Natural disasters no excuse for domestic violence

As flood waters recede, tensions within the family unit escalate.
As flood waters recede, tensions within the family unit escalate. Max Fleet

AS FLOODWATERS rise and then recede, leaving devastation in their wake, tensions within the household escalate as families desperately try to return to some sense of normality.

Dealing with the initial feelings of the home being flooded, the town facing a long road to recovery, and not knowing how to put food on the table, can place added strain on already volatile relationships.

"One of the things that manifests is domestic violence," Bundaberg Police Superintendent Rowan Bond said.

"We are acutely aware that the community is in a phase of getting back to normality. That phase is where people do get short-tempered."

Supt Bond said the community was six weeks down the track of recovery.

"People are angry, they are tired - things might not be happening as fast as particular people may like," he said.

"The community itself is stressed and tired.

"Disaster or not, domestic violence is not a solution to anything."

Supt Bond said it was important to remember that if individuals felt they were not coping, they needed to seek help, not take it out on their partners, friends or children.

"You don't need to turn to destructive things," he said.

"I know that it is a danger period with people - there's feelings of hopelessness.

"Whether it is domestic violence or if they are thinking of self-harm, people have to realise these are reactions and there are organisations and people that can help."

Phoenix House director Kathy Prentice said the service had actually been quiet for a period of time when the floods hit.

"People were traumatised and their focus was on the basic survival - where do I sleep? Where do I get food to feed my children?" she said.

"Since then, we've started to see more referrals coming in."

Ms Prentice said natural disasters could cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

"When people who have already been traumatised experience another trauma, it can re-traumatise them," she said.

Women's domestic violence service Edon Place director Lyne Booth said priorities became different for families during events such as major floods.

The NewsMail's Respect, Retreat, Rebuild domestic violence campaign - which has returned since the floods - is lobbying the State Government to fund a mandatory behavioural change program for perpetrators.

It also aims to make a healthy relationships program compulsory in high schools.

Topics:  domestic violence respect rebuild

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