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Protecting individuals from domestic violence during disasters

When disaster strikes in Virginia, those who are in abusive situations are often the most vulnerable due to the fact that disasters can restrict access to housing, food and water. Due to the additional stress caused by the disaster, the severity and prevalence of domestic violence can actually increase. As such, integrating domestic violence services into relief efforts is incredibly important.

Before the disaster actually occurs, there are two major steps that communities can take to help them deal with the aftereffects. For example, communities should work to identify hazards that can be mitigated. This generally means developing connections between the community's domestic violence organizations and relief systems that are generally active when the disaster is occurring. Once the connections have been made, professionals who provide domestic violence services can be better prepared to help those who are most vulnerable. This may include directly assisting with relief efforts or training first responders.

When a disaster actually occurs, professionals can promote safety and empowerment for those who are most vulnerable to domestic violence by ensuring that their basic needs are met. This may include helping transport these individuals to appropriate shelters and connecting them to the available resources. During the recovery process after the disaster is over, professionals can continue to work with the community by pointing the individuals to long-term domestic violence services.

Children or adult individuals who experience domestic abuse are at serious risk. However, getting out of domestic violence situations can be difficult, especially if these vulnerable individuals fear for their safety or feel that they have nowhere to turn. A family law attorney could walk a person through getting a preliminary protective order, which lasts 15 days, or a permanent protective order, which lasts for up to two years. The attorney may assist with supporting the domestic violence allegations made by presenting evidence of stalking, threatening texts or medical reports.

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