Serving Rural Victims
Sexual assault victims in rural communities may find it difficult to disclose their victimizations for many reasons, including because they fear that they will fall into the hands of people who cannot or will not assist them. If you want to develop or enhance outreach in rural communities, consider the following ideas:82
- Research the cultural fabric of the area and determine what binds it together, such as language and dialects, predominant faiths, and careers.
- Evaluate victims' perceptions of the limitations they face in accessing services (e.g., long-distance travel) and the perceptions of those who work with victims regarding service barriers,83 and develop resources to overcome those limitations and barriers.
- Seek outreach venues to educate isolated populations on victims' rights and service availability.
- Identify local community leaders and work with them to improve services for victims who live in outlying regions.
- Educate state legislators about victims' needs in isolated areas.
- Create crisis telephone services.
- Develop teams of volunteers who are trained in victim sensitivity, rights, and needs.
- Train local volunteer advocates to respond to crises quicklythey can help link rural women to programs in nearby communities.84
- Instead of a satellite office, consider outreach workers who can travel around rural counties to provide services.
- Form partnerships with educational, cultural, agricultural, community, and faith-based organizations to provide victims with appropriate, informed support and referrals to service providers (e.g., school districts, community action agencies, health clinics, food pantries, mental health centers, substance abuse centers, ministers, local businesses, outreach programs for new mothers85).
- To provide more consistent and comprehensive assistance, form service bridges between limited local services and service networks in nearby counties, cities, or metropolitan areas to create multijurisdictional networks.
- Due to the lack of victim anonymity in rural areas, be prepared to overcome the challenges associated with delayed reporting and inconsistent statements.86
- Consider soliciting donated office space or rented space in churches for victim services so victims' anonymity can be maintained.
- Provide creative opportunities for emergency shelters. Some rural communities offer safe homes where neighborhood volunteers open their homes as a haven to victims; others collaborate with local motels or domestic violence shelters to offer temporary refuge.
- Develop a rural task force to involve the community in the response to sexual violence.
- Evaluate, periodically, the effectiveness of services in aiding sexual assault victims.