Sociocultural Inequalities and Economic Abuse in Intimate Partner Violence in Rural America

Sociocultural Inequalities and Economic Abuse in Intimate Partner Violence in Rural America

Ziwei Qi (Fort Hays State University, USA), Garrett McBlair (Fort Hays State University, USA), and Megan Shepard (Fort Hays State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4128-2.ch003
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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant public health crisis that affects a large proportion of the population in the U.S. It profoundly influences the economy, health, the well-being of victims and their families, and the community and society. Most importantly, the underlying causes of IPV are complex and deeply entrenched in places permeated with patriarchal values and gender stereotypes. IPV is maintained and even abetted, varying by space, place, and time. The chapter focuses on the process of maintaining and reproducing socioeconomic inequality in relationship violence in rural areas. It examines the varied challenges and obstacles experienced by rural IPV victims. It also provides strength-based solutions to break the cycle of generational violence.
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Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a significant public health crisis that commonly results in physical, emotional, and financial abuse, or even death (Banyard et al., 2019). The abusive relationship can occur between a current or former partner or spouse or cohabitating and same-sex partners (Dudgeon & Evanson, 2014). IPV affects one in three Americans, and it is the leading cause of physical injury in populations between teens to middle age (Boka, 2004). The costs of IPV exceed 9.3 billion dollars per year in the U.S. from lost wages, slowed productivity, healthcare, and intangible costs such as long-term trauma and health consequences (McLean & Bocinski, 2017). Youths experiencing IPV are more likely to perform poorly at school or drop out of school than others when controlling for income and other socioeconomic factors (Lloyd, 2018). The lost education and work opportunities increase the likelihood of poverty and economic deprivation later in their lives, making IPV victims subject to long-term and repeated victimizations, such as sexual exploitation, rape, and other types of abuse (Greco & Dawgert, 2007).

While IPV may affect all people regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, such as sustained physical, psychological, or emotional abuse (Center for Disease Control and Prevention [C.D.C.], 2017). Most of the literature has focused on IPV in urban and suburban areas and little research has examined the prevalence and service needs of IPV in rural areas (Peek-Asa et al., 2011). The lack of attention may result in a false impression that people in rural areas are less affected by IPV compared to those in urban areas.

Research shows rural environment and culture may help engender and conceal relationship violence (Gerino et al., 2018). IPV victims in rural areas tend to experience relationship violence much younger, stay in an abusive relationship longer, and have worse economic circumstances than their urban counterparts (Hart & Klein, 2013; Logan et al., 2009). Women in rural areas are commonly threatened at gunpoint by their intimate partners more than women in urban areas (Doherty & Hornosty, 2008). They also appear to suffer more stalking, sexual abuse, and additional threats of violence to pets, family members, family heirlooms, and property than urban victims (DeKeseredy and Schwartz, 2016; Newberry, 2017; Websdale, 1998; Websdale & Chesney-Lind,1998;). Based on this, the need for further examining how the nature and scope of violence differ in rural areas becomes much more urgent.

There is a substantial body of research on the relationship between socioeconomic inequality and IPV (Ackerson & Subramanian, 2008; Kliss et al., 2012; Reichel & Goodey, 2017). These studies demonstrate the complexity of the relationship between economic resources and IPV against women. Nevertheless, they provide strong evidence that women with fewer economic resources are more likely to experience IPV. This chapter aims to review the intersectionality of sociocultural inequalities and IPV in rural areas and provide suggestions to develop future research and policy changes. To that end, the aim is to review IPV and economic abuse, to reexamine sociocultural inequality in general, and economic inequality in rural and remote areas in the U.S. The current chapter reflects the experience of poverty, life path, challenges, and opportunities in rural settings. The authors also address the importance of rural intervention programs that focus on the intersectional characteristics of the victims (e.g., gender and socioeconomic status), trauma-informed and gender-responsive services, and education and employment opportunities.

The authors pursue three main objectives. The first objective is the reframing of IPV and economic abuse from gender and sociocultural perspectives through a rural lens. Our reflections are based on a literature review focusing on poverty, intimate partner relationships, and abuse. The authors argue that IPV victims in rural areas experience more complex individual and structural barriers to accessing affordable service and living conditions than victims in urban areas. The second objective is to understand the challenges and obstacles that cause victims to refrain from leaving abusive relationships and the tactics abusers use to produce and maintain IPV in rural areas. The third objective is to examine the importance of rural-focused programs that address poverty, sociocultural inequality, and IPV and to provide rural-focused policy suggestions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Trauma-Informed Practices: A philosophical and practical framework that recognizes trauma’s impact on each individual’s path to recovery.

Gender-Specific Programs: Programs and treatments that address the gendered experiences, pathways, and strengths when offering services and solutions for IPV.

Hegemonic masculinity: A socially constructed ideology that legitimizes male power and dominance and female subordination and marginalization in accessing resources and opportunities.

Rural Masculinity Crisis: Any social, economic, and cultural changes that challenge and disrupt the ideals, norms, and social behaviors of male dominance and power in rural areas.

Male Peer Support: A social norm and support system that confirms and encourages patriarchal values, beliefs, acts and legitimizes violence and abuse against women and non-binary people.

Economic Advocacy: Policy, practices, and services that prioritize individuals’ needs and strengths with the purpose of achieving financial independence and self-efficacy for IPV victims.

Intimate Partner Violence: Patterns of abusive behavior, such as physical, psychological, emotional, and financial abuse, are perpetrated by current or former partners that violate an individual’s human rights or cause harm to victims’ pets, family members, property, or other personal belongings.

Collective Efficacy: Shared beliefs and social norms encourage collective actions at the neighborhood and community level to achieve the shared desired goals, such as crime prevention.

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