Family Violence FAQ's

How big a problem is domestic violence? 

According to the November 2000 Department of Justice report, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, 22% of surveyed women reported they were physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or date in their lifetime. Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. 

What are the myths and facts about domestic violence? 

There are many myths regarding the causes and consequences of domestic violence. For more information, please see the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association's Myths of Domestic Violence and the Office of the Clark County (Indiana) Prosecuting Attorney's Myths and Facts about Domestic Violence. 

What do we know about rural domestic violence? 

Evidence-based studies of rural women who have experienced domestic violence are scarce. As the national surveys illustrate, domestic violence is a critical issue in the United States. These surveys, however, typically do not entirely capture the total number of violent incidences, which can include hidden types of abuse such as psychological and financial abuse. Intimate partner violence is often under-reported, particularly in rural areas where there is less privacy for domestic violence survivors. In fact, the challenges and occurrences experienced by survivors of domestic violence are likely made worse by residence in a rural community. For more information, please see the Office of Rural Health Policy publication Rural Health Response to Domestic Violence: Policy and Practice Issues. 

How does domestic violence affect children? 

Children exposed to violence in the home may experience a variety of negative consequences such as anxiety, sleep disturbances, withdrawal, and rebelliousness. Without treatment, these children are at greater risk for substance abuse, depression, and difficulty in their own relationships. For more information on the impact of domestic violence on children, please see the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information publication Children and Domestic Violence: A Bulletin for Professionals. 

Is it more difficult for rural women to seek and get help? 

Rural relationships tend to be closely knit. Relationships or familiarity with health care providers and/or law enforcement officials may affect victims' willingness to discuss abuse or violence. Similarly, relationships with an abuser may limit the extent to which an abuse or violence claim is investigated. The culture of some rural communities can make it more difficult for women to seek help. Communities where men and women tend to stay in traditional roles, where people avoid asking for help, and where there is less awareness of domestic violence and its impact on victims and children are communities where it is harder for domestic violence victims to seek out the resources they need. 

Is it more difficult for rural women to get to needed services? 

Rural domestic violence victims are in more isolated locations and may have difficulty accessing health care and other services due to lack of transportation or poor weather and road conditions. Emergency response time is often slower in rural areas. In addition, some rural homes do not have telephone service to request emergency assistance. 

Are treatment services available to domestic violence offenders in rural areas? 

In most rural communities, offender treatment options are limited. To find out about treatment options available in your area, please contact your local domestic violence agency. If you don't know who to contact, please see this list of state domestic violence resources from the National Women's Health Information Center. 

How does rural poverty relate to domestic violence? 

Rural poverty is a particular concern regarding domestic violence. Studies have shown that poverty and domestic violence are related. Poverty greatly contributes to family and relationship stress and limits victims' ability to leave abusive partners or family members. Non-metropolitan poverty rates are higher than those in metropolitan regions for many demographic groups, particularly minorities in the South. Rural family violence survivors who live in poverty and lack transportation may be unable to travel to family members' or friends' homes for shelter. 

Is access to firearms a risk factor for domestic violence? 

Many weapons, especially firearms, are more readily available in rural households. Increased availability of these weapons increases the risk and deadliness of domestic attacks upon rural women. 

What role does health care access play for domestic violence victims and survivors? 

A shortage of health care providers is a constant challenge for rural Americans, particularly when addressing survivors of domestic violence who may need physical or mental health treatment to recover from the effects of abuse. Rural residents are more likely to be under-insured. Lack of insurance limits victims' abilities to seek either primary or mental health care for injuries, depression, or anxiety. 

What types of training and resources are available for rural health care providers to help them prevent domestic violence? 

Rural health care providers may lack training to screen for domestic violence. The Family Violence Prevention Fund has a video, Screen to End Abuse, providing examples of domestic violence screening in a primary care setting. 

Is access to legal services a problem in rural areas? 

Domestic violence survivors may be in need of legal assistance for protection orders, divorces, child custody proceedings and other legal matters that are a consequence of abuse or violence. In rural areas, it can be more difficult to find an affordable lawyer or legal aid. Law enforcement and the courts in rural communities may be less familiar with issues of domestic violence and appropriate responses.   See the Legal Services section of our Web site for more information.