Maui’s only 24-hour domestic violence emergency hotline had calls more than double following the Aug. 8 wildfires.
The hotline, Women Helping Women Maui, saw calls go from 250 a month to more than 550 and although the agency said the numbers are stabilizing the cases are becoming more serious.
Women Helping Women Executive Director Sanoe Kaaihue, told local news network HawaiiNewsNow, “We’re seeing more cases on the sex assault side, a lot more DV (domestic violence), a lot more substance abuse and all of the things that come with being a part of a tragedy and a national incident.”
The surge is consistent with research that shows a link between violence and stress, which is increased by disasters, according to FEMA. FEMA response teams reported more than 12,000 behavioral health encounters on Maui since August 8. While experts assure the shock is wearing off, the secondary traumas are setting in.
Kaaihue noted that the agency is seeing that trauma in the form of depression, anxiety, and even hypersensitivity.
Still missing in Maui
A global review from The Lancet has also identified a link between climate change and domestic violence. The review found evidence that shows that extreme weather increases the likelihood of violence against women, particularly in poor countries where communities are unequipped to deal with the fallout from natural disasters.
Included in the data collected for the review was a 2021 study from researcher at St. Catherine University in Minnesota that reviewed extreme heat, flooding, and droughts in Kenya and found that domestic violence increased by 60 percent during extreme weather.
Terry McGovern from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health told the Washington Post when the review came out that the evidence linking climate change and domestic violence “overwhelming.”
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assured at the time that it has called attention to the link between climate change and violence against women. However Senior Climate and Resilience Adviser at ActionAid UK Sophie Riggs previously wrote that world climate plans were falling short on addressing global warming and emphasized that more attention needed to be placed on the threats against women.
"We need less rhetoric and a greater focus on women’s rights and actions to help them thrive and bring their communities out of poverty," she said. "Without this, the gendered injustice of climate change and the silent crisis for women and girls will only get worse."