Written by Legal Director, Sasha Drobnick
The signs are impossible to ignore. NOAA reports that July was the hottest month in recorded history and greenhouse gas levels are the highest in over 800,000 years. Last month, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described dire changes in every part of our climate. We are in a crisis. As advocates for family violence survivors, we need to make sure that they are not lost in the response.
News coverage of recent Hurricane Ida described its rapid intensification, which made it more difficult to prepare for and thereby more destructive, as part of a pattern that will continue to increase due to warmer water temperature. Ida’s coverage called for public attention the critical need for better infrastructure and disaster planning to address the mounting destructive power of extreme weather. Missing from that public attention, however, is the need for that planning to specifically include resources for survivors. Domestic violence shelters and services shut down by storms’ devastation leave survivors without support at a time when that support is most needed: when abusers are reacting to these high-stress events. Control, often an abuser’s primary motivator, can be no further out of reach than when one is facing the potential to lose everything.
Extreme weather is not the only climate-related factor directly threatening survivors’ safety and well-being. Survivors are disproportionately women and people of color; both are disproportionately poor and, in turn, impacted most harmfully by environmental factors. They often live in cities’ "urban heat islands," created by concentrations of pavement and buildings that absorb and maintain heat and increase already high pollution levels. Clear correlations to physical health problems have been long-documented; more recently a study found air pollution increased the severity of mental illness.
DV LEAP’s commitment to intersectionality, which is one of our core values, means we honor survivors’ overlapping identities, recognize the varied nature of their trauma and work to address the layered barriers they face. Through DV LEAF, we hope to make visible the stark implications that climate change and the environmental crisis hold for survivors, generate policy discussions addressing those implications, and actively promote survivors’ healing to the extent we can bring them justice…. and join with them to plant trees.