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Domestic Violence Victims In Rural Isolation

Shropshire Domestic Abuse Service is calling on everyone, especially those living in rural areas, to be alert to the potential of domestic abuse around them during Sexual Violence Awareness Week (6-12 February).

For many living in rural communities, it can be significantly harder to access specialist domestic abuse services.  Isolation can trap victims anywhere, but in rural areas, the social isolation can be compounded by geographical isolation and the perpetrator can be protected by the small size of the community.

There is often an assumption that domestic abuse is an inner-city problem, confined to lower socio-economic or ethnic minority groups. And a victim can feel very vulnerable seeking confidential support from their neighbours, the local police, or the family doctor.

Victims may be reliant upon public transport which is not always reliable and on time.  For those who have access to a car the abusive partner may control the use of this limiting petrol money, monitoring mileage and demanding explanations of where they have travelled to or from.

Where there is outreach or community based support available this in itself can be difficult for a domestic abuse victim.  The sight of an unknown vehicle parked outside the house or a support worker entering the home can cause gossip and speculation.

Where police officers are embedded in close-knit communities, as in rural areas, domestic abuse victims can feel that they would be more likely to take the side of a perpetrator they know socially, although in some cases, intimate knowledge of the local community can help a police force dedicated to eliminating domestic abuse.

Shropshire Domestic Abuse Service aims to break down the barriers faced by victims and to work alongside other agencies to ensure all victims have a place of safety they can access easily and quickly when needed and help to find the support they need.

The service currently runs a female only 10 bed refuge and, because abuse doesn’t just happen to women, from April 2017, will introduce a range of dispersed properties across the County offering safe shared accommodation.  The accommodation will be supported by specialist domestic abuse workers and will be accessible to all victims and their children who need to flee domestic abuse.

The service also offers face to face emotional and practical advice, guidance and support. By being based in Housing Offices, Council buildings, Churches, Sure Start Centres, GPs and other hubs that local people access regularly, victims will not stand out when accessing our service.

Anyone struggling with domestic abuse can also call the National 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247.