Domestic abuse in rural areas

The National Rural Crime Network has last week launched the results of an 18 month intensive research project on domestic abuse in rural areas, ‘Captive and Controlled’. 

It revealed a disturbing picture of domestic abuse in rural Britain with hidden victims – isolated, unsupported and unprotected. 

Julia Mulligan, Chair of the National Rural Crime Network and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire says

“We are particularly concerned about the way perpetrators isolated and control their victims which can lead to violence and murder.  In a climate where resources continue to be allocated on a historical volume demand basis, this threatens to widen gap between rural and urban victims, driving even more abuse underground and failing more victims.”

The report finds:
  • Abuse lasts, on average, 25 per cent longer in the most rural areas
  • Traditional, patriarchal communities control and subjugate women
  • The policing response is largely inadequate
  • Support services are scarce – less available, less visible and less effective
  • The more rural the setting, the higher the risk of harm
  • Retreating rural resources make help and escape harder
  • Rurality and isolation are deliberately used as weapons by abusers
  • The short-term, often hand-to-mouth funding model has created competing and fragmented service provision
  • Close-knit rural communities facilitate abuse
  • An endemic data bias against rural communities leads to serious gaps in response and support

The report has a number of recommendations for its different audiences:

For Government:
Government must apply its ‘rural proofing’ policy to domestic abuse, strengthening its commitment with a new duty on policy makers, commissioners and service providers to account for the specific needs of victims and survivors in rural communities

For Commissioners:
Commissioners (in all their forms) need to collaborate more locally and provide simpler, more secure and longer-term funding

For the Police:
Chief Constables need to urgently assess and improve their service provision in rural areas

For the Sector:
Government, policing and service providers must collectively commit to redressing the urban bias

For Support Services and Charities:
Support services for rural victims and survivors must be improved

For Society:
Challenge the status quo and societal ‘norms’ in rural communities to redress inequality between women and men

Julia Mulligan adds in her foreword to the report:

“Revealing the truth was the easy bit. Acting on it is hard but acting on it is what we have to do. We need to do it positively, we need to look forward and work together to improve the service we offer to victim and survivors of domestic abuse in rural areas, and we need to do it now.”

Graham Biggs, Chair of the Rural Services Network and a member of the Board of the National Rural Crime Network says:

“The report is shocking reading, for too long, residents in rural areas have been disadvantaged purely because of where they life.  The distribution of Government funding should be fair, and transparent so that rural communities, and in particular the vulnerable members of our rural communities are not suffering from a lack of support”


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