Kentucky tornadoes could bring increased risk, new opportunities for domestic violence survivors

2 years ago

As Kentucky residents continue cleanup and recovery after the recent historic deadly tornadoes, advocates for those who have domestic violence say that population may be at special risk.

But the problem can also afford more opportunities to seek help, said Mary Foley, executive director at Merryman House Domestic Violence Crisis Center. Her organization serves eight Kentucky counties with support resources including an urgent situation shelter.

Foley said the destruction brought by the storms often means added stress or power shifts in a family, which can lead to a heightened risk of violence. It is also harder to achieve out for help if communications are down, and a person who has escaped an abuser can be forced back to a hazardous situation if they have lost a house or job.

But there may be also reprieve for those whose abusive relationships have until now lay hidden beneath the surface, for instance if they're sticking with relatives or friends following the storm.

\”If they don’t have power plus they don’t have water, they might then leave that home environment to be with other people they otherwise maybe wouldn’t have access to,\” Foley said. \”And so now we have other eyes in the situation or other ears listening.\”

She said there could also be chances for survivors of domestic violence to speak to aid workers they are available in connection with, like individuals with FEMA, the American Red Cross or volunteers assisting nearby.

Survivors may also talk to advocates via Facebook or Instagram.

\”The initial step would be to reach out,\” Foley said. \”I would encourage and urge any victim of domestic violence to take this opportunity to rebuild their resides in more than one way.\”

She also said those helping out should keep watch for possible signs of abuse, and never assume that a person's injuries are based on the storms.

Merryman House helps around 1,000 people annually with services, and around 350 come with the 36-bed emergency shelter in McCracken County. As of late a week ago, Foley and her staff had been in a position to reach the majority of those they currently use directly, but she knows it will only be following the dust settles from the storm that they'll obtain a clearer picture how great the necessity might be.

Tori Henninger, executive director of the Barren River Area Safe Space, which serves 10 Kentucky counties, said in a statement that she and her staff had not yet been able to make contact with all of their clients, by a week ago.

\”We're trying to go door to door to lay eyes on them and ensure they're OK,\” Henninger said within the statement.

The Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence recently started a fundraiser to help with the immediate needs of domestic violence survivors in the storm-ravaged areas, along with the advocates who support them.

The Kentucky Domestic Violence Victims' Emergency Fund will give you necessities such as emergency housing, food, water, transportation along with other basic needs.

To donate, visit

How to locate help

  • Those in need of support may also call the Merryman House 24-hour crisis line at 270-443-6001, visit or chat with them through social media. Keep in mind that online activities can be monitored by an abuser. Merryman House's coverage area includes Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall, and McCracken counties.
  • To get to the Barren River Area Safe Space (BRASS) call the emergency hotline at 1-800-928-1183 or 270-843-1183 or visit BRASS's coverage area includes Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson and Warren counties.
  • To contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit
  • An interactive tool for planning a safe escape are available at



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