Chapter 12- Rural Victims

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Chapter 12- Rural Victims ...

    Tennessee Victim Assistance Academy

    Participant Manual

Chapter 13- Rural Victims

    Learning Objectives

    Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following concepts:

    ; The problems and issues relevant to providing basic services to victims in

    rural-remote regions.

    ; Collaborate with other victim services to find ways to fill gaps in victim

    services in rural areas.

    ; Promising practices developed to meet the needs of victims in rural-remote



    Nearly one-quarter of Americans live in rural communities or small towns. Once stereotyped as enjoying a quiet life in the country, rural residents now witness crime at an all-time high. Their communities are facing rising crime, particularly juvenile, violent and property crimes. School dropout rates have increased, the proportion of children living in poverty has grown, gang activity and violent crime have migrated from urban areas, and substance abuse has become a dominant factor in domestic abuse cases. These signs make clear that the need for rural communities and small towns to develop and implement aggressive crime prevention strategies has never been more urgent. CHALLENGES FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES

    The influx of crimes never experienced before presents rural communities with distinct challenges. Small towns must develop a wide-scale, tailored crime prevention response for the first time. Crafting this response can be difficult because these communities often have fewer financial resources available for additional prevention and enforcement activities and may not have a well-established infrastructure to support the wide range of activities that would comprise a comprehensive, reinforcing prevention strategy (e.g. domestic violence counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, tutoring and supervised after-school activities). Small towns also may lack the financial, human and institutional resources to obtain the training required to implement an effective crime prevention strategy.

    In addition, rural communities may be disadvantaged at times when competing with urban areas for federal support. For example, rural communities sometimes find that federal grant applications may not be tailored to meet their particular crime reduction needs. Rural applicants with fewer resources are often competing with urban applicants with more resources, including specialists who prepare their grant applications. As a result, and because crime has been traditionally viewed as an urban problem, Chapter 13- Rural Victims


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    significantly larger proportions of federal and state grant funds have been dedicated to metropolitan areas.

    Sometimes distinctive characteristics of rural communities increase their vulnerability to crime. For example, rural law enforcement agencies are responsible for and must respond to large rural jurisdictions. Residents living in areas of lower population density and larger distances between homes are more isolated. Longer commutes to urban areas for employment leave homes vacated for long periods of time. These are the types of characteristics of rural living that can make prevention and protection more difficult. Any community's organized and coordinated prevention and enforcement strategy must take such factors into account to be effective.

    The evidence shows--and law enforcement officials across the country agree--that aggressive crime prevention, in combination with law enforcement, strengthens a community's ability to confront crime problems. It is imperative that comprehensive strategies and approaches be tailored to address the particular challenges facing rural communities in their efforts to reduce crime (Office of Justice Programs, Focus on

    Prevention, 2005).

    The following is taken from a research article on Crime and Violence in Rural Communities by: Joseph F. Donnermeyer, Director of the National Rural Crime Prevention Center.

    "One Society, Many Faces"

    The first book to focus exclusively on rural crime in nearly 50 years, Rural Crime:

    Integrating Research and Prevention, was published in 1982 (Carter et al., 1982). The

    opening chapter to this book contains a section called "One Society: Many Faces" (Sagarin et al., 1982). This phrase calls attention not only to the great diversity of rural communities, but also to the social and economic dynamics that continually change the character of rural American society.

    With this phrase in mind, the first step in exploring rural crime is to recognize that one standard definition of rural will not suffice. Therefore, this paper will review information from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the National Crime Survey (NCS), and a variety of more localized studies of rural crime. In each of these sources, what is meant by the term rural will vary? When this paper cites a study, it will describe the author or authors' definition of rural or the place where the research was conducted. The second step is to remember that rural areas are incredibly diverse - from the coalfields of Appalachia, to the farmland of Iowa, to the fishing villages of Louisiana, to the cattle ranches of Colorado, to the small towns of Illinois and Ohio. Just as most law enforcement agencies are small (as measured by number of personnel), so too are most communities and most prevention and treatment programs. Each community can exhibit a unique crime profile that is difficult to describe with national-level statistics and information.

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    Not only is the nature of crime in American society changing, but the ways in which crime problems are addressed also are changing. The 1960s, a time when crime rates were increasing rapidly, was marked by an increasing estrangement between the police and citizens. In response, the early 1970s saw an increase in the development of a large variety of crime prevention programs, such as maintaining neighborhood (i.e., block or community) watch programs, providing victim assistance, and placing a renewed value on foot patrols. By the early 1980s, the concept of community-based policing had emerged, and it continues to provide the philosophical underpinning for basic functional changes in the way police agencies operate (Moore & Trojanowicz, 1988; Kelling & Bratton, 1993).

    Community-based policing emphasizes that the operating philosophy of law enforcement is to work cooperatively with a wide range of community groups and institutions to prevent crime and reduce citizens' fear of crime. Community-based policing emphasizes that the traditional police functions of enforcement and apprehension actually can improve as citizens learn once again to trust and cooperate with the police. The police learn to be more responsive to the demands of citizens and to follow a service-based philosophy of keeping the customer happy. Slowly, but inexorably, this philosophy is transforming police agencies across the country (Donnermeyer, 1994).

    Unique Problems Faced by Rural-Remote Victims


    Virtually no information is available on levels of spouse, child, and elder abuse in rural areas. The nature of abuse, which involves sexual, physical, and psychological abuse often between family members or in relationships of trust between the victim and the offender, makes abuse impossible to measure in victimization surveys. Furthermore, victims often are reluctant to report cases of abuse. Nationally, child abuse cases are estimated at about 2.4 million annually. There are no rural-urban differences in physical forms of child abuse, but urban areas display more reported cases of nonphysical abuse, according to the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (1988). Miller and Veltkamp (1989) studied a small rural county in Kentucky with nearly 300 reported cases of child abuse (many times greater than any type of national average). The vast majority (85%) of spouse abuse victims are female. Estimates indicate that the number of wives and girlfriends who are beaten or in other ways injured by their spouses, partners, and ex-spouses number close to two million each year. Once again, the prevalence of domestic abuse may be many times larger than the reported number of incidents. One study by Gagne (1992) of rural Appalachia suggests that rates of domestic violence in some rural areas may be higher than city rates. To the knowledge of this author and others familiar with the literature on rural crime, there is no systematic research on abuse of the rural elderly. However, it is safe to say that such abuse does exist. The author, while working as a crime prevention specialist Chapter 13- Rural Victims


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    for the Indiana Cooperative Extension Service during the late 1970s, heard several accounts of "granny bashing" in the southwestern area of the state. Most often, these anecdotes related stories of children and grandchildren who used physical force against older women living in isolated rural areas in order to steal their social security checks (Donnermeyer, 1994).

    Crime in Rural Schools

    In 1989, a special supplement to the NCS measurement instruments contained questions on the victimization experiences of persons 12 to 19 years of age at the school they attend. They also were asked their opinions about crime, the availability of drugs, and awareness of gangs (Bastian & Taylor, 1991).

    Among the students living in rural areas, 7 percent indicated that they had been the victim of a property crime and 1 percent indicated that they had been the victim of a violent crime. In comparison, 8 percent of central city students had experienced a property crime and 2 percent had experienced a violent crime. The property and violent crime experiences for suburban students was 7 percent and 2 percent, respectively. As these results indicate, there was only a narrow difference in crime experiences among students by rural and urban location. This finding contrasts starkly to the more dramatic rural-urban differences found in both the UCR and regular NCS data.

    Seventy-one percent of the rural students indicated that drugs were available at their school, compared to 66 percent of students from the city and 67 percent from suburban locations. Rural students were more likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to have attended drug education classes (44 percent versus 40 percent and 35 percent, respectively).

    One large rural-urban difference is the reported presence of gangs. Only 8 percent of the students living in rural areas indicated that gangs were active in their school, compared to 14 percent of suburban students and 25 percent of city students. Despite this difference, 6 percent of the rural students reported avoiding places at school out of fear of being attacked. This figure was slightly higher than the 5 percent figure for suburban students, but lower than the 8 percent of city students who avoided places at school. In addition, 20 percent of the rural students indicated that they were fearful of being attacked at school (versus 20 percent of suburban students and 24 percent of students from cities). Thirteen percent of rural students feared being attacked while going to and from school - slightly higher than the rate for suburban youth (12%), but lower than that of their city counterparts (19%).

    These results indicate that rural youth are experiencing crime at a level and in ways similar to youth from the cities and suburbs. If these findings are accurate, rural crime takes on another new face: crime experiences and feelings of vulnerability and risk exhibit considerable differences by age. Simply put, rural youth have different experiences with crime than their parents (Donnermeyer, 1994).

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Drug Use

    It would be impossible to summarize fully the problems and risk behaviors associated with alcohol and drug use among rural adolescents and adults. Suffice it to say that rural-urban differences in usage rates have declined, and for some substances the rural population is ahead. This conclusion is drawn from a review of four national studies: the American Drug and Alcohol Survey, the High School Senior Survey, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, and the National High School and Beyond (NORC) Survey. A more detailed summary of patterns of rural alcohol and other drug use can be found in a special issue of the journal Drugs and Society, edited by Ruth W. Edwards,

    entitled "Drug Use in Rural American Communities."

    There is little rural-urban difference in the use and abuse of alcohol, and the rural population may be more at risk because rural residents are more likely to drink in a motor vehicle. Methamphetamine has become a problem in rural areas, as it is easier to create methamphetamine labs without being undetected. The rate of marijuana use, especially among rural adolescents, is only slightly lower than rates of use among urban youth. Finally, usage rates for certain hard drugs, including inhalants and stimulants, are higher for rural youth. Tranquilizer use shows no rural-urban differences. However, urban youth still exhibit higher usage rates for cocaine and cocaine derivatives - heroin and LSD (Donnermeyer, 1994).

    Farm and Ranch Crime

    Several specialized victimization surveys of farms and ranches have been conducted in Arkansas (Voth & Farmer, 1988), Montana (Saltiel et al., 1992), Ohio (Donnermeyer, 1987) and Tennessee (Cleland, 1990). None of these studies calculated victimization rates in the same fashion as the NCS. Instead, they examined the percentage of operations that experienced various types of crime within a one-year time period. The results indicate that vandalism, household-level larceny (mostly in the form of stolen farm supplies and tools and, on occasion, farm machinery and livestock), and burglary are the most frequently occurring agricultural crimes. Each year, between one-third and one-half of agricultural operations experience a crime.

    It is rare to find incidents of violent crime occurring among the farm population, and most of these incidents take place at off-farm/ranch sites. In addition, personal crimes of theft are relatively rare on agricultural operations, but can occur to the farm and ranch population at other locations. The surprising statistic from the farm/ranch victimization studies is that the percentage of agricultural operations that annually experience one or more burglaries appears to be higher than the percentage for central city households. In particular, the number of break-ins and illegal entry into barns and other buildings is high; however, farm/ranch homes are burglarized infrequently. The difference in the vulnerability of farm/ranch buildings versus the homestead is due to the two simple facts that the home is the base of operations (someone is normally there) and that many farm/ranch buildings are in remote locations and cannot easily be kept under Chapter 13- Rural Victims


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    surveillance during the normal routine of chores (especially during the busy times of planting, harvesting, and herding) (Donnermeyer, 1994).

    Gangs: Some Preliminary Evidence From Rural Communities

    Despite the focus of media and researchers alike on urban gangs, some gangs already are operating in rural areas. For example, Abadinsky (1986) documents the drug-dealing and other criminal activities of motorcycle gangs in many rural areas. More recently, young white supremacists and skinhead groups have been active in a number of rural communities. Despite this evidence, research on rural-based gangs, on how they emerge, and on their connection to urban gangs simply has not been conducted. The problem of gangs in rural communities is emerging rapidly. This author has interviewed nearly 30 law enforcement officers from a variety of rural locations throughout the United States. Without exception, these officers now see evidence of gang activity where as recently as five years ago they saw none.

    How gangs emerged in rural areas illustrates the way rural and urban areas have become more closely linked and interdependent, as well as how the social forces that explain urban crime can be applied to rural areas. Based on such interviews, four models of urban-to-rural gang migration and one model of rural-to-urban gang migration are described below:

    1. Displacement. Rural communities near metropolitan areas (often referred to as

    "rurban" areas) may experience an increase in gang activities due to the

    displacement effect. Urban police, through various strategies such as saturation

    patrol and undercover work, make it "too hot" for a gang to continue all or part of

    its operation in the city. The gang moves out to the edge of the metropolitan area

    and sets up its operations there.

    2. Branch office. A gang from the city targets a small town and the surrounding

    area for two possible reasons. The first reason is that this town is near the

    intersection of two 4-lane roads and represents a transportation hub in a network

    of drug trafficking and other illegal activities. The second reason is that the street

    value of drugs in smaller towns is often two or three times higher than it is in

    large metropolitan areas, hence offering a market opportunity. Gang members

    seek a base of operations, perhaps through a relative or acquaintance who lives

    in the area, or by taking over the dwelling place of a "trophy" (i.e., an unattached,

    single woman). Sometimes the gang member initially lives in a rural area in order

    to get out of the city because another gang or the police are looking for him. The

    gang member then organizes the local youth or "wannabees" - youth who are at

    risk and prone to drug use, violence, delinquent behavior, and dropping out of

    school. Sometimes these local youth have developed romantic images of gangs

    based on cinema and television depictions of youth gangs.

    3. The franchise. Drug dealers working in rural areas may be seen as equivalent to

    "mom and pop" businesses. Some find it advantageous to link up with a gang

    from a large city. More money can be made, drugs can be transported more Chapter 13- Rural Victims


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    securely, the latest fad drug is available more quickly, and the local dealer has no

    choice but to cooperate or he will be forced out of business by a rival that

    establishes an affiliation with a gang, or the gang itself may be showing signs of

    moving in directly. For such reasons, a franchise style of gang has emerged in

    rural communities.

    4. Social learning. A rural juvenile or adult offender is incarcerated in a detention

    facility or jail and associates with more hardened and sophisticated detainees

    from the city. The person serves time and then returns to his rural community

    with more "street smarts" than before. He is able to take over leadership of the

    local "wannabees" through a combination of intimidation and superior knowledge.

    5. Hate groups. Skinheads and young members of the Aryan Nation and other

    white supremacist groups (many of whom grew up in rural areas) establish their

    base of operations in a rural area. From this base they move some or all of their

    activities to the fringe of a large city or even into the city, where minority groups

    can be targeted (for more information on fighting hate and promoting tolerance,


    Although information on the recent emergence of gang activities in rural communities is new, it is already apparent that the underlying causes of this development are no different than those experienced by the Puritan Colony of Massachusetts Bay. A large pool of at-risk rural youth is created by these underlying causes, and the growing interdependence of the rural and urban sectors of American society facilitates the organization of rural-based youth gang activities in rural communities (Donnermeyer, 1994).

    Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

    Domestic violence and sexual assault victims find themselves in vulnerable positions, where existing danger is intensified by physical isolation, lack of local services, transportation and weather issues. It is not uncommon for batterers to isolate victims by demanding no contact with family, friends, or even neighbors. In rural areas, this isolation can be magnified: there is no one next door who might hear the sounds of a beating and who can call for help, there is no public transportation, and no one visits the home for any reason (Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1998). It is imperative to convince state and federal funders, who are primarily concerned with allocating funds based on the “numbers served” within a community. However, people in rural areas suffer abuse the same as people living in urban areas. Services need to be made available to people in all areas because everyone deserves protection from abusive situations despite the cost and barriers that arise.

    While far less research has been conducted about rural family violence than family violence in urban areas, in the publication Rural Crime and Rural Policing (Weisheit et

    al. 1994), the National Institute of Justice indicates the following characteristics and dimensions of rural versus urban family violence:

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    ; Recent studies indicate that children in rural communities are as likely, and

    possibly more likely, to be abused or neglected than children in cities.

    ; Crimes such as homicide, rape, and assault are more likely to occur among

    acquaintances in rural areas than in urban areas.

    ; While limited surveys of the level of rural domestic violence have been conducted,

    an Ohio study found that the least populated jurisdictions had the highest rates

    for domestic violence disputes.

    ; Although rural families face the same drug, alcohol, poverty, and stress problems

    as do families who live in metropolitan areas, rural communities typically have

    fewer resources.

    Many rural counties have very low populations. Currently, one out of three rural counties (850) has fewer than 10,000 residents. This presents a challenge to establishing even basic services for crime victims, such as counseling for child abuse victims and shelters for battered women. Many rural domestic violence victims face the additional problem of not only having to leave their home to find safety but their community as well. Often, the nearest shelter may be several communities and many miles away. Not only are these victims forced to leave whatever support network is available, but also their children must be taken out of school in order to reach safety.

    The effects of geography also pose serious problems for rural family violence victims. Distance affects the response time and the speed with which law enforcement and emergency services respond to victims' calls for assistance. While urban areas judge emergency response time in minutes, access to medical treatment in rural areas generally takes longer. In addition, rural law enforcement waits longer for backup assistance, thus forcing difficult decisions by on-site personnel between responding to dangerous situations alone or delaying critical emergency responses.

    Overall, the issues of rural family violence and rural justice have not received national attention in the development of policies and protocol for law enforcement or other areas of the criminal justice system. In light of the relative scarcity of resources in rural-remote areas, the need for collaboration within the criminal justice system and neighboring communities is critical. It is essential that victim assistance programs target the identification of other service organizations and criminal justice agencies that are available for and/or interested in coordinating and collaborative efforts. The unique needs of rural-remote victims must be viewed with an eye toward unique solutions that maximize current community and neighboring area resources.

    A Profile of the Rural Offender

    According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports section on arrest data, 870,725 persons were arrested by law enforcement agencies covering rural jurisdictions. A comparison of arrest data in the UCR reveals two similarities and two differences in the profile of rural Chapter 13- Rural Victims


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    and urban offenders. Rural offenders are arrested for various offenses in roughly the same proportion as persons arrested by suburban and urban law enforcement agencies. This pattern is confirmed by Laub (1983), who analyzed victims' knowledge of offenders for violence, theft, and household crimes in the NCS. Another similarity is that about four out of five rural persons arrested are male, which is only one or two percentage points above the proportion of males arrested in the suburbs and cities. The two differences involve the race and age of persons arrested. About four out of five rural offenders are white, and about one offender in eight is black. Three percent are Native Americans and one percent are Asian. In contrast, arrests in the suburbs and cities show a lower rate of white arrests - 21 percent (suburbs) and 32 percent (city), than black arrests - 78 percent (suburbs) and 66 percent (city). The second difference is that persons arrested in rural areas are older. For example, about 3 percent of rural arrestees are below the age of 15, and 10 percent are 18 years of age and younger. Nearly 40 percent of all rural arrests are of persons 25 years of age and younger. In suburban areas, about 4 percent are 15 years of age and younger, 13 percent are age 18 and younger, and 42 percent are 25 years old and younger. In cities, the ages of persons arrested becomes even younger. Slightly more than 6 percent of persons arrested in cities are 15 years old and younger. Almost 18 percent are 18 years of age and younger, and 47 percent are 25 years of age and younger.

    Arrest profiles hardly tell the full story of rural offenders. Self-report studies, largely of rural juveniles concerning the commission of vandalism, violent crime, property crime, and the use of alcohol and other drugs, adds further evidence to the conclusion that rural crime is a serious problem. These studies show that rural youth are as prone to the commission of delinquent acts as urban youth (Donnermeyer & Phillips, 1982 and 1984; Edwards, 1992). The only difference is that rural youth are slightly less likely to commit more serious offenses, a difference that was far greater in the early rural delinquency studies cited near the beginning of this paper. Once again, rural communities are on the "same train" and the caboose is not that far behind the front engine.

    Why do rural residents, in particular adolescents, commit criminal offences? Again, the answer goes back to the same economic, social, and cultural forces discussed earlier. Institutions that reinforce law-abiding behavior (primarily family, church, and school) have become weaker, while peer and other groups that encourage law-breaking behavior have gained in influence. The rural sector of American society is no different from the urban sector. As time goes on, there are more single-parent families and more families in which both parents work. Schools are consolidated, bigger, and more impersonal. Although rural persons have consistently shown higher rates of membership in religious organizations and are slightly more likely to go to church, religion's relative influence has declined. These trends create a cluster of risk factors that in turn increase the chances that adolescents will associate with peer groups that teach and reinforce attitudes and promote behavior that society considers inappropriate, such as using drugs, stealing, destroying property, resolving conflicts with violence, and so forth. The factors listed earlier create conditions in which some rural communities are Chapter 13- Rural Victims


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    more likely to exhibit weaker institutions of social control and/or stronger influences from deviance-reinforcing peer and other groups (Donnermeyer, 1994).


    By taking a systematic, methodical approach to planning a crime prevention strategy, a community can create a tailored, comprehensive approach to its crime problem(s). The basic steps for planning a strategy are to:

    ; identify the planners and stakeholders;

    ; set clear goals based on identified crime and violence;

    ; target the population needing help;

    ; tailor activities to help achieve the goals and to help the targeted population;

    ; refine choice of activities; and

    ; take action and evaluate (Office of Justice Programs, Focus on Prevention,


    Implications for Prevention Programming

    While rural crime may suggest the effects of urbanization, it would be incorrect to blame rural crime problems directly on the nearest large city. Rural society is changing. One of the consequences of these changes is that crime levels in rural areas are at historic highs and new problems, such as gangs, delinquency, and drug use by rural youth, have emerged.

    The causes of the increase in crime in rural areas can be reduced to three sets of factors. The first can be termed opportunity factors. Transportation systems have made rural areas more accessible today. Many rural areas are urbanizing, and with urbanization comes the inevitable increase in crime. Lifestyles also have changed. In the past, when most rural people lived on farms and ranches, the place of work was the same as the place of residence. Now, most rural people do not work in agriculture. They commute to work. Rural women have entered the workforce to the same extent as urban women. Children attend consolidated schools and often stay after school for sports and other extra-curricular activities. Rural families have shifted their shopping away from the stores on Main Street to the nearest shopping mall. These lifestyle changes mean that rural homes are often vacant, which provides greater opportunity for burglary and other crimes to occur. Rural neighbors are less likely to know each other and therefore to provide surveillance of each other's property. Rural residents spend a greater amount of time in urban locations, such as shopping malls and places of entertainment, where they are at greater risk of victimization.

    The second set of factors represent more basic changes in the social fabric of both the rural and urban sectors of American society. An underlying cause of violence, delinquency, drug use, and the emergence of gangs in rural areas has been the weakened influence of the family, schools, and churches on values and behavior. Rural youth, along with their urban counterparts, are exposed to images on television and in Chapter 13- Rural Victims


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