The impact of rurality on women's 'space for action' in domestic violence: Findings from a meta-synthesis

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Men's violence against women is a global human rights issue, with domestic violence one of the most common forms (World Health Organization, 2017). The consequences of domestic violence include detrimental effects on victim-survivors' health, well-being, and sense of safety. To understand these impacts, the concept of 'space for action' seeks to evaluate how perpetrators of domestic violence narrow women's life choices, constraining their freedom (Kelly, 2003). In this article, we build upon the concept of 'space for action' by examining if, and how, rural geographical space and place can be used by perpetrators to constrict women's options for escape, or even shape the violence itself. In conducting a meta-synthesis of 32 global studies, we found similarities in rural women's experiences of violence. Perpetrators used both geographical space and rural social norms to constrain women's space for action. In particular, geographical and social isolation were used to hold women in literal captivity. Rural communities were often experienced as shaming and ostracizing. This provided women with few opportunities to help-seek and aided perpetrators in reducing women's spaces for safety. Women's space for action was also curtailed in the realms of finance, employment, and their ability to care for their children. These findings demonstrate that geographical place and space can be used by perpetrators to narrow and limit women's space for action. As such, rurality should be included in understanding how men's violence limits women's freedoms.



domestic violence, rural, meta-synthesis, space for action, isolation, geography


International Journal of Rural Criminology, v5, n2 (September, 2020), p. 181-203