Why Not UNO? Social Disorganization and Sexual Violence among Internally Displaced Women of Hurricane Katrina

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Journal of Community Health

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Researchers have reported that natural disasters lead to an increase in sexual violence against women and this is echoed by the current situation in Haiti. This is a social pattern throughout the world during periods of war, as well as natural disasters such as tsunamis, famine, and hurricanes. This article examines the prevalence of sexual violence experienced by women students at the University of New Orleans (UNO) before and after Hurricane Katrina using the CORE Alcohol and Drug Survey. Two hundred and thirty seven women participated in the pre-Katrina study and 215 women participated in the post-Katrina study. We hypothesized that, due to the trauma of this disaster, there would be a higher prevalence of sexual aggression against women after Katrina than there was before Katrina. Our analyses yielded no significant differences in any of the measures of sexual violence toward women (nine CORE survey items) pre to post Katrina, so our hypothesis was not supported. We suggest that social organization and cultural attenuation—often indicators of sexual assault in FEMA Greenfield communities—were mitigated by social cohesion found on the UNO campus post-Katrina.