Updated September 12, 2022

Separation and Divorce Sexual Assault Occurring in Rural Areas

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Separation and Divorce Sexual Assault Occurring in Rural Areas essay
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“Women are commonly warned about the dangers of living and traveling alone and the need to avoid unlit areas, but they are rarely told that the place they are most likely to be victimized is at home by their intimate partners.” (PAGE 3). Some women become victims in their own homes by their partners. Some partners go to extreme measures to prevent these women from leaving, such as using separation assault and various forms of other violence towards them. Most research on violence towards women are based on urban environments and overlook the silent violence that occurs in rural areas.

Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America by DeKeseredy and Schwartz is that in rural areas, separation and divorce sexual assault does occur with women who try to leave their spouse or cohabitor. The literature informs us, based on the Chicago Women’s Health Risk Study, that twenty-three percent of women in that study have been killed as a result of attempting to exit an abusive relationship. (pages 15-16) This is a disheartening phenomena that needs to be researched further in order to reduce these occurrences. The study conducted in the literature by DeKeseredy and Schwartz focused on “women’s unwanted sexual experiences when they wanted to end or have ended relationships with their husbands or live-in male partners.” (page 58). The following review will be separated into the next four sections. The first section highlights the major points which I will describe the gap in literature that this book covers, as well as the research question it addresses and I, will also give an overview of the methodology and findings of the study. The following section will focus on the strengths and weaknesses that stand out the most for me.

Following the strengths and weaknesses, I will give a critical assessment where I will share what I have learned from the book and how I find this literature relevant to victimology. Finally, I will conclude with a discussion and conclusion section where I will summarize my findings and identify where this book could be used. I will begin in the next paragraph, the major points in which I will explain the gap in literature that this book addresses and also describe the methodology and findings of the study. Major Points In most North American studies, sexual assault towards women who are attempting to end and leave a relationship has not been the focus. Also, these studies have been based on more urban settings, neglecting to take into account women living in rural areas.

Helping to fill the gap in this literature, DeKeseredy and Schwartz write the book Dangerous Exits based on separation and divorce sexual assault that they have studied by interviewing women in rural areas (page 28). Many studies were based on research of marital rape, and so this study focuses on those women who are attempting to have left an abusive relationship. DeKeseredy and Scwhartz ask the question that when women want to leave their partner, why does sexual assault happen to them (page 30). Presently, there have not been any theories which can specifically address this question. This qualitative study of separation and divorce sexual assault focused on women who had initiated the separations and divorces from their relationships. During the developmental stage of the study, feminist studies, other literature, and surveys were accessed to find out statistics and to research data specific to separation and divorce sexual assault.

However, the data was limited and were found to be mostly based in urban areas. The research team strived to approach this research through a feminist perspective. In preparation for the qualitative study that this book covers, DeKeseredy and Schwartz, along with the rest of the research team, sought the guidance and advice of various activists and service providers to help sensitize them to this complex issue in the rural communities of Ohio communities (page54). This preparation included briefings, mock interviews, meetings, and various correspondence. The preparation also included how to incorporate trust from the interviewees and were trained on appropriate unprejudiced body language. In order to conduct the study of rural women, part of the selection technique was to choose a location in which to recruit potential interviewees from.

The research team chose the geographic area of Appalachia Ohio which consisted of 29 economically declining counties. Here, there are smaller communities that have more traditional cultural norms which may make it more challenging for women to seek help in their communities. Most of the interviewees were living in three counties in Appalachia while the remaining interviewees were living in other rural areas. The study was advertised in various locations including courthouses and inside stores, while index cards were left on sidewalks. In addition to this, various means of media included an advertisement in a free newspaper, a press release by Ohio University, public service announcements through local radio stations, and a local television news show appearance. During the advertising phase, research assistants were available to answer calls of interested interviewees. The callers were briefed on the purpose of the study and a short nine-question screening was conducted to confirm eligibility for interviewing. DeKeseredy and Schwartz point out that qualification was based on an interviewees age to be a minimum of eighteen and whether they had experienced any unwanted sexual experience and whether the interviewees had wanted to exit the relationship with their partner (page 58). After the screening stage, forty-three women participated in the study with 62.8% responding to posters, 18.6% to media and ads, and 18.6% were referred by organizations or other individuals.

The study consisted of an average of ninety-minute, face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. In total, six telephone interviews, thirty-two on campus interviews, and five off campus interviews were conducted and research assistants recorded and transcribed the interviews. Questions asked during the interview focused on various factors, including how safe they felt at home and in their community, questions regarding their social network, what their unwanted separation/divorce sexual experiences were and consequences of them. In addition to these, the interviewees were also asked questions on their experiences with social support providers and what they (the interviewees) believed would be good policy recommendations to prevent these traumatic experiences in other women. The research also included questions that could help measure social control and trust. After the interviews, the interviewees were paid for their participation. Data results in this literature confirmed that separation and divorce sexual assault does occur in rural areas.

The study also revealed data results in table format indicating that most interviewees (80%) experienced multidimensional abuse, including physical, psychological, and economic abuse. Seventy-four percent of the interviewees were sexually assaulted when they expressed wanting to leave the relationship and many of the interviewees had been assaulted multiple times. An increased rate of sexual assault is noted when 47% of married women were abused but increases to 80% when they express wanting to leave the relationship. Also, many interviewees had experienced other forms of abuse, indicating that abuse was multidimensional. This study supports that the most likely time for sexual assault to occur is when women expresses a desire to exit their relationship with their partner. The findings in this book included key risk factors that may contribute to victimization including male peer support, patriarchal support, pornography use, and other risk factors. Sixty-seven percent of interviewees reported observing male peer support and legitimatizing pro-abuse.

Almost half of interviewees knew of their partners’ friends carrying out similar abuse. This data was evidence to the researchers that male peer support further encouraged the separation and divorce sexual assault. A major determinant was patriarchal control in the offending partners’ perception with 79% of the interviewees saying that their partners believed in patriarchal ideologies. Many of these interviewees had experienced sexual abuse either during the separation or after the divorce due to their partner presenting patriarchal authority. This study revealed that male consumption of pornography can also be a factor of violence towards women and the data revealed that 65% of interviewees had ex-partners who viewed pornography. Thirty percent of the interviewees stated that pornography was involved in some of their sexually abusive experiences. Other key factors mentioned in the findings and are associated with separation and divorce sexual assault, include the use of illegal drugs (65% of the interviewees had partners who used), and partners who possessed firearms (58% of women).

The combination of these two factors, along with alcohol abuse (77% of interviewees’ partners) create a big risk. In the next section, I will review the strengths and weaknesses that I feel are significant. Strengths and Weaknesses In this section, I will cover some strengths and weakness I found in the book by DeKeseredy and Schwartz. One strength that I find in this book is that the authors defined various concepts. A limitation to previous literature is that terms were often times defined in a too narrow definition which exclude a broader range of situations, as has been the case with sexual assault. Some of the terms that were defined included the term rural, and a definition of sexual assault. Sexual assault was further divided into four classifications. Another strength that I see is that this research team sought the expertise and guidance of other individuals and organizations in order to become sensitized to the interviewees. I see this especially helpful during the face-to-face interviewing. I feel that this strengthened the methodology by aiding to prevent revictimization of the interviewees. A couple of ways that the research team prepared for the interviews included how to gain the trust from the interviewees and also had trained on unprejudiced body language. A third strength I see is that the research team has proposed a couple of different male peer support models of separation and divorce sexual assault. First, DeKeseredy and Schwartz proposed a feminist perspective found in chapter two and also a rural perspective found in chapter six.

The feminist model moves away from psychological motivations and addresses motivation due to the ideology of patriarchy. The rural model fills the gap in rural research which has been lacking. The authors hope that future research will use these models as building blocks. Differing from the strengths I found in the book, I did also see some weaknesses. One of the weaknesses of this literature is that it does not have any direct research on the men who are offenders, but rather has referenced other studies that have. Incorporating a male perspective would be helpful to further explain why men participate in this behavior or why they adhere so strongly to patriarchal authority and control.

This literature focuses on women’s perception of why men assault women who try to leave. I feel it would make a larger impact if the literature would include the male perspective and then there could have been the male point of views and stories incorporated. Another disadvantage that I see, is that the face-to-face interviews may seem very intimidating to some women. This could be partly due to fear that they will be found participating and suffer consequences from their male partners and face-to-face interviews may be more prone to re-victimize the women as they talk of their experiences, exposing unwanted negative feelings. Although confidentiality can be guaranteed with the face-to-face interviews, I think offering the option of a written questionnaire may help attract more survivors of this abuse. Lastly, a third potential issue that I see is that the women had been asked for their policy recommendations.

Many great ideas have been shared, however, the one thing I see that is the potential problem is that these women may then have a higher hope of resolving some of these issues without taking into account that it could take years to implement a better support system. Women in rural areas already may lack confidence in support systems and if they do not see more immediate action and policy changes then they may become more distrustful or even feel used. I would have liked to have read that a team was readily available to implement some of their suggestions immediately. Moving on to the following section, I will share a critical assessment of what I have learned from the book and how I find this literature relevant to victimology. Critical Assessment In this section, I will share what I have learned from this book, along with two theories and a concept that I have learned from the textbook.

Something that I take from this book is that there has been so limited research on rural areas. I had been under the belief that studies incorporated both urban and rural women in similar studies. This is definitely an area that needs further exposure. What I also found interesting is the lack of studies on male peer support and patriarchal ideology. This book opens the gate for others to begin to step into these areas with deeper theoretical research. The theories and concept that I find relevant include feminist theory, ecological theory and the concept of why battered women stay. Societal-based theories of victimology include critical criminology and feminist criminology. If we look at feminist criminology, this is relevant to the literature. According to Burgress, Regehr, and Roberts, “feminist researchers consistently pointed to the lack of attention to issues such as rape and sexual assault in academic, legal, and legislative forums” (page 88).

Since most research has not focused on the victims’ perceptions, the book uses a feminist perspective to convey the issue of separation and divorce sexual assault to fill this gap. Another theory that fits well within this literature is the ecological theory which gives a more comprehensive understanding of how an individual is influenced by the ecological systems (the ontogenic, micro, exo, and macro-system). Burgress, Regehr, and Roberts tells us that these systems are “viewed to influence the range of choices and options available to victims and ultimately their decisions” (page 89). This theory also may help explain the influences that the collective efficacy of rural communities has on the separation and divorce sexual assault, along with the male patriarchy that can be found. Based on the ecological theory, Table 9-3 summarizes why battered women do stay in the relationships (page 301). This theoretical framework is about the factors that determine the choices that abused women make in seeking or not seeking help. Burgress, Regehr, and Roberts also tell us that “these structural responses can cause women to retreat within themselves and internalize blame, leading them to stay with their abusive partners. (page 301).

I found this book to be sociologically grounded. The book begins with defining some concepts that have been too narrow to reach outlying situations. The authors lay a foundation of more broad concepts to better understand the problem that is plaguing women who attempt to exit a relationship, specifically in rural areas. I think this is great strategy to include the misconceptions of rural life and how the authors have defined what rural is. Also, the definitions the authors have introduced for separation and divorce and of sexual assault help readers to really understand the broader picture and see the sheer size of the issue of separation and divorce sexual assault. In my final section, I will summarize my findings through the discussion and conclusion section.

The book by DeKeseredy and Schwartz focused on the rural areas where separation and divorce sexual assault has been occurring to women who try to leave their spouse or cohabitor. The previous sections of my review discussed the major points, strengths and weakness, along with a critical assessment of the book. This literature will be a great read for anyone interested in furthering their understanding in abuse of women. The book emphasized male peer support and patriarchal ideology as key factors in why males abuse women. It is important to continue to research these factors in order to address the root problems. Patriarchal ideology has long been in our society and addressing this as a means to change this belief in rural societies is key to begin to minimize the separation and divorce sexual assault in rural regions. This book would be an appropriate fit in institutional studies, as well as within criminal justice systems.

One of the outcomes for this literature is hoping that the data found in this literature leads to making lives safer for women. Any activist in support of this would benefit with this insight. Aiding to learning more about victimology, this book is great resource to use for class because it has exposed us to survivors’ perceptions of being victimized. DeKeseredy and Schwartz write that “[m]any young Americans stationed overseas are trying to outmaneuver enemy forces, stay one step ahead of them, protect innocent people, and stay alive for another day. They are heroes and warrant much respect for being in harm’s way” (page 1). I agree that the media has frequently covered these such stories, but what about the stories of abused women for they also must try to “stay one step ahead” against their terrorists who are not strangers. Women who experience separation and divorce sexual assault also must try to outmaneuver their enemy, but one who resides with them. This type of violence is global and can even be occurring in your neighborhood. These women suffer a great deal of negative outcomes, including physical, psychological, and social hardships due violence against them. The women we read about in this book are also heroes for surviving their battle and being brave to share their stories.

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