Domestic Violence in Rural Areas


Domestic violence is a serious criminal, familial, and societal problem. Statistics indicate that many women fall victim to domestic violence however it is impossible to quantify the actual pain and degradation they face. Fear and terror are equally impossible to quantify as women and family anticipate their next assault. Domestic violence touches all walks of life therefore the use of gender specific language should not be construed to mean that domestic violence is only perpetrated on women or in heterosexual relationships. However, academic research consistently demonstrates that the majority of domestic violence victims are female and the batters male. For the purpose of this paper, violence perpetrated on women from men will be the focus.
Battering is the largest cause of injury to women when compared to rape, auto accidents, and mugging combined (Robinson, 2000). The physical violence endured by women has ramifications beyond what women themselves suffer. For example, babies born with birth defects are increased because of pregnant women being battered, and children witnessing domestic violence are more likely to the repeat the cycle of violence as they get older (Robinson, 2000). Not only are children living in abusive homes adversely affected by what they witness, they are at risk of being abused themselves. It is estimated that 40% to 50% of men who batter their spouse also physically and emotionally abuse their children (Robinson, 2000).
The most commonly asked question about domestic violence is why do women stay in an abusive relationship. Multitudes of reasons exist that are extremely complex. The book Rural Women Battering and the Justice System (Websdale, 1998) offers several reasons why women stay in an abusive relationship including but not limited to isolation, fear, economics, and negligent criminal justice systems. While these fears are universal among women, women in rural areas seem to be at greater disadvantages than women in urban and suburban communities in terms of “getting away” from their perpetrators or receiving assistance from the criminal justice system. This disadvantage is primarily due to geographical and social isolation.

Rural Regions Defined

The culture of rural regions differs significantly from urban regions in terms of demographics, homogeneity and diversity. Rural regions in terms of demographics are regions that consist of approximately 2,500 or less persons. These regions are understood to be countrysides or small towns when compared to urban dichotomies. Rural communities are also referred to as “primitive societies” in which farming, hunting, coal mining, and agriculture occupations exist. These occupations exist in urban communities, however in rural regions these occupations are greater.
Rural regions are said to be more homogenous in that social interaction is heightened. Rural residents are more likely to either be related to each other, know or know of each other, and to some degree know one another’s business (Websdale, 1998). Outsiders are more noticeable and often create suspicion from rural residents. For this very reason diversity is less tolerable. The tolerance of diversity is low in rural regions, while urban regions flourish with diversity. Urban areas attract a variety of cultures making urbanites more private and autonomous. This is not to say that urban regions can not be homogenous but the likelihood of every one knowing each other is unreasonable.

Isolations that Rural Women Face

Battered women in rural regions often complain of geographical and social isolation. Geographic isolation stems from the greater distances between people and places outside of the rural area. The same is true of social isolation as it, too, is a function of greater distances between people and the institutions with people (i.e. church, social groups, school, etc…). Urban women are at a greater advantage of getting assistance from the criminal justice system as more resource opportunities are within urban or city limits (Websdale, 1998). Although the accessibility of resources may differ for rural and urban women, the violence experienced is the same.
Farms and ranches separate many homes in rural regions allowing for residents to not have neighbors for many miles. Living in hollows (secluded areas with relatively small numbers of homes and dirt roads) without access to public transportation makes it difficult for these women to engage in community life. The distance from “hollows” to paved road is usually several miles. It is possible for women to walk