family violence disrupts community recovery
Family violence has significant social, financial, cultural, physical and psychological effects that can disrupt the effective and timely recovery of emergency-affected communities, especially for victim survivors and their families.
Victim survivors experiencing family violence during and after emergencies are also likely to have their suffering intensified by emergency-related trauma, such as that associated with the loss of lives, homes, possessions, employment, income, and social support structures.
Family violence can increase vulnerability to risks associated with an emergency, for example:
- Victim survivors who are subject to violence aimed at controlling their behaviour may be prevented from developing or enacting their own emergency preparedness plans.
- In emergencies, victim survivors may also feel that they are reliant on their abusive partners to keep themselves and their children housed and looked after during an emergency, which further exposes them to potential violence.
Where women have left violent ex-partners, their new visibility and potentially shared emergency accommodation may expose them to unavoidable contact with an abusive ex-partner. Intervention orders may also be difficult to enforce during emergencies, including at relief centres. The increased risk of physical and psychological harm that occurs during an emergency makes community recovery more difficult as it undermines people’s feelings of safety, wellbeing, resilience, and social cohesion.
Causes of family violence and their prevalence in emergencies
The causes of family violence are complex and include gender inequality and community attitudes towards women. Compounding factors may also include:
- Financial pressures
- alcohol and drug abuse
- Mental illness
- Social and economic exclusion.
It is well recognised that specific vulnerabilities exist for women and people with diverse gender identities, and additional factors such as age, culture, and disability, can further affect the experience of family violence and access to support services.
Gender inequality can be exacerbated in emergency situations where men typically demonstrate more extreme forms of gendered stereotypes, such as ‘taking control’ of the family’s emergency preparedness and response plans. This can be seen in men controlling the emergency-related decision-making processes or being the only ones in the family to attend community information meetings.
2019 Family Violence Framework for Emergency Management
The framework supports planning and response to family violence during emergencies, outlines existing family violence strategy and policy, and the opportunities for partnership between the family violence sector and emergency management sector.
Note: The 2019 Family Violence Framework for Emergency Management replaces the 'Addressing family violence in communities recovering from emergencies strategy'.
For more information, see the Family Violence Framework for Emergency Management (Word).