Study: Rural women lack access to help with domestic abuse


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Domestic violence in rural areas are harder to control because of the distance from local help centers, experts say.

And Johnson County officials aim to improve outreach to better help these victims.

"I think there is always more that the government can do," said Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig. "It's a federal decision to help fund programs."


Each year, there are 1.3 million victims of physical assault by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

University of Iowa researchers and officials said they are collaborating to improve outreach at a domestic-violence panel discussion Tuesday night.

From June 2010 to June 2011, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program served 1,773 men, women, and children from four counties — Washington, Iowa, Johnson, and Cedar — down from 1,793, previously. Roughly 1,023 of those people were from Johnson County.

"Numbers have gone down slightly because of the number of women we can shelter," said Kristie Fortmann-Doser, the executive director of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, and victims are staying longer because of hardships, thus meaning there is less room in the shelters.

According to a study by UI Professor Corinne Peek-Asa, 61.5 percent of isolated rural women were victims of four or more domestic-violence incidents in the past year, compared with 39.3 percent of urban women.

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said the county is working against domestic violence through social service funding, proper law-enforcement training, and judicial justice.

"Unfortunately, it's not an issue that is going away as the population increases," Neuzil said.

Fortmann-Doser said raising awareness is means dispelling the myths.

"It's talking about what happens," she said, noting that people make a lot of incorrect assumptions about domestic-abuse issues. "It's a myth that battered women don't leave."

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Johnson County receives an annual $63,500 block grant from county officials out of a total social-services block grant of $1.1million.

Even so, Rettig said, social service needs rise during bad economic times.

"And when people don't have a lot of resources and a lot of stress the situation kind of cascades," she said, citing the growing need for services.

And risks are higher for women ages 20 to 24. Last year, the program serviced 617 people between the ages of 18 and 24.

Linda Kroon, the director of the Women's Resource and Action Center, said she works in conjunction with other UI officials with a recent grant to prevent violent acts on campus.

"We are hoping to educate the campus as a whole, to provide info on how to proactively keep people safe," she said. "In the event that something happens, we want to provide assistance, support, and law enforcement."

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