Tuesday, October 08, 2013

This is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is particularly important in rural areas

Three-fourths of abused women stay with their abuser for economic reasons, especially in rural areas, Bryce Covert reports for Think Progress. Last month the Massachusetts Rural and Domestic Violence Project held a summit to look at the issue. Suleidys Tellez, who covered the event for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, writes: "Money is a central concern for victims in rural areas because abusers may cut off their access to money, education and employment, advocates say. The situation worsens in rural areas because families often live far from transportation centers, schools, hospitals and other social services."

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but it might not be getting the attention it deserves, because of the federal government shutdown. Funding is going down, but the rate of domestic partners seeking help keeps going up, and 60 percent of shelters say abuse has become more violent. Nearly 80 percent of shelters reporting an increase in women seeking help, but 80 percent are also reporting less funding, Covert reports, noting that budget "sequestration meant a $20 million reduction in funding that was predicted to result in 70,120 fewer victims getting access to recovery programs and shelters." Some programs reported receiving letters from the government prior to the shutdown saying that it would cut off funds.

Data on rural domestic abuse is hard to come by, according to the Rural Assistance Center. The abuse sometimes goes unreported, or if it does, the abused often struggle with reporting abuse to law enforcement officials or health care providers that they know personally. Rural culture often makes it difficult for women to seek help, especially in areas where women take on a more traditional role "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," the center says.

Fifty agencies participated in the Massachusetts summit, including the national Family Independence Initiative, which showcased a program to help battered women gain financial independence after escaping abuse through "a hands-off approach in which staff members let families recovering from abuse and violence monitor and manage their own progress," Tellez writes.  Through the program, the organization "provides a stipend of up to $2,000 per year in compensation for economic progress data, which has allowed participating families to move out of poverty within two years, the program reports, and to reach realistic goals." (Read more)

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