Domestic violence is prevalent in all communities, but the greater distance in rural communities increases isolation and creates special considerations for victims.  Increased awareness of some of these factors may allow friends, family members, and service providers to give timely information that can be of more use to rural residents.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence identifies the following rural factors that act as barriers to individual, family, and community ability to address and deal with domestic abuse.

  • Families in rural areas are often physically isolated.  This makes it difficult to report or escape abuse and have a necessary support system.
  • The female in the household, most often the victim, may not have access to transportation, reliable transportation, or public transportation.
  • There may not be a telephone in the home.  Or, it may not be safe to place long distance calls when seeking assistance or help, as they will be identified on the billing statements.
  • Confidentiality is difficult to maintain.  Police or court personnel may be known to the victim and/or abuser, neighbors may have police scanners, and victims may be too ashamed to seek help for fear of the abuse becoming known to the town.
  • Roads may be in poor condition and especially not navigable in the winter and rainy season.  This makes rescue difficult, increasing response time for police and medical assistance.
  • Services may not be available in some rural areas making it necessary to travel long distances to service providers.
  • Rifles, guns, and other hunting weapons are often more readily available in rural areas, increasing the risk of their use at a highly emotional time.
  • Housing may be poor or inadequate, making it difficult for a woman to strike out on her own.
  • The economy of some rural areas is based on seasonal work.  This can increase stressors in an already abusive relationship and can also mean lack of employment or adequate employment, making it difficult for victims to become financially self-sufficient.
  • Rural communities largely operate on a "couple mentality" which subtly excludes single individuals.  This may result in a situation where a woman feels forced to stay in an abusive relationship in order to feel accepted in the community.
  • Protection orders are often not a safe or viable option for many rural victims as police response time may limit their effectiveness.  If the home is linked to the source of income (on a farm for instance), the abuser will not be required to leave, and if the abuser violates a protection order, it becomes difficult to prove in such isolated areas.
  • If considering leaving her abusive relationship, a rural victim is also forced to consider leaving her home and her ties to her rural life, such as land, animals, and the small close-knit community for a move to a larger town or city.

"He didn't want me to have a car so I would have to stay at home.  I would have no choice and he knew that I would have no choice."
-a battered woman, Whitman County, WA


National Statistics

  • 8 out of every 1000 women in rural areas are victims of intimate partner violence.
  • 51% of all rural violence occurs in daylight.
  • Between 1993 and 1998, children under the age of twelve resided in 43% of the households where intimate partner violence occurred.
    (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001/2000)

On the Palouse

From July 2001 to June 2002 . . .

  • 75 individuals fled their homes for the safety of the local shelter
  • 59 children received services through ATVP because they were physically or sexually abused
  • 209 adults received legal advocacy assistance including help with obtaining emergency protection orders and safety planning
  • 2,200 calls to the ATVP crisis hotline were responded to by trained advocates
  • 1,942 in-person advocacy-based counseling sessions were provided by ATVP advocates
  • Over 400 individuals affected by family or sexual violence were assisted by ATVP


  • 17% of all homicides take place in rural areas between intimate partners
  • Intimate homicides make up a larger proportion of murders in rural areas than in suburban or urban areas
  • 8 per 1,000 women in rural areas were victims of intimate partner violence between 1993-1998
  • A woman is battered every 9 seconds in the United States
    (United States Department of Justice: Special Report 2002)


Rural locations are often deliberately chosen by an abusive partner in order to increase the isolation and maintain control over their spouse or partner.  By moving their partner to an isolated location, the abuser can reduce ties their partner may have had to friends and family, which may also prevent the victim from getting help.  Abuse in rural areas is hidden more easily than in urban areas where the victim may be seen or heard during an abusive incident.  Seclusion from neighbors and friends plays a significant role in the abuser maintaining control, as domestic violence is more easily kept under wraps when there is no one nearby to serve as a witness.


17% of rural households live at or below the poverty level.  Rural women have few economic options, and often lack employment of their own.  If they do have a job, it's normally low paying, and therefore barely enough to survive on apart from the inclusion of the wage contributed by their partner.