Why is it so Hard in the Country?

Domestic Violence in the Country WA

Those impacted by domestic and family violence in regional, rural and remote (RRR) areas of Australia face a unique set of challenges, and need support and services appropriate for their situation.

The RRR challenges include but are not limited to1:

  • The perception that family issues such as domestic and family violence should remain private
  • Lack of anonymity
  • Limited availability of specialised local family and domestic violence services
  • Complex financial arrangements
  • Geographical isolation
  • Gun ownership
  • The impact of natural disasters
  • Heavy drinking culture
  • Heavy drug use

The notion that family problems should be private and lack of privacy in small communities

One characteristic of rural life is the perception that family issues should remain private. If you have been experiencing domestic and family violence, you may feel as though the prospect of social and economic exclusion is very real. Alternatively, if you are using violence you may find that lack of privacy and anonymity within your community is a barrier to you accessing help.

Lack of access to specialised family and domestic violence support service in regional, rural and remote areas.

There are often limited family and domestic violence support services in RRR areas, including crisis accommodation, family and domestic violence legal advice, counselling and emergency relief. Services will often provide an outreach service to an entire region, so if someone experiencing family and domestic violence needs immediate support or if they are in crisis, they may experience longer wait times than those in urban areas.

Further, service providers such as crisis accommodation services in regional, remote, and rural areas are regularly at full capacity due to a lack of alternative options in the area. If crisis accommodation is not available, those experiencing family or domestic violence may have to remain in situations of domestic and family violence, in order to avoid homelessness. There is also often a lack of funding to relevant services, meaning some services may only be available for a limited period of time, making it very difficult for those experiencing violence to find a reliable support service. 

Lack of accountability

As domestic and family violence can be perceived to be a private issue, it can be a largely silent and invisible one for many. There are times when those who use violence are not held accountable for their actions, unless they are reported to the police.

Complex Financial Arrangements

In farming communities, money can often be tied up in assets (like a farm), or in trust funds, and a family’s finances may be controlled by the person using violence. The complexity of inheritance and financial arrangements in some farming families can create additional barriers to leaving an abusive relationship2. Without ready access to money, it may be difficult to find alternative accommodation, legal representation, access transport and everyday necessities for a person experiencing violence and their children.

Geographical Isolation

Geographical isolation can intensify domestic and family violence, and isolation can be used as a form of control. A person using violence may limit or remove your methods of communication, control access to transport and threaten the use of firearms. In remote areas, the police, medical and other services as well as nearest neighbours can be a considerable distance away if urgent help is required.

Gun Ownership

Higher rates of gun ownerships is a significant point of concern in regional, remote and rural areas3.

The normalisation of abusive behaviour in regional, remote and rural areas

Family and domestic violence can impact anyone in regional, remote, and rural Australia4. It’s an issue that impacts people from all walks of life. In some families, a traditional patriarchal structure may be used to normalise controlling and abusive behaviour within relationships and families. Believing this behavior is normal can be a significant barrier to those who are looking to seek help.

Natural Disasters

Natural events such as bushfires, floods, droughts and health crises affect regional, remote and rural areas in unique ways. These events can lead to an increase in stress-related outcomes, including financial instability, loss of income, loss of possessions or the loss of a family home. Importantly, these events do not cause someone to use violence, but may contribute to an escalation of family domestic violence.

Sources

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia: Continuing the National Story 2019’ Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019
  2. Campo, M, Tayton, S, ‘Domestic and family violence in regional, rural and remote communities’ Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  3. Owen et al, ‘Domestic Violence (DV) service providion and the architecture of rural life An Australian case study’ Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 39, pp. 229-238.
  4. See 2
  5. See 2
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