Hurricane Worsened Family Violence in Haiti

Faculty; Global; Public Health; Research; Social Work

After Hurricane Matthew, women and children in Haiti experienced an increase in interpersonal violence. Daily stressors combined with a loss of power and control likely fueled the escalation, according to a study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Researchers conducted the study in Coteaux, Haiti, where they enlisted 36 adults and adolescents. Participants received cameras to capture images related to family relationships, family safety and changes to family dynamics due to the 2016 hurricane and its aftermath.  The photos were used as prompts for qualitative interviews.

In addition to stress and powerlessness, researchers found that intergenerational cycles of abuse and gender inequity drove violence. All these factors were adversely influenced by the humanitarian crisis after the hurricane. Some women were reluctant to report abuse because they feared the loss of an income-earner during hard times.

“Our findings suggest multiple and converging drivers of violence may be exacerbated in times of crisis, requiring interdisciplinary responses,” wrote co-author Lindsay Stark, associate professor at the Brown School.

“In order to comprehensively address the drivers of violence, practitioners and policy makers should consider the needs of individuals and their families holistically, integrating community-led, gender-transformative efforts and positive parenting with basic needs provision, where feasible.”

The study was published in the January issue of Child Abuse & Neglect.