It’s been five days since the worst hurricane NYC has ever seen made its debut, and only now are things starting to calm down. Transportation is starting to become more accessible, power is being gradually restored.
As the devastation of Hurricane Sandy begins to clear, we must turn to other issues that may not ever be addressed.
In an event of a natural disaster, according to the Pan American Health Organization, gender roles are “dismissed” or “overlooked.” It is important time for women to come together and create organizations for relief.
Sheila Bapat of RH Reality Check writes, “Natural disasters tend to make low income and poor people even more vulnerable to physical assault as well as to greater economic challenges in the years that follow.” Most of these low-income people are women. Bapat points out in New York, specifically, 20 percent of the women are living below the federal poverty level. The NYC Bar, in a report on Welfare Reform, states that a “significant percentage of women receiving welfare are victims of domestic violence” and “ninety-two percent of mothers in homeless shelters have been sexually or violently abused.”
Stress from natural disasters exacerbate the abuser’s need to assault.
The FREDA center reports, “just as disasters are not salient issues for most women’s services, battered women’s needs during disasters and recovery from them are not on the agendas of most emergency managers. An integrated community response to women, violence, and disasters demands a new partnership between these two professional communities.” Cooperation is key and inclusivity should be striven toward.
While I find it presumptuous to deem Hurricane Sandy as “New York’s Katrina” (as The Washington Post has), one can look back to it in order to gauge some problems women may encounter in the aftermath of the storm.
A study by Tulane shows that women’s economic status decreased greatly after Hurricane Katrina. Employment decreased, and the wage gap widened (especially for women of color). Men gained jobs, while women lost jobs.
Inequality is thrust into the spotlight in times like these. It’s important to remember that natural disasters do not just affect society’s infrastructure, but also the structure of society.