Seeking help for domestic and family violence: exploring regional, rural, and remote women’s coping experiences presents the results of a qualitative study examining the experiences of women seeking help for domestic and family violence who live in regional, rural, and remote areas in Australia. The study contributes to the limited evidence on how geographical and social isolation shapes women’s coping with, and decisions to seek assistance for, domestic and family violence, and their efforts to live safely.
Little is known about how social and geographical isolation shape women’s coping abilities and domestic violence service provision. This study engaged with five different types of social and geographical locations at sites in South Australia and Western Australia to explore how isolation affects different women’s abilities to seek assistance and cope with experiences of domestic violence.
The project used a qualitative research design to gain insights into women’s help-seeking behaviour and coping mechanisms. It also examined how workforce, resources, and contextual factors affect service provision in rural and remote regions.
- Most women explained they were not negatively affected by geographical isolation; that is, they did not see physical distance as a barrier to accessing services.
- Geographical isolation was only a factor for women who lived on isolated properties outside the regional centre.
- Geographical isolation was a key issue for managers and practitioners, as it significantly shaped specialist domestic and family violence agency responses and work contexts.
- There is little or no help for men who use violence in regional, rural, and remote places outside a police or court response.
- All sites reported that, because crisis response and risk management dominated the work, “the hub” often lacked the staff, time, and resources to do outreach work, making it much harder to provide services and support to smaller townships and properties across large geographical distances.
Implications for policy and practice: Services embedded in their local community contexts are more likely to be successful, with services operating with the hub-and-spoke model being effective in assisting women living in isolated places. Specialist domestic and family violence agencies based on this model require the following to increase their success:
- adequate levels of staffing and funding to enable the hub to reach across large distances and into local communities, and to invest in a range of responses to domestic and family violence that move beyond crisis response and accommodation; and
- time and opportunity to reach beyond the hub to engage with regional, rural, and remote women’s individual and diverse needs, and to lead local initiatives, coordination, and community development.
A number of findings from this project are relevant to clinical practice. These include women’s common experiences of:
- extended periods of coping with violence through various active strategies such as placating and trying to help their partner prior to their own help-seeking;
- shame and embarrassment over being a victim of abuse or a partner of someone engaging in illegal activities, delaying help-seeking;
- Aboriginal women’s dignity and pride being associated with being able to keep their children safe and rely on families;
- Aboriginal women using temporary stays at refuges as a way of staying safe; and
- significant social isolation, which affected help-seeking more than physical distance from local communities.