| Domestic Violence and the Experiences of Rural Women in East Central Saskatchewan
D. J. F. Martz, D. Bryson
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.
Abuse Help Lines
The Provincial Association of Transition Houses
Back to top of page