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The barriers that affect rural victims of domestic violence

By Rhonda Ballance

Client Services Advocate

Hyde County Hotline

The National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services reports that rural women are often more likely to experience domestic violence than their urban and suburban counterparts.

The unique aspects of life in the country often make it easier for a perpetrator to abuse his partner, and make it much more difficult for a woman to seek help and stay safe.

Women in areas with unreliable Internet or cell phone reception are not able to do online research to find services that could help them, and they also can’t call a friend or emergency services for assistance. Even if they are able to call, the police can take a long time to arrive if the victim lives many miles from the nearest town or village. There may also be no taxi or regular public transport to allow the woman to leave on her own if an abuser has control of the family car.

Another barrier is close-knit rural communities where “everybody knows each other.” A woman may be reluctant to call the police because local police officers may be friendly with her partner.

Besides the lack of anonymity, service providers might not believe that the same friendly man they interact with could be capable of domestic violence.

Women in the countryside also struggle with supporting themselves financially once they leave an abusive relationship. Rural women have fewer educational opportunities, fewer employment possibilities, and higher rates of poverty. It can often be difficult for them to find an affordable lawyer or to obtain legal aid.

They are also less likely than urban women to have access to employer-based health insurance, and more likely to have higher health insurance costs. Rural women who have experienced intimate partner violence report more severe physical and mental health problems than urban women.

Most poignant of all, a rural woman who leaves an abusive relationship isn’t just leaving her partner behind; she’s leaving an entire life she’s built. In many cases, she will have spent her entire life in the same small community, and have only had friendships with people in that community.

If she is forced to flee that community for her own safety, she will have to start a new life away from what she knows and possibly without a support network. The thought of this may be so overwhelming that she might not even contemplate it.

If you or know someone that has experienced domestic violence, please know that we are here to help. The 24-hour Crisis Line number is 252-925-2500.

From Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2018, Hyde County Hotline served 126 victims of domestic violence and received 584 domestic violence related crisis calls; and served 84 victims of sexual assault and received 601 sexual assault crisis calls.

Hyde County Hotline provides crisis intervention, domestic and sexual violence advocacy, human trafficking advocacy, survivor services, safe shelter, support groups, referrals, program presentations, and participation with DSS Work First program.

We serve victims of sexual victimization, domestic violence and human trafficking regardless of race, color, sex or sexual orientation.

The purpose of Hyde County Hotline, Inc. is to work to eliminate domestic abuse and sexual victimization and provide safe shelter in Hyde County, North Carolina through the collaborative efforts of a compassionate community. We promote dignity, respect and safety.

To volunteer, or for more information, call Hyde County Hotline at 252-925-2502.