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Isolated, unsupported and unprotected - domestic abuse in rural Britain

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The study has analysed available evidence, spoken in depth to victims of abuse, assessed local support services and looked at the approach of the police. Its findings are very pertinent to Norfolk.

The NRCN report found that victims in rural England are isolated, unsupported and unprotected. Chairwoman of the NRCN, Julie Mulligan, described domestic abuse as “the hidden underbelly of rural communities.”  The report reveals a shocking picture of domestic abuse in rural Britain, with hidden victims being failed by the system, services and those around them. The findings are stark, disturbing and lead to an urgent call for action from government, police and society.

  • Rural victims are half as likely as those in urban areas to report their abuse to others.
  • The abuse goes on significantly longer.
  • Rural victims cannot readily access support services.
  • Victims live in a society that by default protects the perpetrators.
  • Victims are isolated, unsupported and unprotected in a rural hell, which is purposefully ‘normalised’.
  • There is often a strong sense of male entitlement, which goes comparatively unchecked, flourishing alongside endemic ignorance about domestic abuse, deliberate or otherwise.

The report interviewed commissioners in the seven areas and understood the challenges faced by rural frontline support workers daily. There are undoubtedly some superb services available, along with a truly inspiring commitment to supporting victims. However, overall the problem is systemically underestimated, poorly understood, the response disjointed and out of focus, and woefully under resourced.

Key Findings:

  • Abuse lasts, on average, 25 per cent longer in the most rural areas
  • The policing response is largely inadequate
  • The more rural the setting, the higher the risk of harm
  • Rurality and isolation are deliberately used as weapons by abusers
  • Close-knit rural communities facilitate abuse
  • Traditional, patriarchal communities control and subjugate women
  • Support services are scarce – less available, less visible and less effective
  • Retreating rural resources make help and escape harder
  • An endemic data bias against rural communities leads to serious gaps in response and support
  • There are many factors involved – not least the reality that support services are thinly spread in rural areas compared to those in urban areas. Social isolation, loneliness and financial dependence are important factors in allowing domestic abuse to flourish. The problem is confounded by the lack of data on rural victims, resulting less being done to address the problem; and there is simply less data on rural victims, resulting in less being done to address the problem.                                                                                                     t:

The report recommends that: 

  • Government applles 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
  • Chief Constables urgently assess and improve their service provision in rural areas
  • Support services for rural victims and survivors be improved
  • Commissioners collaborate more locally and provide simpler, more secure and longer-term funding
  • Government, policing and service providers collectively commit to redressing the urban bias
  • Society challenges the status quo and societal ‘norms’ in rural communities to redress inequality between women and men.

The full report can be found here