Bayou La Batre, Alabama, Mayor Stan Wright told the BBC that domestic violence has risen by 320 percent since the Gulf Coast oil spill began. There has been a 110 percent increase in daily calls and complaints to the local police department.
This isn't the first time domestic violence rates have risen with a natural disaster.
After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, rates of alcoholism, suicide, and domestic violence all increased in towns affected by the spill. After Hurricane Andrew in Miami, spousal abuse calls to the local helpline increased by 50 percent, and police reports of domestic violence went up 46 percent following the eruption of the Mt. St. Helens volcano in 1980.
We say over and over again on this blog and in this movement to end violence against women that domestic abuse is about control. When a batterer feels out of control in other areas of his life (i.e. he is losing his business or source of income), he often seeks to exert control where he can. Our society places less value on women and, therefore, a man can often exert control over his female partner, through physical violence or other tactics, and escape consequences. Until we make it inconvenient for men to abuse their female partners, either through criminal penalties or social consequences such as loss of status, harming wives and girlfriends will continue to be the outlet for many men's frustrations.