New Report: Rates of Violence against Women Escalated in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María

Shortly before the first anniversary of Hurricane María, Refugees International issued a report, finding that violence against women in Puerto Rico increased in the aftermath of the storm. Following the hurricane, the number of women in domestic violence shelters dramatically increased. 233 women stayed in one domestic violence shelter between September 2017 and April 2018, compared to 187 women during the same time period the previous year. There has also been an increase in femicides, with at least 14 documented murders between January and August 2018, compared to 11 in all of 2017. The report further found that greatest number of incidents reported to police involved domestic violence.  

Women faced compounding harms as the storm destroyed or diverted domestic violence resources. Internal displacement shelters failed to impliment policies to address increased violence against women. The island’s domestic violence hotlines collapsed as the hurricane downed the entire telecommunication system. Additionally, many officers, including those assigned to the Special Unit for Domestic Violence, were pulled away to perform other jobs and were unwilling or unable to address increased violence against women.

Compiled from: Vigaud-Walsh, Francisca, Hurricane María’s Survivors: “Women’s Safety Was Not Prioritized”, Refugees International (September 2018).