Perceptions Of Domestic Violence And Help-seeking Behaviors Among Women In Post-katrina New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29th, 2005. It is considered to be one of the costliest and devastating disasters in the history of the United States. The storm flooded 70% of New Orleans resulting in more than 1,500 people losing their lives and the displacement of an entire urban population. Reconstruction over the past ten years has revitalized much of New Orleans, demonstrating a great resilience and determination of its people. Nonetheless, New Orleans is also experiencing the long-term effects of Hurricane Katrina where victims of domestic violence and the institutions that serve them have been forever changed. This dissertation examines perceptions of domestic violence and help-seeking behaviors among women in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans from 2005 to 2015. Findings show that many women face striking inequalities demonstrated in higher rates of poverty, lack of affordable housing, and one of the highest wage gaps in the United States. Patriarchal attitudes seen in legal institutions, the police force, and political systems contribute to the perception of a gender bias against women. This qualitative research uses a case study methodology and employs ethnographic methods of observation, including 31 in-depth interviews that capture the complexity of domestic violence and identify the social and economic dynamics that create barriers to help-seeking in New Orleans. The data contends that women who have increased access to informal and formal networks are able to enact behaviors that will allow them to seek help and extricate themselves from abusive relationships. These findings demonstrate that inequalities in post-disaster reconstruction have created barriers to help-seeking among victims of domestic violence. These barriers include the destruction of social capital, institutional failures, and limited economic resources. Likewise, findings reveal that attitudes and behaviors regarding domestic violence help-seeking are dependent on social and economic well-being. This highlights the need for more research and hard data on the incidence of domestic violence in New Orleans to learn the exact scope of the problem and how to overcome the social and economic barriers that perpetuate the cycle of domestic violence.