"When the dust settles from an earthquake or the waters recede following a flood, communities pull together to rebuild and heal. The survivors must cope not just with the trauma of the disaster itself, but also with the ongoing upheaval in their lives. Understandably, they are concerned about what the future holds. The stress and trauma that survivors experience are played out in a number of ways (e.g., alcohol and substance use, sleep disturbance, aggression and short-temperedness, domestic violence), and post-traumatic stress disorder and depression make it difficult to feel hopeful amidst the destruction. Hurricane Katrina reminds us that, despite the lessons learned from tragic events like the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the Mount St. Helen's volcanic eruption of 1980, much progress remains to be made in applying those lessons to foster change and implement more responsive practices. Sexual violence against women and children who become displaced is historically documented, with the collapse of societal supports, overall increased vulnerability, a lack of companion support, feelings of powerlessness and anger, and unsafe shelter being cited as contributing factors (New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, 2005). During the chaos that accompanies destructive natural or human-induced disasters, some see the opportunity to prey on those who are affected and vulnerable, perpetrating violent crime. We saw evidence of this in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where survivors of the storm experienced muggings, identity theft, aggravated assault, sexual violence, and gang rape (unconfirmed claims of murder have also been reported)."
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: http://www.samhsa.gov/
After the Crisis: Healing from Trauma after Disasters. Bethesda, Maryland. April 24-25, 2006