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Domestic violence victims have extra woes amid natural disasters

Domestic violence victims have enough trouble on their hands before a natural disaster like a hurricane, tropical storm or major flooding takes place.

Once a natural disaster starts, they face additional problems that other refugees don't have to face: Abusers with a low threshold for stress who strike out when they can't keep a situation under their control.

While data is hard to collect because of the very situations creating the problem, many experts believe that child abuse and domestic violence escalate during natural disasters as abusers stress out over their losses and uncertain future. They turn their frustration and anger toward their family members -- leaving the victims of the abuse with choices that are even worse than those faced by the average individual in the middle of a natural disaster.

They can stay where they are, risking personal safety with their abusers, or they can try to seek shelter and assistance on their own somewhere else -- often without any social support due to the upheaval from whatever storm or other disaster is taking place.

Leaving an abuser isn't easy under the best of conditions, but trying to leave during or after a natural disaster can be downright impossible. Services may be cut off, shelters full of other refugees or closed, hotlines shut down and emergency personnel preoccupied with an overwhelming number of victims.

There's an additional problem that many abuse victims face after the crisis is over, however, that could be even worse. While everything they own may be wiped out, their abuser may be firmly in control of the family finances. That means that financial aid that comes in from various sources goes straight into the abuser's pocket -- keeping the victim economically captive.

If you're the victim of domestic violence and you're struggling in the aftermath of one of the nation's natural disasters to break free of your abuser, a domestic violence attorney can help. They can often offer resources and advice -- as well as legal tools -- that can help you get out of the situation.

Source: NY Times, "Amid Hurricane Chaos, Domestic Abuse Victims Risk Being Overlooked," Maya Salam, Sep. 12, 2017

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