People's behavior changes during emergencies, as do the ways in which they express their emotions. There is frustration and anguish which, among other things, fosters acts of violence among families, chiefly against women, children, the elderly, and handicapped persons. These outbreaks can occur in the home setting, in public, and in shelters or temporary refuges.
Furthermore, during emergencies the application of customary
measures of law and order is usually irregular, a fact which helps
foster incidents, and increases the risk of sexual violence, especially
against women and children, with a particular increase in the
vulnerability of teenage girls.
Rape, sexual abuse, involuntary prostitution, and other physical
attacks are among the problems that appear or increase during
The activities mentioned below should be included among the chief
points to consider in preparing responses to violence in shelters,
public spaces, and the home:
Establish a permanent program for the prevention of violence
against women, children (including orphans), adolescents, the elderly,
and physically and mentally challenged persons.
Provide special training for personnel on the prevention and care
of violence against women, children (including orphans), adolescents,
the elderly, and physically and mentally challenged persons.
Develop ongoing prevention activities in the communities, with the
participation of official entities, NGO's, churches, the media, and
grassroots organizations, even before an emergency occurs.
Identify key actors and areas at risk due to special reasons. Record and exchange information among the different actors.
Prepare and disseminate educational supplies directed at the
general population for the prevention of violence in the community,
including information related to the prevention of violence both in
normal and emergency situations.
Prepare and disseminate educational messages on how to protect
against and prevent health risks, directed at the general population,
so that when necessary they can obtain the services they need.
Intensify activities for the prevention of gender-based violence
in shelters, public spaces, and the home, linked to the status of women
(pregnancy, nursing, old age) and children, as well as physically and
mentally challenged persons.
Identify the types of violence that are occurring or worsening due
to the emergency; establish a registry of these incidents, recording
the types of violence observed, the perpetrators, and personal data and
characteristics of the victims.
Identify high-risk people and subgroups (single women, children
(including orphans), adolescents, the elderly, and physically and
mentally challenged persons).
Identify the perpetrators of acts of violence (spouses, family members, military personnel, health workers, others).
Determine the steps required to coordinate the immediate provision
of medical, legal, psychological, and social assistance needed for the
comprehensive care of women, children, the elderly, and physically and
mentally challenged persons who are victims of violence.
Establish activities for prevention and priority care, in
coordination with groups of women and children who have been the
victims of violence, and institutions with experience in this area.
(E.g.: Establish sanctuaries for the victims of violence, offer
psychological support services, offer female medical and police staff,
use a single registry for filing charges and obtaining legal recourse,
and so forth).
Insofar as possible establish information services and care by trained staff in the shelters and temporary refuges.
Ensure that educational supplies are available at all times
concerning activities for the prevention of violence against women,
children (including orphans), adolescents, the elderly, and physically
and mentally challenged persons, that the general population should
carry out in emergencies, so that in the event of need they can be
drawn on for health promotion activities.
Department of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief
Tel: (202) 974-3434