Rural Resources

Recent years have witnessed growing attention to the needs of rural victims and survivors of sexual violence. Rural providers of intervention and prevention services, researchers and policymakers increasingly see the sociocultural, economic and service structure characteristics of rural areas as unique. These characteristics have significant impact on service development and delivery related to sexual violence.


The following collection of resources provides a grounding for the most relevant information available online about and for rural communities as they build more effective responses to sexual violence.

Defining ‘Rural’

Sexual violence in rural communities


Outreach and Education

Advocacy and Intervention

Specific Populations



Defining ‘Rural’

One aspect of the challenges faced by rural communities in responding to sexual violence is the issue of what ‘rural’ means. There are pragmatic issues at stake, including that many Federal and state agencies require a rural community to prove that it is rural in order to receive certain kinds of support. These definitions vary from agency to agency.


The Rural Assistance Center is a site funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services to serve as an information gateway to health and human services in rural areas. Two topic links of special interest found on the main page are: “What is Rural?” and “Grantwriting”.


The “What is Rural?” page includes an excellent discussion of ‘rural’ definitions and provides links to sites that assist with determining whether or not a community meets the definition of ‘rural’ for a variety of Federal agencies. The “Grantwriting” page contains links to Federal and other sources of funding as well as to technical assistance articles on how to write grants. 


Rural America at a Glance – 2012  by the USDA Economic Research Service (2012).

This summary report highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas for use in developing policies and programs to assist rural communities. The report provides information on key rural conditions and trends for use by public and private decision makers and others involved in efforts to enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for rural people and their communities.


Sexual Violence in Rural Communities    

The resources listed in this section address sexual violence in rural communities generally and include a variety of rural sexual violence topics.


Responding to Sexual Assault in Rural Communities by Alexandra Neame and Melanie Heenan (2004). 

This briefing paper from Australia reviews some of the existing literature that deals with sexual assault and service provision outside metropolitan areas and takes into account some of the issues that women and workers often need to negotiate when living in rural areas. The briefing also includes a survey that explores some of the factors that impact sexual violence response services in rural areas. Many of the characteristics and qualities observed and applicable and useful in the United States.


Rural Womyn Zone
This grassroots website for rural women addresses many issues, including sexual violence. The site includes blogs, articles and studies.


Sexual Assault in Rural Communities by Susan Lewis with contributions from Ellen Reed (2003).

This overview article addresses many aspects of sexual violence in rural communities: defining ‘rural,’ reporting, service provision, victim-offender relationships, prevalence, rural service delivery research and resources. Of special interest is the section on the implications of rural characteristics for service providers and investigators.


Unspoken Crimes: Sexual Assault in Rural America by Susan H. Lewis (2003) for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

This report addresses the definition of ‘rural,’ the qualities of sexual assault in rural areas, barriers to reporting, prevalence, challenges for rural advocates and a bibliography. It also includes detailed information on sexual assault in several states as well as the nation, and a section of reports from individuals working in rural communities to address sexual violence.



This section includes key resources for understanding the nature of research on sexual violence in rural areas as well as findings of research.


Rural Sexual Violence Select Resources by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (2010). 

This is a Special Titles list available through the NSVRC Library that focuses on rural sexual violence. The list includes key research, summary articles and tools for service providers. Except for books, the items listed may be requested from the NSVRC Library. 


Separation/Divorce Sexual Assault in Ohio: Survivors’ Perceptions of Collective Efficacy by Walter DeKeseredy (2005).

This research by Walter DeKeseredy and his colleagues in Ohio examines the incidents of and issues surrounding the sexual assault of women in rural areas during separation and/or divorce . The paper concludes by finding that many women were sexually assaulted at various points in the separation process: 53% being sexually assaulted when they wanted to leave, 32% while they were leaving, and 37% after they had left. A strength of this paper is that the women’s voices are included in extended quotes.


Outreach and Education

This section provides tools to assist with education and outreach about sexual violence in rural communities.


Building Bridges, Creating Partnerships: Sexual Violence Prevention in Rural Communities by Gayle M Stringer, Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (2003). 

 This annotated PowerPoint presentation is designed to help rural communities use community development strategies to address issues of sexual violence. Though its title suggests that it focused on prevention, many of the community development strategies discussed could be helpful in the improvement of intervention and response services.


Preventing Child and Youth Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Assault: A Resource for Iowa Families by the Iowa Department of Education (2006). 

 This resource manual provides basic information and resources for preventing sexual violence among children and youth. The materials were developed with a rural framework in mind.


ReShape: The Newsletter of the Resource Sharing Project, Issue #21, (2007).

 This issue of the ReShape newsletter focuses on rural advocacy for victims/survivors of sexual violence. It addresses issues for rural advocacy, outreach strategies and rural program sustainability.



Advocacy and Intervention


ReShape: The Newsletter of the Resource Sharing Project, Issue #21, (2007).

 This issue of the ReShape newsletter focuses on rural advocacy for victims/survivors of sexual violence. It addresses issues for rural advocacy, outreach strategies and rural program sustainability.


Rural Victim Assistance: A Victim/Witness Guide for Rural Prosecutors by the U.S. Office for Victims of Crime (2002).

The guide is designed to help prosecutors, victim advocates, and policymakers understand victim/witness assistance in rural communities, including staffing limitations, the roles and responsibilities of advocates, and the challenges that rural prosecutors' offices face in providing assistance to crime victims and effectively prosecuting the perpetrators of crime. It provides an overview of these challenges along with tips and strategies for overcoming them. Likewise, the guide includes promising practices with an extensive list of resources.



Specific Populations


Fields of Peril by Human Rights Watch (2010).

In this report, Human Rights Watch found that child farmworkers risked their safety, health, and education on commercial farms across the United States. For the report, 59 children were interviewed under age 18 who had worked as farmworkers in 14 states in various regions of the United States. The report includes a section on sexual harassment and violence.


¿Habla Español?: Working with Spanish-speaking Victims/Survivors in a Rural Setting. by Kimber Nicoletti (2010). 

This presentation, from the NSVRC 2010 Just Rural! Conference for OVW Rural Grantees, addresses a variety of topics, including Latin@ culture, family roles and structure, community characteristics and a glossary.



The Principles of Advocacy: A Guide for Sexual Assault Advocates by Mending the Sacred Hoop (2004).

This manual provides guidelines and strategies for serving American Indian victims/survivors of sexual violence. These strategies are set forth within 13 cultural principles for working with American Indian people. Resources and an advocacy checklist are included.


Reaching Migrant Farm Workers: A Technical Assistance Bulletin for Sexual Violence Advocates and Counselors by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (2007). 

This technical assistance bulletin summarizes risk factors for sexual violence among migrant farmworkers, as well as barriers to service access, legal rights and advocacy strategies.


Sexual Victimization in Indian Country: Barriers and Resources for Native Women Seeking Help by Sherry Hamby (2004).

This VAWnet applied research paper discusses sexual victimization among American Indians. Sexual victimization is part of the terrible history of oppression, violence, and maltreatment that American Indians have experienced at the hands of the United States government and its citizens. This paper addresses the prevalence of sexual victimization, barriers to seeking help, resources for victims/survivors and implications for prevention and intervention.


Sexual Assault in Indian Country by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (2000) 

This booklet addresses sexual assault in Indian Country by highlighting certain types of sexual assault evidence and presenting it within the historical treatment of native populations, jurisdictional problems and prevalence of violence overall.


This project was supported by Grant No. 2009-TA-AX-K042 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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