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May 14, 2012

Problems of Rural Battered Women

Battered women living in rural areas have many of the same experiences as battered women everywhere. But rural battered women have certain experiences and face certain barriers which are unique to rural settings.

Rural batterers frequently isolate their partners as one tactic of maintaining power and control over their victims. They also commonly:
  • Refuse access to family vehicles or prevent a woman from getting a driver's license.
  • Ridicule her in front of friends and family so she's reluctant to invite them again.
  • Accuse her of flirting or having affairs, and because of this suspicion beating her for even limited contact with another person.
  • Remove the telephone when leaving the home or calling her every hour to monitor her whereabouts.
  • Threaten or beat her when she returns from outings with women friends.
  • Keep her bruised so she is ashamed to be seen in public.
  • Threaten to kill her if she tells anyone.
A woman isolated in these ways has a difficult time escaping from a violent partner. She fears leaving. She fears calling someone for help. Battered women everywhere experience some form of isolation as controlled by their partners, but for rural battered women the isolation becomes magnified by geographical isolation. Other rural factors can greatly impact a rural battered woman's isolation and chances of reaching safe shelter. Consider that:
  • A rural battered woman may not have phone service.
  • Usually no public transportation exists, so if she leaves she must take a family vehicle.
  • Police and medical response to a call for help may take a long time.
  • Rural areas have fewer resources for women--jobs, childcare, housing and health care, or easy access to them is limited by distance.
  • Extreme weather often exaggerates isolation--cold, snow, and mud regularly affect life in rural areas and may extend periods of isolation with an abuser.
  • Poor roads thwart transportation.
  • Seasonal work may mean months of unemployment on a regular basis and result in women being trapped with an abuser for long periods.
  • Hunting weapons are common to rural homes and everyday tools like axes, chains, pitchforks, and mauls are potential weapons.
  • Alcohol use, which often increases in winter months when rural people are unemployed and isolated in their homes, usually affects the frequency and severity of abuse.
  • Traveling to a "big city" (perhaps 20,000) can be intimidating to rural battered women and city attitudes may seem strange and un-accepting.
  • A woman's bruises may fade or heal before she sees neighbors, and working with farm tools and equipment can provide an easy explanation for injuries.
  • Farm families are often one-income families and a woman frequently has no money of her own to support herself and her children.
  • A family's finances are often tied up in land and equipment, so a woman thinking of ending a relationship faces an agonizing reality that she and her partner may lose the family farm or her partner will be left with no means of income.
  • Court orders restraining an abuser from having contact with a woman are less viable for rural women because their partners cannot be kept away from the farm if it is their only source of income.
  • Rural women frequently have strong emotional ties to the land and to farm animals, and if she has an attachment to her animals she fears they may be neglected or harmed.
  • Rural woman are usually an integral part of a family farm business, so if she leaves the business may fail.
Rural battered women have some unique problems, but alternatives to living with abuse do exist. A battered women's program can provide personal support, safety planning for you and your children, information about options available to you, transportation, legal information, safe shelter, and referrals to financial assistance, job training, and education options.

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