The February 2022 floods in northern NSW saw women experiencing higher rates of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, new research has found.
According to a report from the University of Newcastle, women in the Northern Rivers were subjected to high levels of violence and sexual assaults, resulting in unplanned pregnancies.
The researchers – Associate Professor Wendy Foote, Professor Margaret Alston, Dr David Betts and Dr Tracy McEwan – said the emergency centres established in response to the floods did not adequately consider the safety of women and children.
They suggested separation of men and women and children in emergency centres, as well as more triaging, would have avoided the increased rates of gender-based violence and sexual assaults.
Head of Policy and Research at MSI Australia Bonney Corbin told Women’s Agenda unplanned and unwanted pregnancies can often go unnoticed during times of crisis, including during climate-related disasters.
“There’s an assumption that we don’t have sex when we’re displaced, but the evidence shows that both rape and sexual activity increases in times of emergency,” Corbin said.
“When we are displaced, we lose routine, and we’re more likely to forget where we are at in our menstrual cycle. Pregnancy can go unnoticed.
“Dissociation following sexual violence and rape can mean that victim-survivors delay making choices about their pregnancy.”