As our friends at The Rural Blog have pointed out, a new study out of the University of Kentucky highlights how domestic violence protective orders are less effective in rural areas than in urban centers.
The study, by UK professor TK Logan, concludes that while domestic violence occurs at similar rates in both regions, it is a lower priority in rural areas. (This is suggested by the low rates of success in serving protective order petitions; fewer charges, prosecutions and convictions in domestic violence crimes; and the perception by female victims that they have less access to protective orders and enforcement.)
The “good old boys” system, largely missing in cities, plays a significant role in the country, she found. In her interviews with justice system representatives and victim service representatives, “blame and negative attitudes or distrust of women were mentioned more frequently as reasons for partner violence and for obtaining protective orders in the rural areas.” The study continues:
What was missing in many key informant responses was the recognition that partner violence is a systematic and deliberate set of tactics designed to control another person, and that level of control erodes victims’ freedom. Further, key informants indicated that women obtain protective orders for revenge or “to get something” which ignores the importance of maintaining women’s safety through meeting their other tangible needs such as financial, residential, and child custody concerns. (Emphasis added.)
Here, to help kick off National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, are a few more key findings from Dr. Logan’s study:
— More rural women report a history of severe violence and threats from the [male intimate] partner as well as fear of future harm.
— The vast majority of perpetrators had a history of charges (mostly unrelated to partner violence), incarceration, and convictions before the protective orders were issued against them. This may indicate that partner violence is a part of a pattern of criminal behavior rather than an anomaly.
— Only half of the women in the study reported protective order violations during the six month follow-up period. Further, protective orders were associated with significant reductions in abuse, violence and fear during the six month follow-up period. However, of those who experienced violations, rural women experienced more violations, on average, than urban women and more rural women were fearful of future harm from the [domestic] partner.
— Estimates suggest that protective orders saved [Kentucky] $85 million for a one-year period, which is likely a conservative estimate of savings. … Protective orders are, at a minimum, a cost-neutral safety intervention.
— Several gaps in victim safety were identified by this study, including (a) the time between the filing of an [emergency protective order] and the [domestic violence order] hearing; (b) when attempts to enforce the order by the victim fail; and (c) when victims have dropped previous orders.