Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence

  Domestic Violence and the Experiences of Rural Women in East Central Saskatchewan



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The research and publication of this study were funded by the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE). The PWHCE is financially supported by the Women's Health Contribution Program, Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis, Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the PWHCE or the official policy of Health Canada.

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D. J. F. Martz, D. Bryson Saraurer

Executive Summary

Rural women in East Central Saskatchewan experience family violence in significant numbers. This study explores rural women's experiences of family violence and their need for services and support. The research methodology is based on participatory action research. The design included a semi-structured interview of 19 survivors of domestic violence and 3 focus groups, two with survivors of domestic violence and one with service providers in the region.

Many of the women stayed in abusive situations for years because they had come to accept the abuse as normal. They had been convinced that the abuse was their fault. Lack of knowledge, embarrassment, fear of reprisal and fear of not being believed caused women to remain silent about the abuse.

Intergenerational abuse was present in 90% of the cases in this study. Abusers came from households in which their mothers and their siblings were abused. In turn, the abusers' children are witnessing the abuse of their mothers and in many cases are verbally abused themselves. This is particular cause for concern in rural Saskatchewan because there is little counseling for children outside of the limited resources of the school system. A concerted effort must be made to find ways to deliver counseling to rural children experiencing family violence in order to break this pattern.

Women left their abusive partners when the violence began to escalate and the need to protect their children intensified. They faced many problems in leaving including poverty, fear of increased violence and the loss of their homes and communities.

Women were unaware of the services available to them and their children when they left their abusive relationship. Upon leaving, most of the women saw counselors and many interacted with the police and lawyers. Women also used the services of the clergy, doctors, safe houses, and social services. None of these services was adequate to meet all their needs.

The urban bias of specialized services for family violence, combined with the centralization of more generalized services such as Social Services, Legal Aid, and some aspects of the police service creates a serious issue of accessibility for rural women and their families.

As a result rural people must either find the resources to travel for these services or forego them. Women who leave abusive situations are often impoverished and may not be able to afford the time or the money to travel to the larger urban center. Women in rural areas are also disadvantaged by the lack of subsidized daycare, inadequate employment opportunities, and lack of access to affordable housing.

There is a critical need for knowledge about domestic violence, for both survivors of abuse and the general public. Information and education is necessary to break the cycle of abuse, to teach children and adults what abuse is and how to deal with conflict in constructive ways.

Rural women in abusive situations need information to deal with the complex issues of the impact of domestic violence on them and their children. They also require information on their legal rights and on financial issues.


Building on the positive aspects of community cohesion and co-operative spirit that are attributed to rural areas, rural people must develop rural solutions to the delivery of services. This will necessitate an investment of time and money from government, health districts and the community. Women felt the funding for these services was largely the responsibility of government, but that the Health District and the Community had a significant role to play to develop programs and services that would reflect the needs of local people.

The following recommendations reflect the changes suggested by the women who participated in this study.


  1. Effective screening procedures should be developed and used by service agencies to ensure victims of family violence are identified immediately.
  2. Family violence cases should be prioritized by the Mental Health Office.
  3. Models for counseling for pre-school children should be explored in order to develop a suitable rural model for group counseling for pre-school children who have experienced family violence.
  4. Methods should be explored to ensure the needs of rural school aged children who have experienced family violence are being met.
  5. The Support Group for Survivors of Spousal Abuse should continue to be offered.
  6. A rural model for providing ongoing support for women who have already attended the Support Group for Survivors of Spousal Abuse should be developed.
  7. A Women's Advocate position should be established in the region. This person would be highly visible, accessible and knowledgeable regarding the legal issues surrounding family violence and the social support system that exists for victims and survivors of family violence.
  8. Models for counseling for abusive men should be explored in order to develop a suitable rural model that could be delivered in the region.
  9. Organizations and service agencies whose employees may be called on to deal with cases of family violence should ensure those employees have a high level of understanding of family violence.
  10. Organizations and service agencies whose employees routinely deal with cases of family violence should develop protocols to deal with victims and survivors of violence to ensure consistent and effective service provision.
  11. An effective strategy for providing education and information about family violence must be developed and delivered to high schools and the public using a variety of innovative methods and media.
  12. The feasibility of establishing a Rural Family Support Centre should be explored. This would be a highly accessible facility where people could find information and have someone to talk to about abuse issues, as well as parenting, personal growth and other issues important to rural families.
  13. A staffed, safe shelter should be established in the region to house families in crisis.
Additonal information:
Abuse Help Lines
The Provincial Association of Transition Houses

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