Barriers to Services for Rural and Urban Survivors of Rape

A significant proportion of survivors of rape do not utilize formal services to cope with the aftermath of rape. Understanding victimization experiences in environments that differ on resources, such as rural versus urban areas, may be an important dimension to consider in understanding barriers. Thirty women (18 rural and 12 urban) were recruited from rape crisis centers to participate in focus groups. Study results suggest that (a) survivors of rape experience many barriers to service utilization, (b) there were some differences in barriers to service utilization that were mentioned only in rural areas and some that were mentionedonly in urban areas that may suggest that community context is important to consider in understanding barriers to service use, and (c) barriers to health and mental health services overlap with barriers to criminal justice system services
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Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Key Points-- Barriers to accessing sexual violence services are similar in rural and urban areas, but those associated with confidentiality and personal resources (e.g., transportation, housing) may be more significant in rural settings. Summary-- This qualitative study is a comprehensive overview of barriers for victims to reporting sexual violence and receiving services. Thirty women were recruited from rape crisis centers in rural communities (n=18) and urban areas (n=12) to participate in one of six focus groups. Participants were asked about barriers to health and mental health services and criminal justice system services. While there was considerable overlap of issues mentioned by rural and urban women, rural women considered negative reactions by community and family, fear of loss of privacy and anonymity, and fear of reprisal by the perpetrator to be the most important barriers. Rural women also had more mistrust of the police. All women described criminal justice systems as revictimizing. Participants suggested improvements to services: education and training for community members and professionals; peer support; changes in the judicial system to make prosecution easier for survivors; increased availability of sexual violence response services; and better outreach and marketing by existing services. Because urban and rural women emphasized different barriers, the researchers suggest that further studies look at larger samples to identify significant differences. Limitations-- Limitations included a small sample size and participant self-selection. The study consisted only of women who received services at rape crisis centers.
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Underserved populations; victim services
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